"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Ben Franklin is much quoted in today's debate on the trade-off between freedom and security, as we learn about the National Security Agency's easy access to our phone records and emails.
Yet we Americans have often sacrificed liberty for safety.
In World War II, Korea and Vietnam, we conscripted millions of men and sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths fighting against Italians, Germans, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese.
The greater antagonist of liberty is not the quest for security, but our insatiable demand and inexorable drive for equality -- not equality of rights but equality of results.
To equalize incomes, the government confiscates 40 percent of the earnings of the most successful Americans and uses that wealth to subsidize the food, health care, housing and income of that half of the nation that pays no income taxes.
A steeply progressive income tax was originally advanced by that great egalitarian Karl Marx.
The federal estate tax is 40 percent for the wealthy. Some states tack on 16 percent. Individuals may spend entire lives acquiring wealth for their progeny. And governments, in the name of equality, will seize half of it on their deaths. Socialism, said Winston Churchill, is the philosophy of envy and gospel of greed.
To guarantee equal pay for equal work, the government has created agencies to monitor the payrolls of every business, agencies empowered to identify, expose and punish employers who might dare to use their economic freedom to reward some workers more than others.
To ensure racial, ethnic, and gender equality in the labor force and the front office, the government fields thousands of agents to police the hiring, promotion and dismissal decisions of executives.
Affirmative action and quotas have been imposed on colleges and universities, stripping those institutions of freedom of choice, to advance a greater racial, ethnic and gender equality in student bodies and on faculties than a free and fair competition might produce.
Contract set-asides have been established on which no white male may bid. To make minorities and women more equal, we make others less free.
Freedom of assembly, which produced men's and women's clubs and colleges, has been under assault for decades. Only a handful of men's and women's colleges survive. Even Augusta National Golf Club was forced to conform to the dictates of diversity and equality.