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August 3, 2009

200 Years Later, We Wish to Neither Live Free nor Die


On Friday, New Hampshire celebrated the 200th birthday of its famous motto, “Live Free Or Die.” Its words were first penned by General John Stark, who had led Americans to victory at the Battle of Bennington in 1777. The words are a reflection of the America that, today, we are merely taught about in history books.


In commemoration of the event, British commentator Ed West wrote: “Today is the 200th anniversary of my favourite political catchphrase, the New Hampshire state motto ‘Live Free or Die’. To me – and many other British citizens – it represents an old British freedom-loving spirit that lives on among our brothers across the water but is dying over here, sucked out of us by anaemic, cowardly and mojo-draining socialism.”


Mr. West’s words would be flattering if they weren’t becoming increasingly misrepresentative of America, the same country that shed its blood and wealth to gain independence even against all odds.


There was, indeed, a time when “Live Free Or Die” meant every word for most Americans. But no longer are such black and white statements of principled certainty welcome in a land increasingly embracing mushy moral ambiguity in the name of the “common good.” Individual freedoms and personal responsibility are quickly becoming a thing of the past in a country that allows its politicians to coerce adults to wear seatbelts and to forbid smoking at a private bar owner’s invitation.


In utter irony, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader, a few weeks ago “The Governor’s Task Force for the Recruitment and Retention of a Young Workforce for the State of New Hampshire,” as if it doesn’t sound statist enough already, officially stated: “Our State portrays an unfriendly message that every individual has to succeed on their own, rather than count on a support system for assistance (Live Free or Die is not a friendly, supporting message that appeals to young people).”


It proceeded to note this recommendation from those it interviewed: “Rebrand NH and make it more appealing; the Live Free Or Die motto is prohibitive to what young people are looking for in their home community.”


Yes, how horrible it would be if individuals found out that they have to succeed on their own.




To be fair, not everyone in New Hampshire agrees. The Union Leader itself criticized the report. The substantial number of small-government conservatives and libertarians in New Hampshire would beg to differ. So would the “young” men and women fighting abroad, in the most tangible representation of the motto.


But, as we saw in November, New Hampshire, along with much of the country, still voted for politicians who have worked to control and centralize virtually everything, from education to energy, and now, to health care. These are politicians who forbid their constituents from trading freely with whomever they wish. Politicians who pretend the Second Amendment does not exist. Politicians who labor to eliminate individual choice all the way down to the food we eat.


These politicians, and the people who elected them, seem to have forgotten that their rights have never been granted by government, nor will they ever be. Freedom, choice and rights are granted by God – and government can only limit them.


Freedom was not granted in order to be given away by its possessors, much less to be forcefully taken away from them by a government – always under the guise of the “common good.” And this is precisely how General Stark understood his life, and why he and his men risked their lives so they can live them freely. Thankfully for them, they are not alive today to see us toss out the freedom they were willing to die for.

© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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