I don’t know about you. I no longer feel like celebrating July 4th.
Actually, I do — but not in the sense it was intended.
Originally, July 4 was to be a tribute to American independence and the protection of individual rights embodied by the American government. If nothing else, Americans had the Constitution, a statement of limited government, to stand between each individual and government tyranny.
The English Parliament? The dictatorial King George? Never again, they said.
And yet here we are today, with our own versions of the same thing. None the least of which, a Supreme Court who tells us that Congress may tax whatever it wishes — not only tax our actions, but our inactions as well. Majority rule is the absolute standard, not individual rights. This means we are now, officially, a democracy. Not a republic; not a democratic republic ‘ but an unleashed, unprincipled democracy. It won’t take Americans long to realize that mob rule sacrifices the individual. Most Americans won’t care, when they’re in the majority, getting free health care or whatever else. But the moment they’re in the minority about something … the reality of living in a pure democracy is going to hit them hard.
By any standard of freedom, the America of 2012 is no longer recognizable as something worth celebrating. Not after the recent Supreme Court decision. This infamous decision not only upheld Obamacare, but provided almost unlimited power to the federal government to tax and do whatever else it pleases, so long as there’s a majority vote behind it.
The Court, speaking through Chief Justice John Roberts, told Americans, ‘If government passes a tyrannical law, even if it violates the Constitution, we cannot help you.’
This may be the decision marking the beginning of the post-American republic. Obama is a fitting leader to take America beyond its roots as an individualist republic into the unknown territory of an authoritarian state. The Supreme Court has given him the green light.
We no longer have a system of government even nominally committed to individual rights. We don’t have a major political party in support of them, either.
I prefer to celebrate July 4th as a tribute to what might have been, what should have been — and maybe what some day human beings will achieve, but not today.
Thanks to thinkers such as the ones I quote here, the resurgence of liberty remains forever possible. All you need are enough people to embrace them. We can stand on their shoulders, as will future leaders of liberty who (at present) remain so elusive.
Ayn Rand: ‘If some men are entitled BY RIGHT to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor. Any alleged ‘right’ of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.”
You hear that, Obama?
Ben Franklin: ‘… as all history informs us, there has been in every State & Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing & governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the Princes, or enslaving of the people. Generally indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partisans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharoah, get first all the peoples money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants for ever …’
You hear that, Republicans and Democrats in Congress?
James Madison: ‘All that seems indispensable in stating the account between the dead and the living, is to see that the debts against the latter do not exceed the advances made by the former.’
You hear that, Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner?
Tom Paine: ‘He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.’
You hear that, John Roberts?
George Washington: ‘If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.’
You hear that, Jane Fonda, leftist professors, and other advocates of using the FCC to strip television and radio stations critical of Obama of their broadcasting licenses?
Samuel Adams: ‘The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.’
You hear that, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan?
Ludwig von Mises: ‘No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.’
You hear that, the indifferent majority who refuse to pay attention? Who shrug and say, ‘Well, what can be done about it?’
Henry Hazlitt: ‘The ideas which now pass for brilliant innovations and advances are in fact mere revivals of ancient errors, and a further proof of the dictum that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.’
You hear that, those of you who insist that Obama stands for something new, that socialism means ‘change’ rather than the same old authoritarian approach to government which has toppled all societies throughout history?
Frederic Bastiat: ‘When under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gains from this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.’
And: ‘Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.’
You hear that, Occupy Wall Street and others who scream about the ‘evil 1 percent’?
Lastly, Ayn Rand once again: ‘Those who fight for the future, live in it today.’
This quote is for all those who detest what has happened to our society, and who watch with pain the slow-motion destruction of innovation, competence and individualism. They are the ones who most often ask, ‘How am I to keep my sprits up in the midst of a great culture’s collapse?’
So long as there are people to mourn the explicit ideals and values of a free society, those ideals will never be dead. There are times when these ideals are more dominant, and times when they are less dominant.
America has taken a lot of hits in the last decade. One was 9/11. Another was the near collapse of the economy, followed by its slow decline. Another was the election of an authoritarian socialist, Obama. And now, the icing on the cake: This unspeakably bad Supreme Court decision.
The Roberts ruling is not so much a disaster, as a symptom of a storm long in coming. It’s a signal that the awful truth many of us feared was indeed true all along: That nobody, anywhere, in our government cares about individual rights, nor even grasps what they are, any longer. It’s no longer a ‘liberal/conservative’ issue or anything close to it. The people who value the philosophical roots of freedom, and who properly understand them, are in a minority. And they are not in charge. They do not, at least yet, dominate our culture.
Good ideas will rise again, because Americans will eventually come to miss them. Or more precisely, they’ll come to miss what those ideas provided in practice: Innovation, diversity, improvements with every passing year. Yes, it’s fashionable to despise capitalism and all things related to profit and private property. Reason and rationality? Not in the age of unbridled emotionalism. But people sure like the results of reason and capitalism, don’t they? Perhaps Americans will revive them, or perhaps they will reemerge at another place and time. But history will not soon forget what America did for the world, and eventually more will understand what gave rise to it all.
At least Americans knew what those ideals could accomplish, given half a chance. It was this generation that finally let it go. The shame belongs to the majority of today, but not to the minority who would never have let it happen.
Philosophically, America is adrift from its moorings. It’s out to sea. We have the means for finding our way again. Those means never left us, and they never will. Don’t look to the moronic fools in charge at present. Look to the wise minds present at the nation’s founding, look to people who came later like Ayn Rand, and Bastiat, and von Mises, and Henry Hazlitt ‘ and look for those yet to come.
Liberty, reason and individualism are always there for the taking. They always were. All you have to do is embrace them.