(The following article first appeared in the Fall 2001 edition of Impact.)
Those who seek to achieve political goals through violence always claim noble ends, but such people are merely destroyers. They offer nothing to replace what they abhor; they fill the world with dark morbidity, plant their heels upon rubble they make, and proclaim victory. But their victory is only that of darkness over light, which is a fleeting one indeed.
No real victory comes through mere destruction. Victory over disease is not complete simply because an illness is fought to a standstill; victory comes when health replaces sickness. Victory over poverty is empty unless a measure of wealth is earned by the destitute. Victory over ignorance is meaningless until knowledge and wisdom inhabit indigent minds. Victory over bigotry is false unless it be supplanted by true brotherhood. Victory over doubt and dread and hatred does not come until faith and hope and love inhabit impoverished souls.
These are my thoughts on a crystalline September afternoon in a week that began as usual with prioritized daily task lists for the Mackinac Center's policy ideas, research, and educational programs, but one that ends trying to understand how those things fit into our agenda post-Sept. 11.
The terrorist attacks left most Americans reeling and reexamining short-term personal and corporate priorities. At the Mackinac Center, the days that followed have brought sharper clarity of our mission to promote sound economic policy and advance a civil society where coercion is rare and voluntary cooperation is the norm.
When we overcome this crisis, as we will, it will be driven by what we possess in greater measure than any other nation. We in the freedom movement often speak of the importance of "limited government," but now it is time to emphasize that coin's other side: civil society.
The mere fact that our government has historically, and wisely, been relatively limited is not the reason we have strength to prevail. We will prevail because the resilience of strong private institutions permeates our culture, even today. Private institutions, rather than government, still tend to characterize day-to-day interactions in our neighborhoods and the marketplace, as well as our responses to great crises.
Government has a distinct role in protecting us from foreign attacks, but it is private citizens working individually and together who create wealth, build institutions, help those in need, educate our children, and defend our liberties from all threats.
Freedom seems most precious when threatened. The 30 men and women of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy staff are more committed than ever to strengthening our culture through freedom in education, our workplaces, our homes, and our personal lives. Those are freedoms worth fighting for.