An Attitude Rooted in Trust

Honoring a long-held pledge.

A New Bond

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence concluded with a solemn pledge: their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. This was no small matter. What they were calling “revolution” was, from the British point of view, treason against the Crown punishable by death. But they stood strong and launched the greatest experiment in freedom the world has witnessed, a movement held together by a powerful kind of glue: Trust. The American Revolution was a kind of FreedomTrust.

The pledge offered by the Signers, after all, was not to God. Nor was it to their fellow countrymen. Their pledge was to each other. They knew, every one of them, that if some broke the trust when the going got tough—and the going was about to get very tough!—others would likely break it too, and the Revolution would fail. Betraying their mutual trust would likely mean that each would die in vain and freedom would have to wait for another time and place. But they honored their trust, at great cost in blood, money, and suffering. Our freedom today is the legacy of their remarkable loyalty.

The theme of trust runs throughout the literature of the American Founding, often used as a synonym for freedom and self-government. Freedom means nothing less than citizens trusting one another enough to allow each to govern himself, to make his own choices in life, responsibly, and to enjoy the successes or suffer the consequences that follow. Live and let live is the attitude of free human beings, an attitude rooted in trust.

A New Label

The movement to reclaim freedom in America needs a new label. There is widespread belief that government is too big, too costly, too intrusive, all at the expense of individual freedom. But for those who cherish freedom and worry about excessive, unconstitutional government, where do they turn? What do they do?

Many rally behind the Republican or Democratic parties, though the devotion of both parties to the principles of freedom has been significantly less than perfect. Others gather under the Tea Party banner. Some call themselves libertarians. The most comprehensive label for lovers of economic freedom has been a broadly defined term, conservative, while many lovers of social freedom have called themselves liberal.

But these labels no longer work.

A New Trust

Modern liberalism and conservatism have failed over the past century. The result is a national debt that now is larger than the entire American economy, a regulatory environment that has greatly stifled entrepreneurial innovation and expansion, economic contraction in many industries, massive ignorance of the principles of freedom, and widespread disregard for limited, constitutional government.   FreedomTrust will not only advance research and teaching of freedom, it will also offer those who believe in limited, constitutional government and individual freedom a new way to think and talk about freedom by framing freedom in terms of trust. This new messaging technique will force those who disagree to explain why they are so distrusting. Let those on the side of freedom label themselves in a way that takes away the moral high ground long occupied by opponents of freedom. Every time someone proposes additional regulations or expansion of government bureaucracy, let us counter with a new message:

Bureaucratic regulation is synonymous with distrust.

The very concept of regulation, after all, is that government assumes you’re guilty before you’ve done anything at all. Bureaucracy was marketed to the American people over a hundred years ago as the rule of “expertise.” But those bureaucrats know no more about what is good for us than we do ourselves. So enough. Let’s redefine bureaucracy for what it truly is: Bureaucracy equals distrust. Freedom lovers should reclaim the mantle of trust—trust in each other and trust in freedom. Like an organization or foundation formed as a trust, we should become the new FreedomTrust. Like the brave souls of 1776 who had the strength to trust one another with their lives and everything else of value to them—at a moment when they could not guarantee victory, only deserve it—let us offer our trust to one another. Let us muster the inner strength to live and let live as free men and women. FreedomTrust will lead a new movement in graduate education for freedom.