Monthly Archives: July 2006

July 4, 1776

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Two Hundred Thirty years ago today, the Second Continental Congress formally approved what undoutably ranks as one of the greatest revolutionary political documents of all time, the Declaration of Independence. It was, when you think about it, an audacious act. The fifty-six men who signed that document were taking on the most powerful nation on Earth and, at the time, the most powerful Empire the world had ever known. Some might have called them fools. Had they failed, they would have been called traitors and hung from a tree. Today, we call them patriots.

America is unique among nations. For the first time in history, a nation was founded based on not conquest, or clan, or royal blood, or heavenly decree, but on an idea. And what an idea it was:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Human equality. Human freedom. Self-Government. And the right, some would say the duty, to overthrow a despot when those rights are violated. At the time, no other nation on Earth had even come close to upholding these ideas. While the United States was far from perfect itself — especially with regard to the treatment of blacks and women — it came close to that ideal than any other before or sense. And, because of its philosophical underpinnings, the contradictions that existed —- slavery being the most notable — were just that, contradictions that, eventually, would have to be corrected if America was to remain the nation she strived to be.

Once the American Revolution succeeded, the ideas that powered it spread across the world. To France, where they contributed to the downfall of a monarchy that had its roots in Charlemagne. And even to Mother England. Those ideas have continued to spread and inspire people from Eastern Europe to China (who can forget the statute of the Goddess of Freedom in Tiananmen Square, looking so much like our own Statute of Liberty ?). Today, if a despotic regime wish to keep those ideas from gaining hold among its population, it must effectively cut itself off from the rest of the world.

So, where does Amerrica stand after 230 years ? More importantly, what is the state of liberty ?

There is much to worry about. The modern American is far larger and far more intrusive than King George ever was. What’s worse, it often seems like a large part of the American populace doesn’t care about the continued loss of liberty at home, as long as the economy keeps booming and there’s something entertaining to watch on television. Breads and circuses some would call it.

At the same time, there is cause for optimism. The near universal revulsion at last year’s Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London showed me that, at heart, Americans guard their freedom jealously. But you can’t just react when something bad happens, the fight for freedom continues on a daily basis. And, as usual, Thomas Jefferson said it best himself:

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

It does no good to speak up only when the grave threats to freedom become apparent, by then its usually too late.

But enough of that for now. Its the 4th of July, and, as another patriot, John Adams, wrote, its time to celebrate:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway

Others marking the holiday: Jay Tea@Wizbang, Laurie Byrd@Wizbang , Michelle Malkin, Chris@The Liberty Papers, Outside The Beltway, The Indepundit

Optimism On The Fourth Of July

Or maybe just bloody-mindedness, who knows. Wrote this last year. Don’t think I can better it. And now (admittedly not that many) people actually read what I write. Slightly dated, the mood being heavily set by the then-recent Kelo decision. Still, much of it is more or less timeless.

A lot of conservative bloggers seem to be wearing black and mourning the death of America today. Truth be told, I was too as I went to bed last night, prepared to make a sob-filled eulogy to the dying ideal of the Land of the Free. But depression doesn’t come naturally to me…it usually transmutes itself to burning anger within a few hours. And that’s how I feel today: angry. Not just angry at the misguided people that undermine the constitution everyday in all three branches of the government. Not just angry with the idiots who shepherd them into office, chasing a dream of the European ideal…a land where they never figured out how not to be subjects. A land where what looks like milk and honey turns out to be nothing but whitewash and food coloring. But I’ve been angry with myself for getting depressed in the first place.

On this day a Call to Fight came from the colonial caucus, magnificently penned by Thomas Jefferson. 229 years later, it is still a call to fight, albeit against a far more insidious enemy. July 4th in 1776 was a challenge, to the maddened King George, and to the wave upon wave of red coats and muskets that would soon come by the boatload. On that day, our forefathers stood their ground and declared that no more would they be ruled in such an arbitrary manner, heads bowed to an authority that was scarcely their better.

Today our enemy comes from within, but, like those British soldiers, they are simply taking orders. Their orders come from their false education and indoctrination, and from their lack of introspection. Today we are called to arms, not to raise our swords upon the field of battle, but to raise our pens and our voices, to win possession not of bloody battlefields but of hearts and minds.

Heinlein, that preternaturally brilliant political commentator, remarked that a people who forget their history will have no future. And that is the very essence of the problem. We simply aren’t taught our history well enough. We learn dates, we learn places, and we learn names. But that’s the least important part of history. Way back when, it didn’t matter what day of the week or the month that Patrick Henry spoke his famous words. It doesn’t matter what the Federalist Papers were called, or even who wrote them. That Ben Franklin invented bifocals, are you serious?

The importance of our founding fathers lay in what they said and what they did. Of the lessons they imparted to posterity. Of the struggles they fought for 7 long years. Of the failure of the Articles of Confederation, and how from its ashes the Phoenix of the Constitution which arose with such glory no better governing document has been written. This is the history that’s important, and it is precisely this history that isn’t taught.

This country’s laws and institutions aren’t something to be discussed, agreed upon, and decided by Democrats and Repubicans. That was already done for us with the birth of the Constitution. Our framers were polymaths, accomplished economists, historians, and philosphers; The constitution is thus approximately as outdated as this post, possibly less. They were also some of the most paranoid and far-thinking individuals the world has ever seen. They created a document that had no need of changing with the times. A simple, profound document which gave us the basic ideals on which society should be built, and just how limited government should remain.

The Constitution should no more change with the times than the Bible, Buddha’s words, or Shakespeare. Our framers’ very intent was to create an ahistoric document. One that it doesn’t matter when you gave it a glance, the words are timeless. On the 150th anniversary of July 4th, Calvin Coolidge said as much about the Declaration (hat tip powerline ):

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Not progress, reactionary. These days no Republican is untainted by assault on certain principles of our founding document, but the entire ‘progressive’ movement is a reaction against the Constitution. They are not progressive, they are regressive. They are Statist. Individual liberty is not the goal, but individual comfort. By such stuff are subjects and sheep made. Their power lies in speaking to the fears and the emotions of their minions. That is not the life I want to live, to take counsel of my fears (to quote churchill) before deciding my course of action (except insects…i’m still afraid of insects) Our message is clear, it is invincible, the only thing that remains is to speak that message. To remind people of what it means to be American, to believe in freedom, and the sacrosanct individual. To remind them that the government is our plaything, not the other way around.

The Gadsden flag is flying today in my mind and in my heart. It neatly encapsulates everything our forebears stood for on the field of battle and in the composing of our great ideological foundation. Years ago it was flown by the most belligerent of Revolutionary War soldiers. Today, it’s resurrected, flown by one of the most belligerent classical liberals I know: me. They stood there ready to die for their cause.

No one will ask that of me, or of you; we have no excuse for walking out on this fight.

The events I’ve witnessed in recent years, the debates I’ve had with fellow students, the pure filth that comes out of so many politicians made me question whether America really was better than Europe. I dont know how the country got to that point, but no more. Melancholy has given way to the much more comfortable rage. Rage I can do, rage is familiar to me. I can do it all my life and not blink an eye. And you know what? I think I will. The statists fought a war of attrition for 200 long years, but their day ends now.

Brad’s Smoking and Bare-Knuckle Boxing Emporium!

If you’ve been keeping up with things, you’ll have noticed that smoking bans have become the new (old) debate. Columnist Bill Fergusen explains why a libertarian can support such bans:

That’s why this libertarian supports efforts to restrict smoking in public places not clearly designated as smoking zones. Smokers should have the right to smoke, and I should have the right to breathe clean air. That means no smoking in generally accessible areas like workplaces, restaurants, and stores, except in clearly designated, and separately ventilated, areas.

Well, this has garnered some attention for Fergusen, which was probably his intent. Of course, more type is being spent asking whether he’s really a libertarian than anything else. Stephen van Dyke takes issue with this, Sean Lynch of Catallarchy responded that fighting smoking bans should be about #258 on a libertarian to-do list, and Atlas Blogged suggested that the smoking bans should be a libertarian litmus test.

Now, I’ve posted on smoking bans before, and there’s rarely more to be said. But this comment to the post at Atlas Blogged really got to me:

My perspective then, since I believe that secondhand smoke is harmful, is that a smoker should be allowed to harm themselves but should not be allowed to harm others.

No one is allowed to randomly throw knives in a restaurant, because that’s harmful. No one should be allowed to fill the room with smoke that others have no choice but to breathe, because that’s harmful.

You might say, “You do have a choice. Leave if you don’t like it.” Then I should also just leave if I don’t like someone throwing knives. But I don’t have to worry about knives, because it’s illegal for people to throw knives in restaurants. I shouldn’t have to worry about breathing secondhand smoke in restaurants either.

The only reason the analogy may sound absurd is because you don’t believe that secondhand smoke is harmful. Get hit by a knife, you see the immediate and obvious damage. Inhale a lungful of secondhand smoke and you don’t see immediate damage, but it’s happening nonetheless (albeit much more slowly than a direct hit from a flying knife).

Should a restaurant be free to allow smokers to smoke throughout their building? On the surface, it seems the answer should be “yes.” But should they also be free to allow knife-throwing inside as long as they post a sign on the front door that reads “Knife-throwing Allowed”? No.

I think there’s another problem with that analogy. To go on with the “your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose”, what if I wanted to start my own little “Fight Club”. I buy a little store, set up a boxing ring, and everyone who wants can come in and get into a fistfight.

Assault is illegal. But if I have consenting adults fighting in my ring, are anyones rights being violated? And if so, how is the sport of boxing (or football, or any other contact sport) any different? It’s true, it might not be knife-throwing, but I think there’s undoubtedly be the occasional injury in my “Fight Club”. And the normal rules, if I remember the movie correctly, is that you come to “Fight Club”, you fight; there are no spectators.

Now, would it be fair for me to wait until someone randomly walks into my store to ask for directions, and haul off and jack them in the face? Of course not. They haven’t consented to such behavior. And the knife-throwing (or smoking) analogy fits, if someone must be exposed to that before they have the ability to withhold their consent, but that’s a pretty minor issue in the long run, at least with the smoking part.

I agree with Atlas Blogged, this makes a great litmus test for libertarians. A libertarian can support smoking bans in places like hospitals, perhaps government buildings, places where you have no choice but to consent or not consent. But I don’t see any way to logically allow smoking bans in places like restaurants, bars, workplaces, etc that people can choose whether or not to attend.

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