Last night I attended a dinner benefiting the Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout, I’ll be forever in scouting’s debt for the values, principles and skills they tried to instill me – how successfully it took is perhaps a different question.

Gov. Rick Perry, also a Eagle Scout, and whose son is an Eagle Scout, received the “Distinguished Citizen” award.

His acceptance speech was mostly free of politics, and instead focused on the impact scouting made in his life – which frankly mirrors the impact it has had on so many of millions. (He also announced that he has written a book on scouting’s values, which will be published early next year. Oh, and he had a great line about “Lawsuit-happy do-gooders” that warmed my political heart…)

Perry made an insightful remark on the importance of principles that resonated firmly with me. He said, “My fear is not that we will lose our freedom to a superior power, but that the decay of our society will lead us to trade our freedom for shortsighted self-indulgence.”

Think what you will of Rick Perry (or anyone else) and the application of principles to political action, but his message was right on target.

As Benjamin Franklin once similarly observed, “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.”

Too often we confuse temporal indulgences, power and wealth with true liberty. But the confusion will not last for long; the bill comes due, being paid with the loss of liberty – and ironically the loss of indulgences, power and wealth. No people are as poor as those who have traded lasting liberty for baubles and toys.

True liberty only exists where there is responsibility, and indeed the level of our liberty (economic and personal) is in direct proportion to our level of responsibility. Where we allow government to shield us from our mistakes, we quickly find ourselves prevented from enjoying the fruits of our success.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Michael Quinn Sullivan and his wife have three children. He is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. Check out his podcast, “Reflections on Life and Liberty.”

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