Living during the Orgy of Sacrifice, which constitutes the bipartisan political agenda of the past 30+ years in the US, losing hope for a better future can be easy, especially for younger citizens who have never known different circumstances.
While historical successes for freedom through the protection of individual rights can be a comfort, I find as I get older that truly phenomenal advances have been made within my own lifetime and experience. Further, I note that such changes are not achieved by activism in a single election or in the short term, but instead by consistent political action over time based upon the principle of individual rights.
Consider an example that has had decades to demonstrate the positive consequences of government protecting individual rights after centuries of curtailment.
On the day that I was born, it was illegal for a white individual to be married to another individual of a different race, as define by Virginia law. While it did not have much impact on me at the time, the Virginia law did impact Richard and Mildred Loving, who had been married in 1958 under the laws of the District of Columbia. After they returned to Virginia to live peacefully as man and wife, the local police raided their home, captured them asleep in their bed, and arrested them. After they confessed in court to being married, which was a felony in Virginia, the Lovings were given the choice of prison or exile.
The resulting appellate case Loving v. Virginia was unanimously decided by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn such anti-miscegenation laws then active in 15 states, including Virginia. For the unanimous court, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote,
Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.
Twenty years later, I was free to marry the individual whom I loved without being a felon subject to the sanction of Virginia laws and compelled by government force to be exiled across the river. Years later, at a family reunion, while sitting in the shade under a tree with my uncle-by-marriage, while we watched our family’s next generation of various hues playing together, he said to me related to race relations, “Things are much better now than they ever have been before.”
More than 300 years of bad law in Virginia related to interracial marriage was overturn by individuals acting selfishly upon principle to demand the protection of the law so they could freely live their lives without being subject to the tyranny of the majority acting with the force of government. Frankly, this long lasting question of interracial marriage (in history see debates over ending slavery, freedman colonization to Africa, anti-Union talking points before and during the Civil War, Jim Crow, and states’ rights imbeciles) was far more intractable than more recent issues such as the relatively simple winding down of irrational entitlements like Social Security; our challenges today are much easier.
Recently, we have seen well publicized advances in protecting individual rights related to legal recognition and protection for same sex marriage, and the slow liberalization of irrational anti-drug laws. Meanwhile, the progress of existing irrational laws related to health care and financial regulation expand. Why the difference? Success happens when individual rights are explicitly articulated concretely related to the injustice towards specific individuals, and failure happens when policy opponents concede the irrational premise of seeking the collective public good.
Irrational public policies of today (like ObamaCare) can be just as repugnant and unthinkable in the future as the historic anti-miscegenation laws are to us today. The change begins with using principles to defend individuals from the injustice committed by the majority abusing the force of government to achieve their irrational whims.