It's All About Freedom!
The Fourth of July holiday is here with its parades, picnics and fireworks. As we go about our activities with family and friends, we should all take some time to reflect upon what the celebration is all about. Yes, it is a celebration of our Countryís Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, but it is more than that. It is a celebration of the idea of individual liberty and the legitimate role of government.
The Declaration of Independence boldly states:
"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, ..."
This was a radical notion then and still is considered radical by many today. This radical declaration is the foundation of American political thought and has inspired millions around the world in the 225 years since it was written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, one of the greatest advocates of individual liberty of all time, was turning the British idea of liberty on its head. Jefferson was rejecting the British view that rights were granted by the government to the people. Instead Jefferson declared there is a higher law, "unalienable Rights", that every human has by their mere existence. Government only has those powers granted to it by the people, to protect these natural rights.
Unfortunately today we often hear commentators talking about our "constitutional rights", as if the government was granting us our rights through the Constitution. However, the Preamble of the Constitution makes clear once again that people are born with natural rights and that they establish and grant certain powers to government in order to protect these rights:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Further the Ninth Amendment declares:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
Because of todayís widely accepted, but misguided view that the government has vast powers and grants us our rights. We have a government that too often works for the special interest groups or constituencies that help politicians get elected. The government is used by these groups and politicians to dole out special favors, ranging from tax breaks and direct government subsidies, to rules and regulations telling others how to live. All this merely encourages other groups to form, seeking their special favors from the government. With more groups seeking something from the government, there is more money being thrown at politicians to win their favor. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended!
This Fourth of July we should take time out from the celebrations, to reflect on Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathersís vision about our individual rights and the role of government in protecting these rights. A return to this vision would be a giant step toward a more peaceful society that respects each individual, allowing them to discover their abilities and realize their full potential, while pursuing their own dreams, their own way.
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Page Updated: August 20, 2005
© Copyright 1998 - 2005 by Jim Rongstad. Permission to use is granted as long as author is acknowledged.