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by Harry Browne, Originally written July 2003
Unfortunately, July 4th has become a day of deceit.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declared its independence from Great Britain. Thirteen years later, after a difficult war to secure that independence, the new country was open for business.
It was truly unique – the first nation in all of history in which the individual was considered more important than the government, and the government was tied down by a written Constitution.
It was the one nation where you could live your life secure in the knowledge that no one would ask for your papers, where you weren’t identified by a number, and where the government wouldn’t extort a percentage of your income as the price of holding a job.
And so each year July 4th has been a commemoration of the freest country in history.
But the America that’s celebrated no longer exists.
The holiday oratory deceitfully describes America as though it were the unique land of liberty that once was. Politicians thank the Almighty for conferring the blessings of liberty on a country that no longer enjoys those blessings. The original freedom and security have disappeared, even though the oratory lingers on.
What made America unique is now gone, and we are much the same as Germany, France, England, or Spain, with:
- confiscatory taxes,
- a Constitution and Bill of Rights that are symbolic only – merely documents used to justify governmental actions that are in fact prohibited by those documents,
- business regulated by the state in the most minute detail,
- no limits on what Congress or the President might decide to do.
Yes, there are some freedoms left, but nothing like the America that was and nothing that you can’t find in a few dozen other countries.
Gone, too, is the sense of peace and security that once reigned throughout the land. America, bound by two huge oceans and two friendly neighbors – was subject to none of the never-ending wars and destruction that plagued Europe and Asia.
Now, however, everyone’s business is America’s business. Our Presidents consider themselves the rulers of the world – deciding who may govern any country on earth and sending Americans to die enforcing those decisions.
Whereas America was once an inspiration to the entire world – its very existence was proof that peace and liberty really were possible – Americans now live in fear of the rest of the world and the rest of the world lives in fear of America.
Because the education of our children was turned over to government in the 19th century, generations of Americans have been taught that freedom means taxes, regulations, civic duty, and responsibility for the whole world. They have no conception of the better life that could exist in a society in which government doesn’t manage health care, education, welfare, and business – and in which individuals are free to plot their own destinies.
Human beings are born with the desire to make their own decisions and control their own lives. But in most countries government and social pressures work to teach people to expect very little autonomy.
Fortunately, in America a remnant has kept alive the ideas of liberty, peace, and self-respect – passing the concepts on from generation to generation. And so today millions of Americans know that the present system isn’t the right system – that human beings aren’t born to serve the state and police the world.
Millions more would be receptive upon being shown that it’s possible to have better lives than what they’re living now.
Both groups need encouragement to quit supporting those who are taking freedom away from them.
You and I may not have the money and influence to change America by ourselves, but we can keep spreading the word – describing a better society in which individuals are truly free and government is in chains (instead of the opposite).
And someday we may reach the people who do have the money and influence to persuade tens of millions of Americans to change our country for the better.
I don’t know that it’s going to happen, but I do know it’s possible. I know that the urge to live one’s own life is as basic in human beings as the will to live and the desire to procreate. If we keep plugging away, we may eventually tap into that urge and rally the forces necessary to restore the real America.
And then the 4th of July will be worth celebrating again.
Harry Browne (RIP 1933-2006), the author of Why Government Doesn’t Work and many other books, was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, a co-founder of DownsizeDC, and the Director of Public Policy for the American Liberty Foundation. See his website.