WASHINGTON D.C., August 17, 2012 — As free market activists prepare to take to Capitol Hill tomorrow to voice their disgust with business-killing government regulations and clueless legislators, I sought out the leading expert on entrepreneurship and lemonade alike: Janie Johnson, conservative author of Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand, and Obama 2012 Slogans Rewritten.
With a heart for restoring America and imparting the ethics of liberty to younger generations, Johnson’s Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand features a combination of beautiful comic illustrations, questions for kids, and powerful lessons on important topics such as personal responsibility, the rule of law, rights of man, the Constitution and more. As a political scientist who has read hundreds of textbooks and manifestos over the years, Johnson’s Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand is by far the best and most enjoyable guide to government and citizenship I have ever read.
It was a great honor to be able to interview Johnson, and here follows a transcript with light edits.
Danny de Gracia: America was built by private innovation and private investment, but today it seems like the people who prosper the most are the ones who government favors or those who are in charge of controlling the favors. Your book’s title, Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand, really strikes a chord and captures the essence of what’s going on here: average, ordinary Americans just want to be left alone and do what’s on their heart to do, but there’s always someone in government who wants to have a say about it. How do you think America got to this point and how can we turn things around?
Janie Johnson: Once people learned how to vote themselves benefits and compensation – i.e., public unions’ corrupt relationship with back-scratching politicians – America began to change. When individuals began to ask “what can my country do for me” versus “what can I do for my country,” more change occurred.
There have been many other factors in America’s changing value system, such as lowered stigma on out-of-wedlock births, acceptance of abortion on demand, so-called separation of church and state, reduced stigma to accepting permanent “help” from the government and so forth, but the biggest factor has been that politicians learned they could buy votes with other people’s money.
The solution is a return to first principles, such as limited government and the promotion of free market capitalism. But these are broad guidelines.
As a beginning, we need to dramatically reduce the spending authority of Congress by redefining the meaning of “General Welfare,” “Necessary and Proper,” and the “Commerce Clause.” These changes will likely take a constitutional amendment, but however burdensome to make the change, these changes need to be made.
In the short run, whole cabinet level departments need to be eliminated or dramatically curtailed, such as Energy, Commerce, Education and more. The powers of these departments need to be returned to the states.
Bottom line: the country needs to return to the original intent of the U.S. Constitution, starting with overturning the many expansions of executive power beginning with Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson right on through FDR, LBJ, and Barack Obama.
DDG: One of the things that you mention in your book is that “The Constitution is not self-enforcing; it will live on for another generation only if it is alive in the hearts and minds of our children.” Lately it seems like every session of Congress and the local state legislatures is marked by what kind of job-killing bills or freedom stripping proposals need to be stopped and opposed. Why do you think this is happening?
Johnson: Civics, American values, and the Constitution are no longer taught in schools. Liberals and their teachings have dominated the American school system for over half a century – teachers’ unions have been indoctrinating our kids. Competition has been stifled and political correctness has replaced reality. Moral equivalence and moral relativism have replaced right and wrong.
Children and their parents have been bombarded with identity politics whereby nearly everyone is now considered a victim of someone else. Participation trophies of self-esteem are handed out instead of gold stars.
The virtue of personal responsibility has been replaced by an entitlement mentality to the point where government dependency has become a way of life.
Rugged individualism and the honorable pursuit of self-interest have been negatively labeled. Too many Americans now accept political self-interest as superior to economic self-interest, thereby replacing the American principle of equal opportunity with the liberal objective of equal outcome.
Amorphous terms such as “social justice” and “fairness” have been successfully used to divide our nation. Success has been vilified and job-creating businesses have been demonized. Too many in power believe they – government – know best for businesses even though they have never run a business. Competition does more to protect the consumer than government will ever do.
The combination of these and other factors answers your question of “why are job killing bills and freedom stripping proposals” happening.
DDG: President Obama, as you know, made the claim that, “if you have a business, you didn’t build that.” What was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard the President say that?
Johnson: The first thing that came to my mind was that the experience of a community organizer is far different from that of a job-creating entrepreneur. I felt President Obama revealed his true inner feelings about America and his perception of its shortcomings. This one statement exposed the thinking behind many of President Obama’s “social justice” initiatives.
DDG: What do you think is the best way to describe the ideological differences between the way conservatives think and the way progressives think?
Johnson: As you may recall, I spend a great deal of space in my book, Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand: An American Philosophy, answering this very question.
Progressives are government centered; Conservatives are people centered. Progressives believe government not only has the solutions but that government always knows best. Conservatives trust the judgment of our 300 million plus citizens and distrust the “guidance” of a few elitist government central planners.
Conservatives are focused on conserving and preserving first principles and the U.S. Constitution, while Progressives seek to progress away from such concepts as individual responsibility and personal liberty. Conservatism is rooted in freedom and freedom never goes out of style. Progressivism is rooted in “fairness and equality” and as Milton Friedman stated, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither.”
DDG: Every so often candidates campaign on a “bipartisanship platform” - that is, they say “things aren’t working in Congress because our two parties can’t agree.” That actually scares me, because when I personally hear that, what I end up thinking is that they want to speed up passing bills that need to be slowed down or stopped altogether. What’s your thoughts on this?
Johnson: We are in complete agreement on this matter. Our problems in America are not that we have too few laws and regulations, but that we have too many. We have sent too many self-promoting amateurs to Congress and we have given them too much authority and too much to do.
When I hear the words “bipartisan” or “compromise” I know we the people are about to get screwed again!
DDG: Your book, Obama 2012 Slogans Rewritten, really has some incredibly funny lines in it: “45.8 million on food stamps, only about 255 million to go!” The scary thing is there are probably liberals who would read that and actually say “amen” to that. Are we in trouble or what?
Johnson: We are in trouble, but not irreversibly so. Too many Americans are satisfied with initiatives and proposals that sound good or even noble, but do not work. Congress and bureaucrats purposely avoid performance metrics in their laws and regulations. They do not want the public to know [the difference between] that which has worked versus that which has failed.
Plus, we have sent people to Washington D.C . to make laws who pay no price for being wrong. This has been a recipe for failure, and the inedible Congressional “cake” proves it.
DDG: Last but not least, what is your advice to young people who are voting for the very first time and aren’t political and are just being bombarded with so much political information in this campaign? What are some of the questions that young people should ask themselves before voting?
Johnson: Young people and old need to ask themselves these questions: Who is better equipped to create jobs and economic prosperity and who will better protect our country and its liberties? Would it be a former community organizer who spent his life railing against job creators who has serious concerns about the “fairness of the American way?” Or would it be a proven job creator who has saved the Olympics and understands the true meaning of American Exceptionalism. Which candidate not only has knowledge, but also the skills to get America working again – the job of President needs both!
Or simply, who do you trust with your money? Mitt Romney and his proven entrepreneurial background or the famous community organizer Barack Obama who thinks redistribution of wealth is the same as creating wealth.
Or whose vision of America do you want? Mitt Romney who is an unabashed believer in the American way of creating opportunities and providing an atmosphere for businesses to grow and innovate, where achievement is lauded and a strong defense is necessary; or Barack Obama’s vision of America of no borders, no values, no produced energy, no armed citizenry, no nuclear weapons, weak military, $10 gas with long waiting lines, a hundred thousand Obamacrats run wild and 100 percent income tax?
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