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Freedom awakening

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 21, 2005

The world was stunned when the Ukrainian people refused to accept the election-as-usual travesty, and forced a new, free and fair election of Viktor Yushchenko. The Palestinian people went to the polls, and for the first time, elected people who were not hand-picked puppets of Yasser Arafat.

Eight million Iraqis stared death in the face as they walked to the voting booth to cast their ballot for freedom, and then wave their ink-stained fingers in a defiant celebration of liberty. From this epicenter of democratic change, shock waves are rumbling through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and beyond.

Freedom has not yet been won in any of these countries, but people, who for decades have had no hope of freedom, now see that they too, might be able to cast off the bonds of tyranny. Ultimately, neither the murderous, terrorist thugs, nor misguided religious despots can prevail against the spark of freedom once it is ignited.

The flame of freedom, however, is not perpetual; It can be reduced to a flicker when apathy and indifference allows government to smother it with excessive regulations.

For two centuries, America stood as the beacon of freedom to the world, and is still lighting the way for millions of people around the world. At home though, freedom has lost a lot of its luster.

Once, in America, government intrusion into private matters - except for murder, theft, and fraud - was considered to be excessive, and free people expected to make their own way, and to blame no one else if they failed.

Now, the opposite is true. Like the socialist nations of Europe, many - but not all - Americans have come to expect government to require a permit for all private matters, and to provide a safety net for those who fail to make their own way. It may be a distinct minority, but in both America and in Europe groups of activists are fanning the flames of freedom among the apathetic and indifferent.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a D.C.-based policy institute, is building a network of organizations across Europe to advance the principles of freedom in nations steeped in socialism. CFACT was among the founding organizations that launched the Freedom 21 Campaign in 1999. This campaign now works with grassroots organizations across America, all working to advance the principles of freedom in public policy.

More than 300 leaders of these grassroots organizations gather for an annual Freedom 21 Conference to learn how to better shape public policy to protect freedom from erosion by well-intended, but misguided government mandates.

The Freedom 21 Campaign has produced a Sustainable Development Guide for public officials. Thousands of these booklets have been distributed to county commissioners and state legislators around the country.

There is now a Freedom 21 Internet & E-mail Service that provides a gathering place for freedom activists to share ideas and information.

The freedom movement at home is having a positive effect. Oregon voters approved by 61 per cent, a referendum requiring government to compensate landowners if regulations result in loss of value to private owners - or waive application of the regulation.

Supported by local people, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the infamous "Poletown" decision, which now prevents Michigan governments from abusing eminent domain power through which governments were empowered to take private property from one individual and sell it to another private individual.

The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering a similar case. If Susette Kelo prevails over the New London Development Corporation, no government will be able to take private property to sell to another person.

In Missouri, a small grassroots group affiliated with the Freedom 21 Campaign, took on the state legislature and is very close to repealing a state law that created multi-jurisdictional regions that usurped the power of local elected officials.

In Santa Cruz, California - the launching pad for sustainable development in the United States - a local Freedom 21 organization has emerged to educate and inform local citizens about better alternatives than heavy-handed government mandates.

In almost every state, freedom-loving activists are forming local grassroots organizations, educating themselves, and launching strategies ensure that the principles of freedom are not ignored as the bureaucrats and professionals formulate public policies.

While these efforts may not be as dramatic as the Iraqis going to vote, they are no less important. What good will it do the United States promotes freedom abroad, and allows it to be snuffed out at home?

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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