Americans are again celebrating Independence Day in traditional fashion, enjoying themselves with family and friends, picnics and fireworks. But this joy is tempered by America’s sad political and economic situation.
With elections in the offing, this is the right time to review our republic’s founding principles as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and to reflect on the document’s relevance today.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.”
Whether you believe that humans were “created” or evolved, we are all equal in our nature as humans. We are all self-conscious creatures with free will and the capacity for reason, the capacity by which we understand our world and ourselves.
“That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
As individuals our highest values should be our own lives and the pursuit of survival and happiness through our own autonomous actions. Thus, in society with others we as individuals must be the “owners” of ourselves and at liberty to think and to act as we will, respecting the equal rights of our fellows and dealing with them based on mutual consent.
“That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
Here’s the clear and beautiful political principle of our republic. Governments are formed to protect our individual liberty, not to control and direct our lives.
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
The legitimacy of a government ultimately is judged by whether it performs its functions of protection. If it doesn’t, if it is violating our liberties and rights, it should be overthrown.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes. . . . But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government....”
Let’s not mince words. Government today is destructive of these ends. Most elected officials in their every action seek to limit our liberty, to take away our autonomy. They pose as benefactors but are despots seeking to make us dependent on their largess.
The American colonists threw off British government with guns and armies. At that time, colonists could not vote for those in London who ruled them. Thus, an appeal to arms was the only route to liberty. But regimes with elections can be tyrannical as well, as in America today.
Americans made the revolution in 1776 based on the ideas in the Declaration that were shared by so many of the colonists at that time. Freedom will only be restored in America today if enough Americans return to those ideas. Thus, the political battles ahead should be for the hearts and minds of Americans, fought for the right of each individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “ What Unites Americans? Unity in Individualism! ” June 30, 2004.
*Edward Hudgins, “ What Is an American? ” July 3, 1998.
*David Mayer, “ Completing the American Revolution. ” The New Individualist, Spring 2009.
*Alexander Cohen, “ The Radical but Conservative Declaration of Independence .” The New Individualist, Winter 2011.