Where courage wanes, freedom is stifled

Courage and freedom. No two words are more synonymous with the life and character of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; nor are two words so inexplicably intertwined.

The economist Milton Friedman once noted that every free society over time will bend toward tyranny. There is no freedom absent courage. 

Sadly, during the nearly 30 years since President Ronald Reagan signed into law a federal day of observance for Dr. King, our nation has lost much of both. Where courage wanes, freedom is stifled.

We live in a society that believes that Congress is “productive” only when it passes more laws. That would shock the founding fathers, who intentionally designed our federal legislative branch to make it difficult to pass laws. Why? 

Because every time a new law or regulation is passed, citizens have a little less freedom.

Since 1975, the number of pages of federal regulations has increased by 140 percent. Today, the federal government sits on more than 170,000 pages of regulations that cost individuals and businesses more than $1.7 trillion annually to comply with. 

Money that could have gone in the gas tank or put dinner on the table. Money that could have been used by businesses to expand operations, innovate and hire new workers.

Where is the courage to tell government to stay out of the affairs of men and markets?

We live in a society where nearly 64 million Americans receive daily food, housing, education and healthcare assistance from the federal government. At the state level, bureaucrats take your tax dollars and match them with federal grants to expand marginally useful programs that create more dependence on government.

Where is the courage to proclaim that incentivizing dependence on government is offensive, soul crushing and devastating to our children and our economy? Where is the courage to say that the best social program is a good job that breeds independence and human dignity?

We live in a society that promotes a reckless attitude toward hard work and the value of a dollar. Today, our total federal and state debt – when accounting for unfunded liabilities in entitlement spending – is approximately $130 trillion.

Where is the courage to hold those we elected to office to the same fiscal standards we require in our own families?
Oklahomans have sent us here to do courageous things for our great state. They want bold action that puts us on a path to prosperity.

I believe our most important roles as lawmakers are to protect the God-given rights of individuals and to create an environment that promotes a strong economy and healthy families.

The impetus behind Dr. King’s passion was a deeply held belief that all men are created equal and are worthy of respect. That human dignity demands personal accountability and high standards.

When considering legislation, we will first ask whether it will build our economy or strengthen our families. Will it incentivize dependence or will it promote the human dignity that Dr. King so vehemently fought and died for? Will it promote job creation so that every Oklahoman who wants a job will have one? Will it protect the natural rights of our citizens?

The spirit of Dr. King can be found in Oklahomans, in the rugged individuality of people who live off the land, who cherish freedom, who cultivate community and love of their fellow man, who raise their children up in courage to stand for what is right.

I believe that spirit can be found in the men and women whom you have sent to the Capitol to do your work. Oklahoma can be the leader for a nation that badly needs courage to take back the freedom we have lost.

As we reflect on this Martin Luther King Day, let us remember to be a people of courage, dedicated to expanding freedom, fighting back against tyranny and mindful of future generations.
NOTE: A Lawton Republican, state Rep. Shannon is Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.