What if liberty and democracy are opposites? What if the principle underlying liberty is to restrain the government to maximize individual autonomy? What if the principle underlying democracy is to unleash the government to give the people whatever they want?
What if personal liberty is an individual birthright because we are created in the image and likeness of God? What if just as God is perfectly free, we are perfectly free? What if our personal liberties are integral to our humanity?
What if personal freedom — which we are free to abuse — is God’s greatest gift, after life itself? What if, without freedom, we would not be fully human but subservient to whomever or whatever took our freedoms away or persuaded us to surrender them?
What if government is essentially the negation of liberty? What if some liberties should be negated? What if those liberties that should be negated consist of the liberty to violate the natural rights of others by taking their lives, liberties and properties? What if government does this every day because it wants to tell us how to live? What if no one consented to a government that takes property and freedom from the people it governs?
What if the right to worship or not, to think as you wish, say what you think, to publish what you say, to associate — or not — with whomever you choose, to defend yourself using the same means as the government and bad guys, to enjoy the right to privacy, to keep the government off your property and back and out of your face, to travel wherever and whenever, to engage in commercial intercourse on private property freely and without the need for government permission are natural, personal rights that no government — whether by edict, legislation or referendum — can morally dismiss or discard?
What if democracy offers the government tools to take our personal liberty and private property? What if, under a democracy, the government grows and liberty shrinks? What if that’s because the democratic government desperately wants to stay in power, and in order to do so, it takes wealth from some and gives it to others? What if those from whom it takes wealth never consented to the takings?
What if, in a democracy, the public treasury has turned into a public trough? What if, in a democracy, those in power find ways around laws intended to limit their power? What if the government is essentially the judge of its own powers? What if no matter which party is in power, the government acts as if it can right any wrong, regulate any behavior, tax any event, and insinuate itself into any controversy — whether authorized by the Constitution or not?
What if the Constitution is the supreme law of the land? What if it was written to establish the government and to limit it? What if its amendments expressly guarantee that the government shall not interfere with the exercise of natural rights? What if the government does so anyway?
What if the government’s excuse is always emergency or safety? What if it promises during “an emergency” that it will bring safety in return for a surrender of liberty? What if the Ninth Amendment commands that the government may not deny or disparage natural rights, no matter the emergency?
What if this liberty-for-safety-in-an-emergency offer is the Devil’s bargain? What if surrendering liberty does not lead to safety but only more government?
What if — since liberty is a personal birthright — you can surrender your own liberty but you cannot your neighbor’s? What if the government takes liberty whether voluntarily surrendered or not?
What if the theory of the Constitution is that the states voluntarily surrendered some of their sovereign powers to the federal government so that it can address federal issues that are spelled out in the Constitution? What if the theory of state sovereignty is that the people in each state voluntarily surrendered some personal liberty in return for the protection of natural rights? What if the only liberty surrendered is the liberty to impair the natural rights of others?
What if no rational person has surrendered to government the liberty to walk the streets, to go to work, to operate and patronize lawful businesses and to control absolutely one’s own face? What if the Fifth Amendment commands that the government cannot take property rights without paying the owner their fair market value?
What if the government and its friends in the media have scared the daylights out of hundreds of millions of Americans so that they will peacefully surrender their rights and livelihoods during the government’s emergency, and thus bring about the government’s version of safety?
What if there are no emergency powers in the Constitution? What if, during the War Between the States, the Supreme Court later ruled there was no emergency power to deny basic civil liberties? What if state legislatures are utterly without power to interfere with our daily choices in the name of emergency and safety? What if those same state legislatures cannot give to governors powers that they do not have?
What if all the COVID-19 restrictions on personal autonomy directly defy the Constitution? What if the government doesn’t care? What if millions who lost personal autonomy don’t care because they have accepted the Devil’s bargain that somehow voluntary servitude will bring them temporary health and safety?
What if they have forgotten about the safety of their personal liberties? What if democracy and liberty can only co-exist when the government is faithful to the Constitution? What if the history of American government is its infidelity to the Constitution? What if liberty taken or surrendered is not returned? What will we do about it?
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. Now, Napolitano works as Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst, Judge Napolitano broadcasts nationwide on the Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network, and lectures nationally on the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, civil liberties in wartime, and human freedom. He also writes a week column, nationally syndicated by Creators.