Joshua Charles, the author of the new book Liberty's Secrets joined Glenn on radio Monday to discuss the wisdom of our founders that has been lost, which is now eroding the foundations of our nation's liberties today.
If you are a liberty lover, a homeschooler or simply somebody who's trying to make their way and understand what the essentials to liberty are, "this definitely needs to be on your shelf and well-read," Glenn said.
Listen to the exchange or read the full transcript below.
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.
GLENN: A few years ago, there was a guy who was watching my television show and listening to the radio show, and I said, "Somebody really needs to take and -- and take the arguments for liberty that our founders did and rewrite them. So we -- we all understand what the founders were saying originally, in today's language." And a guy who was in law school at the time, he happened to be listening, and he was like, "Huh, that's a pretty good idea." And so he wrote it in today's language. It became a number one best-seller. It was called "The Original Argument." And he has now done it again, this time it's called "Liberty's Secret." I was a little disappointed because I was like Victoria's Secret.
PAT: Not a lot of pictures in this one.
GLENN: There's no pictures in this one.
GLENN: So Joshua Charles is with us right now. Joshua.
JOSHUA: Glenn, great to be with you. And I want to thank you for all this. You catalyzed a lot of this, and here we are.
GLENN: Well, I mean, again, I would just say you might have sold more books if you put Dolley Madison as something hot.
JOSHUA: Probably. Probably.
GLENN: Yeah. Here's what -- you had a really good way of distilling the things that we have lost and that we used to know and now we don't really -- now we really don't even think about it all that much. You take on Ben Franklin's list of virtues, which is one of my favorite stories about Ben Franklin, one of the best things -- and you have taken that now and have made it approachable for today. Would you just start there?
JOSHUA: Yeah. No. I think one of the biggest things we've lost is this idea that freedom is only possible for a society that is virtuous, is moral, has a moral compass. And I think what we're struggling with these days is, among other things, we've lost the ability to have a coherent moral discussion. We're not even on the same planet. We're in different universes in some cases.
When you read the founder's writings, they're full of words like "truth" and "justice" and "righteousness." And while of course not all of them agreed at every moment of every day of every year what exactly that meant, they did believe it was out there. That there was a truth, there was a justice, there was a righteousness. And so it provided a coherence to their language, to the way they were able to discourse. And as far as Franklin's list of virtues, that's where I start --
GLENN: Hang on. Hold on just a second. Before you go into that. And it wasn't just -- like, we'll hear politicians now talk about the truth. I've not heard them use the word righteousness, but they'll talk about doing the right thing. That's not the same. That's a campaign speech. These guys actually believed in it. They believed there was one universal truth.
JOSHUA: Yeah. Absolutely. And it was clearly derived from the Judeo-Christian principles that many of them held to. There's a lot to that. I remind people, the book is several hundred pages long. So there's a lot of detail to all this. You can't flesh it all out on a radio interview, but starting with Franklin's list of virtues, I think there were ten to 13, somewhere in there. They mentioned things like chastity. I don't think that's very popular today.
JOSHUA: And Franklin himself I think didn't fully live up to that one. But temperance, you know, controlling your appetites. Frugality. Orderliness. I mean, all of these various virtues. And then of course the last one, humility. Imitate Socrates and Jesus.
And so there was this idea that if you want to be free, then act like it. For every freedom which is asserted, there is a duty which is put on -- put on you. And if you don't have the duty along with the freedom, then you really don't want to be free.
GLENN: So in your book you talk about how they foresaw the times that we're living right now.
GLENN: They knew this was going to happen.
JOSHUA: Yeah. In fact, I think we -- we came a bit later than they expected. I think they expected the collapse sooner.
GLENN: Yeah. Within 50 years.
JOSHUA: Yeah, yeah, certainly. And it's actually really eerie when you read some of the letters that James Madison, Adams, Jefferson even, they can see the civil war coming. And it's very nerve-racking to them. But fortunately we survived that. But, no, there's absolutely amazing things in there about financial collusion, about what we would today call "crony capitalism." About the degeneration and constitutional jurisprudence.
Jefferson, Madison, those two in particular talked a lot about the idea that words means something. Again, kind of -- kind of the language corollary of the moral absolutes. That, you know, there is a moral absolute out there just in the same sense that words do have meaning.
You know, they talked about the -- the -- the courts becoming an oligarchy of sorts. They talked about big banks getting into bed with big government. They talked about fiat currency. That was something that John Adams talked a lot about, in particular. Said it was the same as robbing Peter to pay Paul. There's a lot more in there on that. They talked about a lot of this. They talked about the degradation in morality.
GLENN: They talked about -- in your book, you point out, they talk about the two sets of rules, one for the elite and one for everybody else.
JOSHUA: Yeah, absolutely. No, I mean, Jefferson said if the Constitution became corrupted, if the central government started doing things it was never intended to do, he said, it would become the most corrupt government on earth. And I think part of the reason is, is because the ecosystem that the founders have set up. It's a pretty complex system.
I mean, Tocqueville -- I quote this in the book as well -- he said it's frightening how much the Constitution presumes the people over whom it rules to not be ignorant. It's a complicated system. It's not just, oh, there's the government. They can legislate and do whatever they want like how it's been in most countries. I mean, to this day, parliament is still supreme in the United Kingdom. They technically have a queen. But she's pretty much there just for, you know, the figure head.
But, no, the American system is complex. And so as those things started to bleed into each other, it became even more complex. And, you know, I think back in the day when we were doing the Federalist Papers, we brought up Federalist 62, where Madison talks about what use is all these laws if people can't understand them, they can't parse through them, and it essentially does become a set of two rules, where those who can afford the lobbyists, the attorneys, the high-powered expensive personnel to manage their concerns with the government, well, they do get their affairs managed with the government. But what about the rest of us? So absolutely.
GLENN: So the name of the book is "Liberty's Secrets," and if you are a liberty lover, a homeschooler, somebody that is trying to make their way and understand, what are the essential things? The subtitle of the book: What is the lost wisdom -- what is the stuff that is laying on the scraps of the table that nobody is even looking at anymore that we need to remember and then also will be the secret for putting things back together -- I don't want to wreck the book. But, you know, the very end is liberty's resurrection. And you want to go into a little bit of -- because you do have optimism which mine's fading rather quickly, Joshua.
JOSHUA: Well, I don't know how much I would say it's optimism. I'm not a -- I'm not a pessimist. I'm a short-term pessimist, no doubt. But, you know, I read a lot of history, as I know you do too. And I was just in Egypt this summer. Was seeing some amazing stuff. And you just learn that there are waves to these things. There's crests and there's downfalls and there's rises. And things wax and wane.
JOSHUA: And we've seen people get it together. And so, you know, I don't know for sure. But what I talk about in that concluding section is just, if we want to be free, this has got to be our attitude. And the fact is that liberty is not a risk-free proposition. It is inherently risky. But it is that risk which allows the greatest display of human flourishing and greatness, in the first place. You can't have that display of human greatness, ingenuity, you know, increase in the quality of life -- you can't have that if everybody is just worried about being secure. And that's what I think is happening.
So those are the general things that I talk about. I don't lay out a program. I don't lay out ten points. Do this. No, no, I don't get into contemporary commentary. I just get into just, here are just some principles. And one of them is, we have to be willing to take risks. And liberty has always been a proposition which it has to be defended in every generation. And if it's not, it goes away. And there have been times when it's come back, and our founders knew that. And so, you know, who knows? But I hope that is certainly the prognosis for us as well.
GLENN: Joshua Charles. The name of the book is "Liberty's Secrets."
"Liberty's Secrets," available wherever books are sold. But this definitely needs to be on your shelf and well-read. Thank you very much, Joshua. I appreciate it.
JOSHUA: Thank you. Appreciate it.
GLENN: God bless.