A week ago today, Independence Day (not “the 4th”) was celebrated – but it seems that many people are missing the point of this holiday.Â We all enjoy taking time with family and friends – celebrating and appreciating the warm summer – but do we ever really take time to reflect on just what we’re supposed to be cheering for?
A quick perusal of the Declaration of Independence makes it quite clear:
That all people are created equal.
That they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That to secure these rights, people form institutions known as governments – to rule over them – by their own consent.
That, when a government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.
The founders eventually drew up the US Constitution to form a government that would protect these rights.Â While there were some who would’ve preferred a different form of government, what they ended up with was one that was supposed to be strictly limited to specific functions only.
Why did they do this?Â Well, it’s quite simple.Â When just a few people can determine the rules for an entire nation, people have nowhere to run to – nowhere to escape – when bad leaders create and enforce bad laws.
Think about it.Â If Hitler had ruled just Berlin and Stalin had ruled just Moscow, the whole world might be a different place today.
Jacob Hornberger at the Future of Freedom Foundation shed a little more light on this issue in a recent post:
Why did Americans deem it desirable and necessary to limit the powers of the federal government? Because they feared the possibility that their new government would become like their former government against which they had had to take up arms.
While they recognized the necessity for government – as a means to protect their rights – they also recognized that the federal government was the greatest threat to their rights. By severely limiting the powers of the federal government to those enumerated within the Constitution, the Framers intended to encase the federal government within a straitjacket.
This was a serious issue to the founders – so they wrote the Constitution under what’s known as “positive grant.”Â This meant that the government would have the authority to exercise only those powers which were specifically given to it in the Constitution.
Nothing more and nothing less.
This principle was so important to them that they codified it in law under the “straitjacket” of the 10th Amendment, which reads:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Hornberger clearly recognized this principle when he writes:
Governments are called into existence by the people – and exist at their pleasure – for one purpose: to protect the exercise of these inherent rights.
Hopefully, people in America will someday start recognizing that the role of the Federal Government should be simple and limited – and that, while far from perfect, the founders showed great wisdom when setting up a government in such a manner.
When that day comes, we’ll surely see liberty and prosperity reign.