THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin


Quinn Hillyer has written a wonderful retrospective on the founding of Young Americans for Freedom in Sharon, Connecticut on September 11, 1960.

As we approach the 9th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on America tomorrow, it is worth noting that YAF will be holding an event in Washington, D.C. to celebrate their founding on this same day.  The focus of the founding group was on the rise of Communism as the most important threat to America and her freedoms.  Today, both Terrorism and the increasing growth of Statism threaten American freedoms just as profoundly.  The Sharon Statement rings just as truly now as it did in 1960.  And, it is ever more important that the principles and values it contains are conveyed to the youth of our nation.

“The Sharon Statement

Adopted in conference at Sharon, Connecticut, on 11 September 1960.

In this time of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

We, as young conservatives, believe:

That foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

That liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

That the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;

That when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;

That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;

That the genius of the Constitution- the division of powers- is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people, in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;

That the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

That when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation; that when it takes from one man to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;

That we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies;

That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

That the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistance with, this menace; and

That American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?”

Mr. Hillyer’s father made some notes during the original gathering at Sharon, Connecticut.  In my estimation, his ideas on how to best share conservative ideas with others are the best blueprint for acceptance of these.

“Don’t use labels,” he wrote. “Start off talking about policies. Labels frighten; policies bring agreement.” And “emphasize that conservatism is non-conformist” — counterintuitive, but oh so true, and also a good sales point for college students who typically like to think of themselves as non-conformists even as they actually conform their thoughts, actions, and clothing to the reigning liberal orthodoxy.

As we draw ever nearer to the 2010 Midterm elections, we would do well to study and incorporate his ideas, as well as the ideals of the Sharon Statement into our encounters with those who do not understand what conservatism is and may, therefore, believe that they could never embrace it.

Here’s wishing the Young Americans for Freedom a Happy 50th Birthday and many more to come!


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