Blogs > Liberty and Power > A Thought for the Fourth

Jul 3, 2006 7:08 pm

A Thought for the Fourth

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

(I’m going to be away from my computer on the Fourth, so I’m posting my Independence Day observations a day early.)

How should we think about the American Revolution? I suggest we should think of it as an uncompleted project. The Revolution, after all, wasn’t just about separation from Britain; it was about the right of the people to “alter or abolish” any political arrangements destructive of the “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” or not resting on the “consent of the governed.”

Those were the principles on which the Revolution was based. But the political system the founders established never fully embodied those principles in practice; and its present-day successor no longer respects them even in theory. (Slogans, need I add? are not theory.)

Over the years since 1776, the fortunes of American liberty, and indeed of liberty worldwide, have risen and fallen; most often some aspects have risen while others have fallen. But every increase in liberty has involved the logical carrying-out of the principles of ’76, while every decrease has involved their de facto repudiation. (And if the average American is on balance more free than his or her 18th-century counterpart, this is small reason for complacency when one views the matter counterfactually. To paraphrase my comments in an L&P discussion last year: “For me the point of comparison is not USA 2006 vs. USA 1776, but USA 2006 vs. the USA 2006 we would have had if the USA had stuck consistently to those principles.)

From an establishment perspective, the Fourth of July is a day to celebrate the existing American system. But that approach to the Fourth is, I suggest, profoundly counter-revolutionary. Far better to regard Independence Day as a day to rededicate ourselves to forwarding the ongoing Revolution whose true completion, as Voltairine de Cleyre and Rose Wilder Lane argued here and here, will be libertarian anarchy.

In other news, recordings of my Mises seminar are now all online.

Also, don’t miss two excellent recent posts about the relation between poverty and statism by Sheldon Richman and Ben Kilpatrick.

Have a surly and rebellious Fourth!!

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Stephan Kinsella - 7/7/2006

don't you think?