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Independence and Liberty

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  • Independence and Liberty

    Independence and Liberty
    By Anthony Gregory
    Published 07/04/09

    Every Fourth of July we celebrate American independence -- but why, and what does it mean?

    The political consequence of the American Revolution was the liberation of the thirteen colonies from British rule. The Continental Congress declared "that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved."

    It was a major defeat for the world’s greatest empire, Great Britain. But the Americans did not revolt over light and transient causes.

    The Americans rebelled for freedom from their motherland because they had believed that their liberties had been seriously undermined by the British government.

    The government had levied taxes on them without their consent -- on some items, as high as a couple percent.

    The government had searched and seized their property on the basis of unreasonably broad warrants called "Writs of Assistance."

    The government was elevating the military above the civil law.

    The government was forcing the American people to finance its global empire.

    The government was sending forth bureaucrats to regulate and tax the American people.

    Do you see a trend here?

    The British government had acted despotically and tyrannically, expanding its power further into the lives of the colonists, who had been used to living in a condition of benign neglect for decades. During and after the French and Indian War, the British government became much more interested in the financial dealings of the American people, raised taxes, and compelled the colonists to house and support the troops in their communities.

    An important point is that the patriots were not protesting taxes for programs like Social Security or Universal health care -- though we can imagine they would, as such monstrous programs would seem perfectly alien to them -- but rather, they were primarily protesting taxes and impositions that were being carried out in the name of empire, war finance, national security and mercantilism.

    Today’s conservatives should keep this in mind. For just as war and empire had led to financial ruin and tyranny for the colonies, they have meant the same for us today.

    But it is staggering the degree to which the U.S. government has now replicated and even been more rapacious than the British empire, as far as American liberties are concerned.

    In recent years, with the war on terror and the war on drugs, we have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties. The Patriot Act essentially brought back Writs of Assistance. Indefinite detentions and military commissions resemble the Crown’s Star Chambers that had been vanquished long before 1776.

    The degree to which economic liberty has been destroyed in this country is beyond description. We have completely lost our way. The tax rates that average Americans suffer are ten times as high as the tax burden under Britain. Even Britain’s targeted excise taxes on tea that sparked the Boston Tea Party were low compared to today’s taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and other items.

    The U.S. government intrudes into our financial lives in every conceivable way. Every industry is regulated by thousands of bureaucrats and millions of pages of federal regulations.

    We have a welfare state only slightly less socialistic than that of most other Western democracies. We have the largest budget, the largest government program -- Social Security -- the largest military and the largest prison system on the planet.

    And now we are facing a welfare-warfare state crisis that boggles the mind. The Obama administration has continued and built upon the foreign interventionism of Bush, expanding the war in Afghanistan and into Pakistan. On civil liberties, he has solidified most of the worst legal positions and policies of the Bush administration.

    Meanwhile, in the economy, Obama is waging another war on the private sector. Every week there is something ranging from ridiculous to downright despotic -- tobacco bans, national healthcare plans, the cap-and-trade power grab. In the name of the environment, he is shrewdly imposing one of the highest tax increases ever, claiming new broad powers over our lives, shoveling billions to connected industry and creating a phony "market" in carbon emissions that will surely benefit a very few at the expense of all of us. On healthcare, he is poised to force the uninsured to buy health insurance, or else be fined a thousand dollars, and begin the construction of a command-control health care system with its philosophical underpinnings lying somewhere between Mussolini and Karl Marx. This abominable program will be invasive in countless ways, giving politicians and bureaucrats and others a peak into our medical lives while usurping control over some of the most intimate decisions a human being can make.

    In terms of the political meaning of the Declaration, we have come a long way. Our current government is far more tyrannical toward the American people than Britain’s was before the Revolution.

    Independence from Britain did not guarantee the American states would be free forever, of course. And from the beginning, American politicians began reversing some of the victories of the Revolution. Taxes and tariffs and Constitutional violations got worse. The principle of secession and political self-determination was violently defeated in the Civil War. The entire 20th century presented a nearly undisturbed growth of the leviathan in Washington, DC. The U.S. soon became a world empire, as Britain was.

    But there was another victory of the American Revolution, a victory of ideas. As Bernard Bailyn argues in The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, the Revolution gave birth to a "contagion of liberty." The ideas of freedom began to catch on, not just the principle of political self-determination, but the generally connected ideas of personal, individual liberty. The first anti-slavery societies were formed. People began demanding more religious freedom, and voices began demanding equality for women under the law.

    Even in our own time, we can see many reasons for hope. The ideas of liberty have never had more champions, from more walks of life. The economic thinking most needed to combat the status quo has never been more refined with as many articulate defenders. Total war, wartime censorship and conscription are not as popular as they were in earlier eras. The courts are more resistant to executive wartime power grabs than they were in the past. Ron Paul has succeeded in making monetary policy and concerns about the unleashed Federal Reserve serious, mainstream issues, for the first time in nearly a century. States are resisting federal impositions left and right, American tax protests and resentment are growing, Obamanomics is meeting public disapproval, and the president’s betrayal of civil liberties and the cause of peace have turned some of the left against him. And now we have the Internet on our side.

    And thanks to the long-term consequences of ideals, the traditions we hold dear, there are many freedoms we still have, but they are sometimes easy to take for granted. Freedom from chattel slavery, women’s rights, religious freedom, the freedom of speech, freedom from conscription -- in many of these areas, we are freer than Americans were under Britain, and in all these areas, we are freer than many of our forefathers living in the United States.

    If these ideas of liberty can win out, then others can too. And only when the ideas win will we get our freedom.

    Independence from out-of-control government might seem like a dream now. But the ideas of liberty can be the most powerful thing on earth. To do your part, declare your own independence from the dominant statist zeitgeist, and spread the message of freedom to people you care about today.

    Happy Fourth of July.
    |TG-X| mp40x

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  • #2
    Re: Independence and Liberty

    Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
    • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
      • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
      • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
      • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
      • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
      • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
      • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
      • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
      • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
      • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
    Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

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