Jon Sanders

Dear Jerry, 

Fate is a pitiful prankster. She has selected John Edwards and Barack Obama as Hillary Clinton's top challengers for the Democrat nomination for president. I know you and I and the rest of freedom's friends among North Carolinians and Illinoisans (is that the term?) no doubt find this development ill annoying.

Ugh. My apologies for the awful pun. In times of distress I turn to humor. Who could have imagined that the best choices the Democrats would have to turn back the Wife of Bill — that hackle-cackle, crocodile-teared, crow-footed, pant-suited socialist with the politics of a living Vlad Lenin and personal charm of the embalmed one — would be these two wide-grinning, slogan-slinging, one-term neophytes?

If their decision wouldn't give one of these characters a 50/50 chance of being president next year, I'd feel sorry for Democrat primary voters. Choosing among Clinton, Obama and Edwards must be like choosing your favorite Stooge, with your only options being Shemp, Joe and Curly-Joe. Hillary's Shemp. They're all so bad that they've even got Barbra Streisand and Alec Baldwin promising to stay put.

Plus, they're so ideologically alike that the silliest things are winning them votes. Obama wins Oprah's "Wonk of the Month" and takes Iowa. Hillary feigns the sniffles and wins New Hampshire. If Edwards can break a comb on cue, he might sweep South Carolina.

And none of them cherish the liberties that made this country exceptional. They're all socialists seeking to make government bigger and more intrusive "for your own good." They all think that Wal-Mart forces us to like low-priced goods, Big Oil makes us choose cars over trains, Exxon pays scientists to say our light bulbs aren't wreaking havoc on the global climate, and even worse, that politicians who as a class consistently rate below dirty dishwater are better suited to impose their own preferences and tastes on Americans from sea to shining sea than are people who know their own families' needs, wants, and resources.

Just look at them, for criminy's sake. Would you let any one of them to choose your shirt, let alone your family doctor? If someone kept statistics on it, I'd wager that en masse they have the largest proportion of gifts returned in the Western world.

And speaking of wagers, Jerry, that's why I'm writing to you. A nice part of the pageantry of college football bowl games is the governor from one team's home state betting homegrown products against those of the opponent's governor. But why leave this idea to governors and football?

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 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.