Today we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. We take time to reflect on the value of our rights and liberties and give thanks that we live in this, the freest nation on Earth. We also remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and pray for the troops who continue to defend our rights and interests around the world. At least, we hope that today’s celebrations are focused on such considerations.
However, on this July 4, at this time in American history, I’d like to suggest we reflect on something beyond the usual causes for celebration. Perhaps, we can take some time to consider the value of the holiday’s namesake, to truly appreciate independence.
A free people, by definition, must be independent. It is a fallacy to assert one’s liberty while accepting one’s dependency. And independence doesn’t just mean sticking it to the man, it doesn’t just mean teenage rebellion, or even national rebellion against a foreign oppressor. To be independent, one must be able to determine one’s own destiny, to chase one’s own dreams, and to do so without the license or support of another. This principle of self-determination is the true meaning of independence, the true meaning of liberty, and as a free people it is the singular value that every American ostensibly strives for.
I must qualify the preceding statement by saying that it is not the value every American actually strives for. To quote Calvin Coolidge, “self-government means self-reliance”. To a large extent, his sentiment may be dead in the modern political discourse. Since the progressive era of the early twentieth century, a segment of Americans has sought to trade our independence for the promise of material comfort. They have confused the question of how the government should best protect us, and now ask how the government should best provide for us. Moreover, they have rejected self-government as a goal, laughed at the idea that the “ignorant masses” can make the right decisions, and have, whenever possible, given power over our decisions to bureaucrats. They have placed their faith in government by “experts”, and their hope for the future of our country is entirely dependent upon how much power these “specialists” can exert.
Observe the “liberal” who decried the Patriot Act’s intrusions on privacy, who now supports Healthcare Reform’s requirements that insurers and employers open their books to public scrutiny as it relates health expenses. Some find this shocking, but it certainly cannot outdo the self-proclaimed free marketer who advocates welfare for a failing bank, or the enlightened mind that will fight for your rights in a private bedroom but deny them in a corporate boardroom.
The hundreds of agencies and thousands of laws that constitute our modern behemoth government all have their origins in the following flawed ideas: “I am owed a comfortable life. I am entitled to what others earn. I am not responsible for my actions, and when I fail, everyone else should pick up the tab”.
These sentiments have turned government from a protector and referee into a leech. But government is an odd parasite. Every time it takes, it promiseswellbeing. Every time it gives, it decrees new rules. “Government money” is a laughable concept, considering it took the money from us to begin with. Regardless, with every government dollar comes more government control; this is the real meaning behind Calvin Coolidge’s statement—we are free when we are independent, and we are independent only when we take direct responsibility over our lives and the consequences of our actions.
So, on this July 4, let us renew our commitment to freedom. Let us once again declare our independence, not from some foreign prince but this time from our own government.
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