Friday, July 18, 2008

Catching Up: 4th of July - Freedom Day Post

Year after year, Independence Day remains the holiday that I both love and hate the most...

232 years ago, America did something no other nation in the history of the world has been able to do. Noooo, there's nothing new about a country throwing off the chains of a ruling nation and forming their own government - that happens all the time. In every other case the world has ever seen, whenever a nation has achieved "independence" it has used that moment in time only to establish yet another form of tyranny.

Historically, my favorite parallel has always been France actually... primarily because the ideas and philosophies that comprise our Constitution are derived largely from the French enlightenment - that and of course because France underwent it's own revolution, throwing off the shackles of Louis XV, during the same time as we got rid of King George.

The crucial difference of course was that while we took the philosophies created by David Hume, Voltaire, Baron de Montesquieu, Adam Smith as well as our own Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and John Adams - and a ton of other intellectuals that I'm not listing here - and created a system of government purposefully designed to protect individual liberty, the French replaced their monarch with a military emperor...

Tyranny is only possible if the people of a nation abdicate their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to rulers of any kind. When we grant one group the power to decide what we are allowed to say (read: think), what we are allowed to do with our bodies and our property, who we are allowed to spend time with, or anything else then we are no longer free individuals. With freedom comes some responsibility of course - and only one real "limit" to that freedom is necessary to live among other people... any individual who wishes his own liberty simply must respect the liberty of others - for this reason, I've never been an advocate of anarchy. One must have recourse in the event that his freedoms have been abridged. We are not "free" to murder or to steal, not free to control to initiate force against others under any circumstances. Government of course, has only one real ability... force. Ultimately, a government is a group of people that have been granted the authority by a majority (implicitly or explicitly) of people in a nation to initiate force against others... for this reason, any powers of government must be watched relentlessly.

Our founding fathers understood this perfectly. This is why the system of government they created had specific, clear and easy to understand (before lawyers got too involved) limitations on what the government of the United States is allowed to do.

This is why I love the 4th of July.

It reminds me that, unique to human history, on this day in 1776, an intellectual movement was started that set about to create a government not based on "divine will" or ancient tradition, and not led by the desires of one thug to control other people with violent force - but instead based on the idea of providing as much freedom as possible to all people equally. Of course, some will point out that we still had slavery at the time, and that's true - though the truth is, every country did and many still do unfortunately. But regardless of this failure to live up to the full meaning of the ideas expressed by our nation's founders, those ideas are what provided the foundation for people all over the world becoming more free and more prosperous with each passing year.


The 4th of July also reminds me that as America has progressed, especially over the last century or so, we have steadily lost sight of the fact that it is liberty that has been responsible for our success as a nation. We've grown fat and lazy, and security and safety seems to mean more to us now than liberty. We are now afraid to offend, in some cases, we're not only afraid - it's now actually a crime in some contexts! Worst of all, instead of expecting a government that protects our rights as individuals, we've spent the last 100 years clamouring for a government that "gives" us stuff...

Of course we never stop to ask where the stuff the government is passing around comes from. We don't concern ourselves with the cost, only the warm, fuzzy feeling we get "knowing" that our government is right there at every turn - protecting us from our own decisions, ready at a moments notice to bail us out if we buy a house we can't afford, never learn to manage our lives, or don't bother planning for our future... and always on someone else's dime.

Add to that regulatory organizations that are antithetical to our Bill of Rights, like the FCC controlling speech, DEA controlling substances adults are allowed to use, or even the IRS - which is one of the most egregious abuses of all when you stop and realize that the premise of an income tax is fundamentally that government has the power to take a part of your income (the product of your labor) by force... and we have a lot to be disturbed about.

The defenders of these ideas say things like "well, we need to provide safety nets" and that it's the rich who are going to pay for it all anyway - and of course they have "enough" money to support everyone else (apparently depending on the amount of income someone else has, suddenly it becomes morally acceptable to steal from them?). And of course all those rich people got rich via creating businesses - so we should definitely tax them too.

Of course, those businesses will inevitably pass the taxes they pay onto their consumers in the form of higher prices (or of course, fail entirely at the expense of the jobs of the employees who worked there). Someone has to pay the piper afterall... and to those who complain that businesses are in control? Ever stop to ask yourselves whether or not it'd be possible for them to be in control if government didn't have the power to use force within markets? That's another post entirely, but when someone has the power to decide your fate, it's only natural to do everything you can to make sure that your fate is secured positively... this means lobbying for the "right" force to be used.

None of this was part of the original plan...

On this 4th of July, I'd just like to remind everyone I know that it's the guarantees of FREEDOM, not democracy, and certainly not government's poorly provided (and monopolistic) services that has made America one of the most successful and prosperous nations of all time. Thomas Jefferson believed that it was everyone's duty to defend the public liberty - violently if necessary.

That's a pretty heavy thought.

I don't think we need a violent overthrow of the government. But I do think we need to wake up and defend our individual rights... Those rights are our birthright as Americans, as descendants of a group who created a system based on the rule of law and the philosophical idea that all people have ownership of their own lives - not a king or any other governor, and we would do well to remember that... Those are my thoughts for today. Tonight however, I will spend the evening on my roof watching the fireworks coming off of Hollywood Bowl - for which we have John Adams to thank by the way ;) Damn... those guys thought of everything!

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