In 1776 a group of influential men got together to announce to the world that our colonies here in America had endured enough oppression and that we were announcing our independence from our “mother” country Great Britain. In this announcement we listed our principles for doing so, the offenses against us that drove us to this action, and a general plan for making it happen. These men put their “Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor” on the line so a people could fight to be free of their oppressors.
These were great men and the result of their commitment and their supporters' actions is nothing less than a miracle- The United States of America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. It's time to dust off that legacy and make it true once again. It's time to understand the importance of the Declaration of Independence and why it is as relevant today as when it was written.
All Men Are Created Equal
The principles our ancestors fought for ran counter to the powers that governed at the time. In an era of monarchs and tyrants, our Founders represented the thought that “all men were created equal” which means no person is born to rule over another. It means that an equality of opportunity, not outcome, was a right to be protected. It did not mean that men and women were all equally talented, nor did it imply that equal outcomes are desirable. Freedom is not free; free men are not equal, and equal men are not free.
They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights
Another important concept was that our rights come from our creator, not from other people, or from the government. Our rights are inalienable. They are a part of us and can never be removed. They can be trampled or ignored, or rightfully abridged by a jury, but that does not mean that we do not possess those rights. Specifically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This simple list is unfortunately overlooked too often or not truly understood.
Life is the most important right a person possesses. If that right is taken away, no others rights really matter. What does free speech mean to a dead person? The right to peaceably assemble? How about a jury trial for a corpse? All ludicrous.
This idea of life is where the 2nd Amendment originates. Your life and its protection are your responsibility. According to our beliefs, you should be able to protect that life anyway you see fit, as long as it doesn’t infringe on another’s rights. This naturally leads to the concept of liberty. No one else controls your life or can tell you what to do with that life.
Unlike freedom, liberty has the component of restricting action when it comes to violating another person’s rights. Your body and the actions you take with it are for you, and you alone to control, as long as those actions do not infringe on another’s rights.
No entity has the authority to tell you how to live your life in any way. Any restrictions from government that are put into place that impede the free actions of a person who isn't hurting anyone else is wrong, and it is not supported by our founding principles.
Anyone can voluntarily enter into agreements to make whatever deals they want to place restrictions on how they interact with others. But these restrictions must be voluntary and agreed to by all parties. Otherwise, any contract between two consenting adults is perfectly fine and not subject to government interference.
And the pursuit of Happiness
Putting life and liberty together creates a person’s pursuit of happiness. You utilize your body, take actions, and interact in the world to do what you want to pursue happiness. This pursuit often leads to the creation or aquisition of property.
Property used to be known as physical, as well as intellectual. The freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press all stem from this idea of intellectual property. The 4th Amendment is a protection of these rights. The 5th, 6th, and 7th Amendments with their due process ideology also support this right to your pursuit of happiness and protection from arbitrary interference.
It was a founding principle that your property was your own and no one, including the government, had a right to take it without due process. Property taxes and income taxes were not condoned. Private property ownership and keeping the fruits of your labor were understood by all and acknowledged to be an integral part of a free nation.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men
Realize that we create our own government. The reason we create this government is to secure our rights. Having rights is not enough. This is why we move away from the state of nature and anarchy. We want a structured society where the rights to life, liberty, and property are recognized and defended. We, the people, can pursue our life secure in the knowledge that our rights are being protected from all that would infringe on them. This is the only reason we have government.
Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
This is probably one of the least understood of our founding principles. The consent of the governed means more than having proper representation by elected officials. That is important but not the full extent of the meaning. It means that the power of the created government cannot ever exceed the power of the individuals. If a person or a group of people do not possess a power over another person or item, then how can they bequeath a power they do not possess themselves?
In the proper pursuits of government, we see the actions that individuals could take but instead delegate to a central authority. The local police and fire departments are examples of this concept. The Court system and dispensing of justice, the protection of our borders, standardizing currency, weights, and measures, and bankruptcy laws are some examples of proper government. These are activities and ideas that the people can and would rightfully do on their own if there were no government. The central determination of these standards is needed when sovereign entities interact.
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 rest of the initial statement of the Declaration of Independence speaks of the right of the people to identify bad government and to change it however they see fit. It supports the idea that government is a mechanism, a construct, that we, the people, create to secure our liberty and prosperity. When government deviates from that course, we, the people, can and should fix it. It is our duty.
In the finishing of the ideological introduction, the Declaration speaks to human nature and our tolerance for abuse. I will not comment. I will simply share it.
“ Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 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, and to provide new Guards for their future security”
This is a cursory look into the minds of early Americans about the kind of country they wanted to create. I realize that perfect societies do not exist nor is liberty ever fully realized. Both are concepts we constantly strive for but fall short of because of our nature. It is in that strife where liberty and prosperity can exist. More frequently nowadays there is no fight but capitulation by the populace. That is not liberty, and it will not lead to prosperity.
When did we lose our way?
Why are we, the people, pursuing being "In- Dependence" to the government instead of independent from them? Many people talk a strong game, but when adversity hits or problems in society arise, they are some of the first to ask “what is government going to do about it?”
Crime, pollution, infrastructure, food and medical regulations are some of the areas people demand government take an active role in. They have the erroneous belief that government is the solution. Government is the problem. Many of the difficulties and challenges we face as Americans today are results of government interference or malfeasance. Most are unconstitutional actions to boot. Yet, all we get are more laws, new regulations, and new agencies to combat (i.e. perpetuate) the outcomes of previous government interference.
Why do we have 10s of millions on food stamps if more government is the answer? And to add salt to the wound and identify one of the true problems of our current government- most of these activities are not paid for by taxpayers; we are borrowing from future generations to sustain our current one. That topic gets the cursory “balanced budget” treatment and then is quickly ignored. But I digress.
Let’s look at today’s society from the perspective of the Declaration.
All Men Are Created Equal -- except those that are or have been oppressed, or those who have challenges in life or are part of a protected class. All people need to be looked out for, and it is the duty of government to make that happen. Taking money from some to support the lifestyle of others is now a responsibility that government has taken on. You are greedy or don’t care about the poor or if you oppose government redistribution of wealth. Everyone deserves a living wage.
They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights-- rights now include things such as food, clothing, shelter, “reproductive” rights, education, and healthcare to name a few. Government defines our rights, and they are the ones who tell us how much of a right is good. Peculiarly, most of the new “rights” cost a lot of money to make a reality.
Life-- as long as you realize that you are a custodian of the state and they ultimately control your life and body. Your children must comply. You must comply. We will tell you to what extent you may protect your own life. We will tell how you must raise your child-- common core, vaccinations-- government will tell you what food and medicine is acceptable for you to use. We are from the government and are here to help you. Resistance is futile.
Liberty-- just remember that the state has strict rules above and beyond what infringes on another’s rights. They will determine where you can fish and hunt. Most private transactions are between consenting adults-- food sales, medical care, real estate, financial help, personal care, electrical work, pool work, veterinarian services, automobile repair to name but a few. Why do I need to pay the state for permission to buy a Slurpee from 7-11? Regulations limiting choice, such as licenses regulating a plethora of industries that inhibit competition and new start-ups, personal permits to build or modify a house, the need for personal licensing and sanction of the state to perform most services nowadays. You can’t cut hair without a license. You cannot clean fish without a license. You cannot wait tables without getting the proper credentials. God forbid you sell medicinal products or lemonade to your neighbors. This is not counting any of the “professional” services that require much more interaction with the state and the bureaucracy. Almost all interactions between consenting adults is now scrutinized by government.
...and the pursuit of Happiness-- your “happiness” is highly taxed and regulated. Property taxes are one of the biggest offenders. Who owns your house when you “pay it off”? Don’t pay property tax for a few years and you will know the real answer to that question.
Who owns the fruit of your labors? Depends really on what tax bracket you are in and the tax structure of the state you live in. A confiscatory tax structure is the norm, and it is NOT the price for civilization. It is theft and corruption for the most part just like paying for the privilege of living in the United States and its use of of a death tax- i.e. the inheritance tax. Why should the government have any claim to the after tax fruits of your labor?
And the money we use-- the fiat currency that has lost over 80% of its value since we were taken off the gold standard in 1971 by Nixon has made it much harder for people to pursue their happiness.
It used to be the norm that many families had one worker in the family and without a college diploma, could make enough money to buy a house, raise kids, and retire in the future.
The American Dream is a pipe dream for more and more people. Government is the problem, not the solution.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men- governments are now mommy and daddy. They tell us in specific terms how we are to live our lives and have penalties for those of us who dare disobey. Rights are what the government tells you they are. Even the most basic rights are subject to interpretation-- bake the cake, free speech zones, gun free zones, marriage, NSA spying...
Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed-- nowadays government makes it up as they go along, and most people applaud it. The Constitution is ignored most of the time. People demand that legislative bodies that “do nothing” are bad, and their measure of success is passing laws. The abuses of government abound.
Put it in this perspective-- picture your neighbor doing the job that government has taken on. Can you neighbor tell you that you must pay him or her to install a pool? Can your neighbor can tell you what food you are allowed to buy? Can they dictate what drugs you put into your body? How about the size of your toilet or type of lightbulb you can use? Can they demand that you pay them a little money every time you buy something? If we, the people, do not have that power, then why can “government” have that power?
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it-- Let’s remember the lessons of the Civil War. A president went against this very concept, and more Americans died in the ensuing war than any other time in our history. States rights is a bad term to many people even though it is the basis of our republic. “Government is what it is, and politicians are going to lie to us. So what?” That attitude and expectation must be changed for us to survive as a nation.
Our founding principles detailed in the Declaration of Independence were revolutionary at the time and were paid for with blood and lives. Over the decades we have allowed our government to grow beyond its purpose, dangerously so. We are a nation of laws, and as we move away from that concept and accept the opinions of our fellow man as law, we ignore the lessons of history and allow tyranny to gain a foothold.
Even with all of the challenges we face, our life as Americans is superior to most and definitely better than our ancestors experienced. Our perceived prosperity masks our trajectory as a nation and its unsustainable course. It is very important we realize in which direction this country is moving in. It is not in the direction of liberty nor prosperity.
We, the people, of the United States cannot continue to ignore the lawlessness of our federal government. The Constitution is just not a good idea; it is the law! Our founding and the nation it produced was a miracle. We have it within our power to peaceably turn this around and make the changes needed to maintain our sovereignty as a nation. Ignorance is an enemy. Apathy is another. The constant program of demoralization we face as a people needs to be attacked head on. We DO have the power to make the necessary changes. We, the people, DO have the power to right America and return her to the proper path.
Visit me at Constitutional Cappuccino on Facebook or my Website. Check out my new book Patriot Ammo: The Words Behind Our Flag which is a civics lesson for those who want the truth. It is strong enough for adults but written for high school students.
“What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” --Patrick Henry