Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE— A view of the rotunda at the Capitol is seen in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

Economic opportunity and upward mobility are the bedrock of a free society. As a legislator, as a mother and as a member of my community I know that protecting individual opportunity is essential to securing lasting freedom.

Our great nation, founded upon the premise that our rights are given to us not by government but by God, emerges as its own distinctive pattern in the tapestry of history.

We Americans do not consider freedom scarce. We feel it everywhere. We live it. We experience the blessings and opportunities of freedom so abundantly that we are like the proverbial fish in the bowl that doesn’t realize how dependent it is on the very water it swims in.

While we the people, the citizens of this nation profess to love liberty and freedom, we too often relinquish it — sometimes willingly in a lopsided exchange with big government and at other times through passive acquiescence to the regulatory state.

Freedom is a fragile resource. And freedom once lost is rarely, if ever, regained.

Are we so focused on immediate needs and wants that we are willing to spend, give away, and squander, rather than preserve, protect, and defend our precious freedom for future generations?

I hope not.

We simply cannot throw up our hands and declare that there is nothing we can do. There is always something we can do to preserve freedom, not just for ourselves, but also for generations to come. It starts with economic freedom and opportunity for everyone.

Some say income inequality is the defining issue of our time. It may be, but not for the reasons usually cited. Too much focus is placed on the symptoms of income disparity and too little on the root causes. Making rich people poor will not make poor people rich. Redistribution of wealth does nothing to create more of it.

Well-meaning government policies too often unintentionally freeze poor people in place by penalizing work and punishing success. The perverse incentives of the welfare state condemn those they seek to save.

The assault on personal and economic freedom over the last eight years through the heavy-handed government policies of the past administration, has made it abundantly clear that preserving our opportunity society — the American Dream — is the real defining issue of our day.

The solution to preserving opportunity for individuals — and therefore preserving our freedom — is simple: return power back to the states and the people to whom it belongs.

No matter how well intentioned, it is morally repugnant to rob tomorrow’s opportunity from our children and grandchildren in order to fund extravagant, overreaching and often ineffective government programs today.

In 2012, I was elected to serve in the Utah State Senate. I have witnessed first-hand the costs imposed on states by the expensive mandates levied by federal programs and the bureaucrats who drive them. Confiscatory taxes, senseless regulation, cronyism, and almost a complete inability to get anything accomplished add up to economic and personal disaster for all of us.

It should not take an Act of Congress to choose your doctor. An army of administrators will never meet the learning needs of your child. You don’t need a government to tell you the proper size for your morning soda or how many hours your hair-braider should have to train.

Throughout history free societies that have died did so by abdicating their freedom one small and seemingly insignificant decision at a time. That is the road to ruin for us and for our posterity.

We must choose the road less traveled toward continued freedom and opportunity. We need Congress to start acting responsibly and decentralize power to the states where problems can actually be solved, and the people actually have a say. We need to elect members of Congress who understand this fundamental truth and are willing to divest themselves of power, rather than continuing to amass it. This is the only way to preserve our freedom of opportunity, our priceless American Dream.

Deidre Henderson is a Utah State Senator for District 7. She represents southern Utah County and is chair of the senate rules committee.