The Iowa Caucuses and Economic Freedom

Over the past forty-five years I’ve given thousands of messages in various parts of the world–many of them focused on the theme of freedom in Christ and how it applies to nations.

But, I’ve only written one song during my lifetime–never published–but often in my heart when I sit down at a piano to plunk on the keys.

The name of the song is “Let the Lamp of Freedom Shine.”

After the Iowa caucuses and a recent economic report, that song is once again burning in my heart.

First, let me share a few thoughts about freedom. They contain three important ideas:

1.  Freedom is a goal or END in life.

In an individual, it is the truth that sets a person free (John 8:32)–the heart of the salvation message. God wants all human beings to be free from the penalty, power and presence of sin. Only Jesus, the Savior, can accomplish those things in a human heart.

It’s also true that in nations, the degree of civil liberty is determined by the godliness found in the people and their laws. The more God-fearing and Christ-honoring a nation is, the greater degree of true freedom it will enjoy.

Why? Because freedom is not the license to do what you want. It’s the wisdom to do what you ought. It comes through trusting God’s Word,  Christ’s salvation, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Good people produce good laws = freedom in society. Thus liberty is a cherished goal of both individuals and nations.

2.  Freedom is also a MEANS to an end.

Liberty is a means to both meaningful relationships and also to fruitful ministry.  God liberates people to restore intimate relationship with Himself and fruitfulness in their service. Free people can love God and serve others.

In nations, the free-er a people are, the more successful they will be in helping protect other nations, provide finances and humanitarian aid, and serve the purposes of world evangelization.

Example:  America in the 20th century used her freedom to defeat the Nazis and Japanese, rebuild Europe and be the first to help with human disasters around the world, and sent the most missionaries into other nations.

Another example:  A non-free China, with three times as many people as the US, did not help the world in any of these instances.  They were hindered from being a blessing to other nations.

Free individuals and nations can truly bless others.

3.  Freedom is costly to achieve and maintain.

Benjamin Franklin wisely told an older woman after the US Constitution was ratified: “You have a republic, Madame, if you can keep it.”

Franklin and other founding leaders knew that freedom required character and commitment to achieve and maintain it. As Thomas Jefferson declared, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” In other words, liberty needs to be fought for in human lives and national laws in every generation.

Here is Samuel Adams prophetic warning in 1779:

“A general decay of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued, but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader…If virtue and knowledge are highly valued among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their security.”

History shows that godly nations have the tendency, over time, to allow sin to eat away at their foundations, and in so doing, take away their freedoms.

That is America’s problem in the 21st century. By abandoning God and the virtuous character that only He can create, we are losing our liberty.

Each year The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal survey the economic freedom of nations around the world.  Economies aren’t everything, but are often an indicator of the good principles of a given society. For many years, the United States of America was the free-est nation in the world because of the godliness of our people and laws.

Not any more.

Ed Feulner, Heritage Foundation’s founder explains:

“The 2016 Index shows that the United States’ global ranking is No. 11, with a score of 75.4 (on a 0-100 scale, with 100 being the freest).”

“Others might envy being No. 11 on a list of 178 countries, but we tend to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We’re trailing Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Estonia and the United Kingdom. We’re not even the freest economy in North America.”

That’s an amazing fall from freedom.  American economic liberty behind Estonia and Chile, and even second on our own continent to Canada?

Feulner continues:

“As recently as 2008, the United States ranked seventh worldwide, had a score of 81, and was listed as a ‘free’ economy (a score of at least 80). Today, its score of 75.4 — which matches its lowest score ever — means it’s ‘mostly free,’ the Index’s second-tier economic freedom category.”

The United States of America, “mostly free?”  Land of the free and home of the brave?

On the economic front, Feulner lays out our downward spiral:

• Rule of law: Property rights are guaranteed and the judiciary functions independently and predictably. But the protection of these rights has been uneven. Polls show that public trust in government is at the lowest it has been in a decade. 

• Government size: The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent. The top corporate tax rate is among the world’s highest: 35 percent. Total government spending amounts to about 39 percent of gross domestic product. That’s $29,867 per household. The national debt clocks in at a staggering $135,000 per taxpaying family. 

• Regulatory efficiency: The regulatory burden continues to increase. More than 180 new major federal regulations have been imposed on business operations since early 2009 with estimated annual costs of nearly $80 billion. 

• Open markets: The average tariff rate is 1.5 percent. High tariffs increase the price of clothing, sugar imports are restricted, and foreign investment in some sectors is capped. 

Heritage ends its analysis with this question and mandate:

“‘So is the United States destined to continue this slow decline? No. We can change course. Restoring economic freedom is prerequisite to revitalizing and brightening America’s future,’ writes index editor Anthony Kim. ‘2016 is the year to reaffirm the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and rule of law so that we can reconstitute an America where freedom, opportunity, and prosperity flourish.’

Take three minutes of your day and watch Heritage Foundation’s powerful summary of the 2016 Economic Freedom Index.  Here it is.

Which brings us to Iowa–the opening dash in the race for the US presidency. Many people believe that this election could determine global history for the next one hundred years or more.  That’s because if America does not turn back to freedom in 2016, we could be headed off a financial and societal cliff that will engulf the world in chaos.

I know that’s been said about other US elections. But it’s never been truer than today.

In the United States, the Democrat Party is leading us toward that cliff. Their progressive agenda is fighting for a secular America, devoid of God and biblical morality, and dependent upon a social welfare state. We have fallen from seventh in economic freedom to eleventh under their watch.

The Democrat presidential candidates consist of a disheveled 74 year old socialist (whose economic approach is one step from communism) and a 68 year old former Secretary of State who was responsible for four deaths in Benghazi, Libya–then lied about it. She also kept her government e-mails on a private server which may have comprised American security and could bring an indictment.

In the Iowa caucuses, 99% of Democrats voted for two white senior citizens. Guess it’s not really a party of inclusion and diversity at the present time.

On the Republican side, Texas Senator Ted Cruz used a strong ground game, a national base of support and principled leadership to pull off a stunning victory over real estate mogul Donald Trump. Ted Cruz is an articulate evangelical Christian. His wife is the daughter of career Christian missionaries.

He’s also Hispanic and in his mid forties (and not a Canadian citizen).

Marco Rubio, the freshman Tea Party senator from Florida also beat expectations and came in a strong third in Iowa. He is telegenic, likeable, with a strong message of restoring the American Dream (which is liberty). Marco Rubio is also Latino, and a humble and devout Catholic.

He, too is in his forties.

Ben Carson, an African-American renowned neurosurgeon came in fourth. He’s also a man of faith.

To summarize, in the Republican side of the Iowa caucuses, which registered a record turn-out of 186,000, sixty percent of the caucus-goers voted for minority candidates (Hispanic and African-American). Apparently the Republican Party is not just the club of old white males.

Funny how perceptions (or deceptions) can be totally false.

I believe that either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio (or others!) could help lead an American renewal or renaissance. Leaders aren’t everything, but in biblical history they often were used by God to bring change. My wife leans toward Rubio. I lean toward Cruz.

Cruz-Rubio or Rubio-Cruz?  Two young Hispanics pointing America back to godliness and freedom. Cruz signs all his letters and e-mails “For Liberty.”  Rubio talks about freedom to pursue the American Dream.

Let the Lamp of Freedom Shine!

I’m going to be praying, serving, giving, voting and humming that song all year long in 2016.

 

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