As Americans, we share a serious citizenship responsibility. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound.” (History of the Church 5:286.)
God has told us, in modern scripture, that the United States Constitution was divinely inspired for the specific purpose of eliminating bondage and the violation of the rights and protection that belong to “all flesh.” (D&C 101:77–80.) If we believe in God and His works, it is up to each one of us to uphold and defend our Constitution, which guarantees our precious freedom. For God states unequivocally: “Let not that which I have appointed be polluted by mine enemies, by the consent of those who call themselves after my name; For this is a very sore and grievous sin against me, and against my people, in consequence of those things which I have decreed and which are soon to be-fall the nations.” (D&C 101:97–98.)
President David O. McKay declared: “No greater immediate responsibility rests upon members of the Church, upon all citizens of this Republic and of neighboring Republics than to protect the freedom vouchsafed by the Constitution of the United States.” (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 37.)
As Americans, we have marched a long way down the soul-destroying road of socialism, atheism, and totalitarianism. It is the price we pay when we turn away from God and turn to government to do everything for us. It is the formula by which nations become enslaved by their own leaders.
As England’s Lord Acton so succinctly put it, “Power tends to corrupt—and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Essays on Freedom and Power, p. 364.)
Increasing numbers of Americans are subscribing to the myth that you can get something for nothing—as long as the government is footing the bill. In fact, they believe it is the duty of government to take care of them, from the womb to the tomb.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything we get from the government, we pay for in debilitating taxes. Everything the government gives to the people, it must first take from the people. This is something few Americans appear to understand.
We tend to forget how America became the greatest, most prosperous, and most powerful nation in the world, blessed with an abundance of everything needed for the good life. It didn’t just happen. It wasn’t an accident. It was all an integral part, I believe, of the divine plan for America. In the early frontier days of this country, a special breed of men and women came here from all over the world, seeking not only opportunity but freedom. They were strong, proud, and fiercely independent. They believed that the surest helping hand was at the end of their own sleeves. They shared one thing in common—an unshakable faith in God and in themselves. And that, without doubt, is the secret of success as viable today as it was yesterday.
With little but raw courage and indomitable purpose, those intrepid pioneers set forth into the unknown by covered wagon, on horseback, and sometimes on foot. The land demanded iron men with steel in their backbones. Nature did the weeding out. But they didn’t whine or bleat because things were tough. They asked no favors from any man. They knew what they were up against, and they accepted the challenge. All they wanted was to be left alone to do what had to be done. They were wrenching a civilization out of the wilderness.
America soon blossomed into a rich, fertile, productive nation. Individual initiative—free enterprise—paid off, and American ingenuity flourished in a climate of freedom. Very soon our technology, our inventiveness, and our business know-how became the envy of the world. America had reached maturity, a giant among nations, a glowing example of free enterprise in action, and a perfect demonstration of what free men can do when they are left alone to do it.
But as those affluent years slipped by, voices were heard in the land, singing the siren songs of socialism. And many Americans tapped their feet to the beat of the music. Politicians were already promising something for nothing, that elusive free lunch. Thus, gradually the people let the government infringe upon their precious freedoms, and the preliminary signs of decay began to appear in our young republic.
A current example of this moral erosion can be seen in the food stamp program today. Originally intended to assist those who were on minimum subsistence by drawing on government surpluses being stored at a cost of a million dollars a day, surpluses that had accumulated by government bungling, this program has burgeoned to the extent that today one of every thirteen Americans is drawing food stamps, and one out of every four has been made eligible, by recent legislation. And who pays for all of this? We do—the taxpayers. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Today, as government becomes increasingly dominant in our affairs, we are becoming more and more like ancient Rome before it crumbled and collapsed. We are choosing bread and circuses instead of facing the challenges that always test a free people. We are no longer the proud leader of the world. We have lost the respect of almost every country, and I know because I’ve traveled in those countries. Through our policies of equivocation and our politics of expediency and appeasement, we have lost respect. We think we are buying world peace. This is not diplomacy, it is national suicide! No wonder we have earned the contempt of our enemies, who are only too happy to take our money, our food, our industrial equipment, and our technical expertise.
Despite what many say and think, the cold war continues today even during this period of detente. One of the main weapons in the cold-war arsenal of our enemies is inflation.
Our economic situation is extremely serious. The facts are harsh and cold. This is a grim topic. But how can one soften the truth? Inflation, like an insidious disease, is weakening us as a nation. We are in this position because we have lost our national pride and our sense of independence and have sacrificed basic economic principles. When we want something, we go crawling to the government instead of doing it ourselves. We have exchanged those God-inspired principles upon which this once mighty nation was built for a mess of shoddy values. No wonder our structures of freedom are cracking.
Many voices in government today are blaming businessmen, the unions, and even the buying public for not practicing thrift and economy in their shopping habits. The blame for inflation must be laid directly at the door of the federal government itself! Inflation is an increase in the nation’s money supply—an increase, to be more exact, in the supply of money and credit. Inflation is not caused by rising prices and wages. To the contrary, rising prices and wages, as any solid economist knows, are the direct result of inflation. It stands to reason that when the money supply is increased, all money automatically becomes less valuable. This includes, of course, our savings. So when our dollars shrink in value, businessmen naturally raise their price tags, and then their employees demand higher wages. You can see how it all becomes a vicious circle.
In a free society such as ours, only the federal government can cause inflation. And the reason it puts more money into circulation is to finance its disastrous policies of deficit spending. As the federal government promotes more and more costly and unnecessary programs, it spends far more than it receives. In order to keep in business, the government has to borrow. To do this, it offers bonds, which are purchased mainly by private banks. Many of these bonds are resold to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve then issues newly printed paper money—or issues credit to pay for the bonds. Thus, new money is created, the money supply is increased, and the value of all money is reduced.
It is well to remember that continued government deficits cause inflation; inflation is used as an excuse for ineffective price controls; price controls lead to shortages; and artificial shortages inevitably are used as an excuse to implement rationing. When will we learn these basic economic principles?
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.” (Isaiah 5:13.)
It is quite obvious that a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of Americans regarding the causes of inflation, which threatens our economic survival, could well lead us into captivity.
Americans could halt inflation today by demanding that their government stop increasing the supply of money. It is not that the government does not know how to do it—it doesn’t want to do it. The excuse is that if it stops printing money, the nation will be plunged into a recession or worse—a depression precipitating an unacceptable percentage of unemployment. But the longer we delay sound action, the more it will cost our nation and its people.
Unfortunately, the average American knows very little about the complexities of economics. He leaves that to the “expertise” of those in government. But the tragedy is that the political spendthrifts in government are the ones who are wrecking our economy. They are spending billions of dollars on useless domestic programs and squandering billions more in support of communist governments that are getting “most favored nation” treatment.
The Congress has failed us abysmally in its historic role as watchdog over our national interests. It could and should put the clamps on irresponsible government spending. Unhappily, when a government embarks on a course of inflation, it must accelerate that inflation in order to perpetuate the false stimulating effect.
If the government were genuinely concerned about full employment and real prosperity, it could do much in bringing it about. It could support the proven and successful free market system, the law of supply and demand, where the buying public, not the government, is the deciding factor in what shall be produced and marketed, including energy products. The bureaucrats ignore the lessons of American history that freedom works and that the ability of individuals to come to mutually beneficial agreements is the very essence of a free society.
There is no problem at all about how to stop inflation. The problem is not economic—it’s political.
Our original monetary system as established by the Founding Fathers, and the only one authorized by the Constitution, makes this imperative by the following clause: “No state shall . . . make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.” (Article 1, Section 10.)
The government is manipulating our monetary system, and unless we return to fiscal responsibility, we can look forward to a highly dangerous economic crisis.
If we are to beat inflation effectively, four vital steps must be taken:
- Abolish wage and price controls permanently.
- Stop all spending in excess of tax receipts and make annual payments on the debt.
- Abrogate all extravagant and unnecessary government programs.
- Reestablish the gold and silver standard.
Congress has the power and the responsibility to accomplish these measures. If our representatives and senators persist in shirking their duties in this regard, then we’ll continue on the same course to economic disaster, and we’ll end up with a controlled economy under a totalitarian form of government.
I have seen with my own eyes the end result of continuing inflation. I paid six billion marks for breakfast in Cologne, Germany, in December 1923. That was fifteen cents in American money.
Our spiraling national debt is but one of the danger signs, and is indicative of the culpable negligence of those in the highest echelons of government.
Thomas Jefferson counseled: “To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must take our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.” Indeed, paying our debts, or living within our means, was always one of the sterling characteristics of Americans. We looked upon it as a duty to ourselves as individuals and as children of God. Students of history know that no government in the history of mankind has ever created any wealth. People who work create wealth.
God has prospered this land. Though the United States has only about six percent of the world population and seven percent of the land area, our gross national product is about forty percent of the world total. It exceeds that of all other western European countries combined and is three times greater than that of the entire Far East. (1974 Associated Press Almanac.)
The United States is the most generous nation under heaven. We have put out 25 billion dollars’ worth of food aid around the world—84 percent of the world’s food aid in the past several years.
Some say the free enterprise system is heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. What about the lame, the sick, and the destitute? Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case forced charity through government bureaucracies has resulted in the long run in creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. Charity can be charity only when it is voluntary, and it will be effective only when it is voluntary.
As Henry Grady Weaver wrote in his excellent book The Mainspring of Human Progress, “Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-mass through some pet formula of their own. . . . The harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooders,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others—with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.” (Pp. 40-41.)
By comparison, America traditionally has relied on individual action and voluntary charity. The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history. Even during the depression of the 1930s, Americans ate and lived better than most people in other countries do today.
As Americans, citizens of the greatest nation under heaven, we face difficult days. Never since the days of the Civil War has this choice nation faced such a crisis. Throughout history, great civilizations have disappeared. In every case the pattern bears a grim similarity. First comes a decline in spiritual values, then a repudiation of economic and moral principles of integrity and responsibility, followed by the inevitable loss of freedom.
If we are to survive as an independent, sovereign nation, we must, as free Americans, follow sound economic and political policies, uphold and protect our hallowed Constitution, and live to the letter the virtues of frugality, integrity, loyalty, patriotism, and morality. Today, more than ever before, we need God’s influence and guidance in every area of our lives.
America has a spiritual foundation. Her wellsprings are religious. Our crisis is a crisis of faith; our need is for greater spirituality and a return to the basic concepts upon which this nation was established. How much this country needs men with a mandate higher than the ballot box! How much this country needs men in government who acknowledge their debt to the Almighty, men whose lives are a daily witness to the truth of the American motto, “In God We Trust”!
The days ahead are sobering and challenging, and will require the faith, prayers, and loyalty of every American citizen. Our challenge is to keep America strong and free—strong socially, strong economically, and above all, strong spiritually, if our way of life is to endure. Indeed, it is America’s only hope for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!
(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)