Liberty is a hard fought for and hard-won blessing. It certainly hasn’t been the natural condition of humanity, nor is it an inevitable historical outcome. From James Bovard at mises.org:
he notion that Americans will always be free is part of the catechism that is force-fed to public school students. For hundreds of years, philosophers, politicians, and reformers have touted a law of history that assures the ultimate triumph of freedom. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
But few political follies are more hazardous than presuming that one’s liberties are forever safe. None of the arguments on why liberty is inevitable can explain why it has not yet arrived. Most of the human race existed with little or no freedom for 95+ percent of recorded history. If liberty is God’s gift to humanity, then why were most people who ever lived on Earth denied this divine bequest?
Many efforts at limiting state power have failed almost immediately. In the thirteenth century, oppressed English nobles revolted and sought to bind their kings in perpetuity. King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, petulantly accepting a limit to his prerogative to pillage everything in his domain. While the Magna Carta is celebrated nowadays as the dawn of a new age, it failed to even bind the king who signed the document. The ink on his signature was barely dry before King John brought in foreign forces and proceeded to slaughter the barons who forced his signature. King John died just after his vengeance commenced, providing a respite for Englishmen. In the final realm, the Magna Carta was simply a political pledge that was honored only insofar as private courage and weaponry compelled sovereigns to limit their abuses.