Jon Sanders

Rain or shine, you and I have cheered for freedom on the field of ideas — you in talk radio, now at WLS in Chicago, and I at the John Locke Foundation and now at Townhall.com. Right now it seems that if anyone's going to win the Clinton-Lite Bowl this primary season, it'll be either my state's candidate, Edwards, or yours, Obama.

Yours is the early favorite, but if Clinton fades, Edwards would emerge as a significant challenger. So I'm offering you this friendly wager. I'll bet you some of my favorite homegrown examples of freedom that my nanny-stater can beat yours.

As I see it, if Edwards wins, North Carolina loses — so in this bet, I would, too. If Obama wins, you and the rest of Illinois lose. The loser must pay in local examples of upholding the freedoms our nanny-staters despise.

Here's what I wager:

1. The Mecklenburg Declarations of Independence were the first declarations of independence from Great Britain made in the American colonies. The preceding claim is, I know, controversial. So I propose to send V.V. McNitt's Chain of Error and the Mecklenburg Declarations of Independence, which investigates the controversy and supports what freedom-loving North Carolinians have celebrated for over two centuries: that in May 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, a convention of Mecklenburg County leaders declared themselves a free and independent people.

2. N.C. native Thomas Sowell has been one the nation's leading advocates for freedom. His life's work is an embarrassment of riches of writings promoting liberty, individualism, and free-market capitalism, and I dare not pronounce one gem the best in the crown. Instead, let me promote Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Common-Sense Guide to the Economy, and here's why: economic literacy helps people appreciate the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and property by understanding why they work.

3. Speaking of life, liberty, and property, those rights were realized and defended as inherent natural rights by English philosopher John Locke. The influence of Locke's philosophy— especially in his Second Treatise of Government— on the Founders and America's foundational documents is hard to understate. That's all well and good, you might think, but what does Locke have to do with North Carolina? This: Locke's patron was Lord Ashley, the first Earl of Shaftesbury, one of the eight Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina. With his patronage and friendship, Shaftesbury encouraged Locke to pursue his liberal philosophy. Locke helped craft the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which among other things set up a representative government and established religious tolerance. North Carolina's current Constitution has a strong Lockean influence.

Locke's importance to America's foundational liberal ideas and their continued importance today are the focus of George M. Stephen's Locke, Jefferson and the Justices: Foundations and Failures of the US Government.

So there you have it, Jerry. I'm putting those three books on the line if John Edwards brings further shame to us freedom-loving North Carolinians by winning the Democrat nomination. If you accept, what would you bet should Obama shame our pals in Illinois?


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.