By Ryan McMaken
It's difficult to say what most Americans commemorate or celebrate on Independence Day nowadays. Many appear to focus on some vague notion of "America." Others even take to jingoism equating the United States government with the very notion of "freedom."
Lost in all of this is the fact that the Declaration of Independence — the document we're supposed to remember today — is a document that promotes secession, rebellion, and what the British at the time regarded as treason.
On the other hand, those who do recall the radical nature of the Declaration often tend to romanticize the American Revolution in a way that is neither instructive nor helpful today.
So, what should we remember about Independence Day, and what can it teach us? For starters, here are three things about the history and context of this holiday that should continue to inform us today and into the future.
One: If You Can't Secede, You're Not Really Free
The very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence lays it out. Sometimes, "it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another..."
The document then goes on to list in detail why 1776's specific act of secession was justified and necessary for preserving the rights of the colonists.
By the 19th century, this philosophy of self-determination would become a foundational element of the ideology now known internationally as liberalism — or "classical liberalism" in the United States.
Not surprisingly, we find this idea in the later writings of liberals such as Ludwig von Mises who, writing in Vienna in 1927, concluded:
It must always be possible to shift the boundaries of the state if the will of the inhabitants of an area to attach themselves to a state other than the one to which they presently belong has made itself clearly known...
Mises, like Jefferson, understood that without this right of self-determination, there is no freedom.
Nevertheless, modern opponents of self-determination and secession will claim that secession cannot be tolerated because it is not "legal."
This is scarcely relevant. After all, the colonial uprising against the King was not "legal," and it hardly matters whether political victors consider any breakaway secession movements legal. Times and societies change, and nothing is forever or written in stone.
For Mises, secession must be tolerated for pragmatic reasons. It is "the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars." But For Jefferson, as for his fellow secessionists, it was a moral imperative, whether "treasonous" or not.
Two: Independence Day Is Not a Military Holiday
For obvious reasons, government institutions have little motivation to emphasize the Declaration of Independence or the philosophy it represents. This would amount to the government undermining itself. Consequently, many have attempted to turn the Fourth of July into a holiday that embraces vague notions of celebrating "America."
These ahistorical interpretations notwithstanding, Independence Day recalls resistance and a withdrawal of fealty to a hostile political power. We should not twist it into a celebration of our current rulers in Washington, the federal government, or the troops that work for and represent the federal government.
It should be a celebration against government and a reminder that Americans can once again walk away from tyranny, even if force of arms is required.
This does not defame or insult the American troops, but rather reminds us that we are a civilian nation and the government (and its troops) is supposed to be our servant rather than our master. Slavish displays of patriotism and loyalty to the state are inimical to the real meaning of the holiday.
Three: Armed Revolt Is a Serious and Rare Event Among those who do wish to commemorate the true resistance offered by the revolutionaries, there is a different error: thinking that armed resistance is always right around the corner.
In some corners of America, it's become almost commonplace to hear claims that surely the Second American Revolution will come with just a few more outrages committed against life, liberty, or property. All it will take is a few more no-knock raids committed against peaceful families sleeping in their beds. Or perhaps the government need only seize a few more guns before the American people "wake up." Or perhaps once someone reveals the extent to which the US government spies on us all — as Edward Snowden has already done — then Americans will simply refuse to tolerate it any more.
In truth, armed resistance tends to only materialize in the midst of poverty or foreign invasion. Not surprisingly, over the past century, despite decades of immense growth in government power, rising taxes, and stifling government regulations, virtually no Americans have been taking up arms against the American state.
Some of this may stem from admirable prudence. After all, the American Revolution was an exceptionally bloody conflict, and such conflicts should not be started lightly. As noted by the Library of Congress, "[t]he Revolution ... was, after the Civil War, the costliest conflict in American history in terms of the proportion of the population killed in service. It was three times more lethal than World War II." The poverty, property destruction, and loss of life was immense given the tiny size of the American population at the time.
Most Americans are unaware of these specifics, but most people instinctively know that armed conflict can bring with it a very high price.
This doesn't mean armed resistance is impossible, of course. It's simply worth recognizing that so long as Americans enjoy some of the world's highest standards of living few will be motivated to take up arms.
Ideas Always Matter It is also helpful to remember that armed conflict can be especially disastrous when motivated by the wrong ideas and the wrong ideologies. Who can say with confidence that if the US government were wiped away today, that it would not be replaced with something even worse? Under such circumstances, we must never abandon the important work of laying the foundations first for a revolution in ideas. Without a true respect for the freedoms outlined in the Declaration of Independence, political resistance is of little value. Moreover, in a society where true freedom is valued — and where a majority embraces liberal ideals — violence will prove to be totally unnecessary. And this would be the best outcome of all.
This article was originally published at The Mises Institute.
What did the Founders see as the role of government in our lives? What should we do with legislators who break their oath of office? Have we made progress since 1776? Where are the areas we can be hopeful? Ron Paul's July 4th thoughts...
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By Ron Paul
As Independence Day comes around again we should spend a few moments between barbecue and fireworks to think about the meaning of independence. The colonists who rebelled against the British Crown were, among other things, unhappy about taxation. Yet, as economist Gary North points out, the total burden of British imperial taxation was about one-to-two percent of national income.
Some 241 years later, Washington claims more of our money as its own than King George could have ever imagined. What do we get in this bargain? We get a federal government larger and more oppressive than before 1776, a government that increasingly views us as the enemy.
Think about NSA surveillance. As we have learned from brave whistleblowers like William Binney and Edward Snowden, the US intelligence community is not protecting us from foreigners who seek to destroy our way of life. The US intelligence community is itself destroying our way of life. Literally every one of our electronic communications is captured and stored in vast computer networks. Perhaps they will be used against “dissidents” in the future who question government tyranny.
We have no privacy in our computers or our phones. If the government wants to see what we are doing at any time, it simply switches on our phone camera or computer camera – or our “smart” television. Yet today we continue to hear, “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
In a recent interview on our Liberty Report, Edward Snowden made the excellent point that, “saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.”
Think about the TSA. The freedom to travel is fundamental, and our Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is the law of the land. But if you dare to exercise that right by purchasing an air ticket, you are treated like a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Don’t dare question as the TSA agents commit acts that would be crimes were they done by anyone else. Yet so many Americans still believe this is what it takes to be “safe.”
Think about the military industrial complex. The US government spends more on its military empire than much of the rest of the world combined. Our so-called mortal enemy Russia spends ten cents to every dollar we spend on weapons of war. Yet we are told we must spend more! Imagine the amazing peaceful scientific discoveries that might be made were so many researchers and scientists not on the government payroll designing new ways to end life on earth.
Think about the Fed. Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 the US dollar has lost some 98 percent of its value. Is the destruction of our currency not a cruel form of tyranny, hitting hardest those who can least afford it?
I think it’s time for us to declare our independence from an oppressive government that seeks to control our money and our lives in ways unimaginable to those who rebelled against the British Crown in 1776. Our revolution is peaceful, and it concentrates on winning hearts and minds one at a time. But it marches on. We must reclaim the spirit of independence every day and every night and intensify the struggle against those who seek to impose tyranny upon us.
President Trump has made good on his promise to send in more federal agents to crime-plagued Chicago. For now, he is sending in a new task force to track down illegal guns. Will he send in more? Will more armed federal agents solve Chicago's problem?
By Chris Rossini
One challenge that advocates of liberty must always face is the reverence that so many American citizens have for politicians.
If politicians are viewed as a special breed of human being who should be appealed to for solving the world's problems, you can be sure that liberty and individual responsibility have been buried as a result.
We have to choose one or the other...Liberty or Power.
We can't have both.
Think of liberty vs. power as a see-saw. When one swings upward, the other must come down.
When America was forming as a nation, liberty was flying high as a kite. The average American's contact with government was extremely limited. For many the post office was their only major connection to the federal government. That's it.
To think of the president as someone who would abolish poverty, bring democracy to the Middle East, alter the climate so that it stops "changing," provide "health care" to everyone, and thousands of other things would have been pure insanity.
You would have been told to go back to Europe if you wanted to live the life of a serf. Samuel Adams would have told you to "crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"
Of course, even today, with more power than any individual should ever be granted, the president and government do none of the above. They create poverty and screw up the Middle East. The U.S. military is the biggest polluter on Earth, and they've turned health care into a total nightmare.
However, the difference is that Americans today believe that government should continue meddling in our lives. You won't find many people like Samuel Adams today.
To be sure, today's dominant beliefs have been cultivated for a very long time. Government's compulsory "schools," mainstream media, politically-connected corporations, churches, and countless other groups have placed politicians on a pedestal.
In fact, go to Washington D.C. and you can see the pedestals and the shrines for yourself.
The liberty vs. power see-saw swung in the other direction around the beginning of the 1900's. Comically, it would become known as the "progressive" era, and it's still with us today.
After creating wealth on a scale that was never seen before on planet Earth, it was time for liberty to get knocked down. America would chart a new course.
The former land of the free would become the land of the Caesars, who would all make their contribution to conquering the outside world. Liberty (they hoped) would be buried forever.
Pulling such a major change off requires a lot of propaganda...like massive amounts that appear around every corner. Many millions of people would have to view politicians as a special breed of human.
It took many years, and a ton of persistence, but the political classes in America pulled it off.
Today, American presidents are shuffled around the world with extravagant entourages, and showered with pomp-and-circumstance that would have made King George III jealous.
Because Empires require other countries to play along (by force if necessary) the American president has been viewed as a superhuman all over the world.
For a little more than 100 years, all aspects of the political establishment have crafted a He-Man known as the American President. He wears a nice suit and tie, is well-spoken, kisses babies, talks about compassion. He looks and acts very "presidential."
... And then came Donald Trump ...
The opening salvo against the establishment's fantasy would come from the Internet. No longer would Americans be exposed to a single script propagated by something called a "mainstream media."
The Internet even pokes holes into all the stories that government schools have been propagating as well.
Maybe all of those wars were a complete lie, and countless millions have died in vain. Maybe politicians are just tools of crony interests, that are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
It's amazing what one can learn when exposed to other opinions. The Internet lacerated the political classes and they've been struggling to censor it ever since Netscape gave us the browser.
And now Donald Trump comes along as president and starts firing off one Tweet after another. The new president is completely off script!
Trump's speech, demeanor, attitude and persona are nothing like the deified president that the political classes have created for America.
Unfortunately, Trump's not contributing to liberty from a policy perspective. His policies have been pure establishment, but we'll take the tweets nevertheless.
Trump is showing the world that the American President is really just a human being after all. He appeals to, and acts, like the man on the street.
Is the illusion of the presidency broken?
Probably not. Beliefs take a while to change.
But keep tweeting President Trump.
Keep smashing the government religion.
By Liberty Report Staff
So the manipulated stock market is in another 'new era' and the chief manipulator Janet Yellen doesn't believe another financial crisis will happen in our lifetime.
Best to beware in times like these.
Ron Paul on CNBC:
By Liberty Report Staff
Oliver Stone gave a captivating talk at the Writers Guild Awards:
Stone was also a very special guest this week on The Ron Paul Liberty Report:
By Alice Salles
One of the few elected Democratic lawmakers with an extensive anti-war record, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has combined forces with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to push legislation through both the House and the Senate that would bar federal agencies from using taxpayer-backed funds to provide weapons, training, intelligence, or any other type of support to terrorist cells such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, or any other group that is associated with them in any way. The Stop Arming Terrorists Act is so unique that it’s also the only bill of its kind that would also bar the government from funneling money and weapons through other countries that support (directly or indirectly) terrorists such as Saudi Arabia.
To our surprise — or should we say shame? — only 13 other lawmakers out of hundreds have co-sponsored Gabbard’s House bill. Paul’s Senate version of the bill, on the other hand, has zero co-sponsors.
While both pieces of legislation were introduced in early 2017, no real action has been taken as of yet. This proves that Washington refuses to support bills that would actually provoke positive chain reactions not only abroad but also at home. Why? Well, let’s look at the groups that would lose a great deal in case this bill is signed into law.
An Army of Lobbyists
With trillions of tax dollars flowing to companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and even IBM, among others, companies that invest heavily in weapons, cyber security systems, and other technologies that are widely used in times of war would stand to lose a lot — if not everything — if all of a sudden, the United States chose to become a nation that stands for peace and free market principles.
For one, these companies have a heavy lobbying presence, ensuring that lawmakers sympathetic to their plight are elected every two years. When the possibility of a new conflict appears on the horizon, these companies are the first to lobby heavily for action.
But this dynamic isn’t a secret. We all know that the crony capitalist system that thrives in Washington, D.C., is the very bread and butter of politics in America. After all, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation in his farewell address in 1961 that “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” were becoming the great powers behind U.S. politics, and that if we weren’t weary of this influence, we would risk living in a perpetual state of war.
Still, we allowed it to take over. And there isn’t one industry powerful enough to counter this destructive authority. With the support of an army of well-established and connected millionaire lobbyists, the war machine operating in Washington is so powerful that anything can be turned into an existential threat.
Any conflict abroad that has absolutely no importance or that poses literally no threat to the common American is inflated to become a threat to the American way of life. They hate us “for our freedom.” Therefore, we must show them what democracy looks like.
The Pro-War "Social Justice" Angle
Without the same kind of powerful and wealthy team behind the cause for sanity and peace, this army of big money and big lobbyists has single-handedly put us and many generations to come in debt over Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and now Syria. And as the marketing machine behind this kind of lobbying effort taps into the social justice trend that has infiltrated every aspect of our culture in recent years, these organizations have learned that they will get even broader support from the public if they add feminist, anti-poverty, and pro-equality messages to their pro-war efforts.
Take the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, for instance, which, as NBC has reported, originated with “Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former vice president of the World Bank for the Africa region and a senior advisor on Africa Economic Development Policy for the Open Society Foundations” — a George Soros-backed foundation. In no time, the social media “effort” had become the most effective lobbying force behind the expansion of the never-ending war on terror. And whether it was meant to promote this outcome or not, it helped the United States easily invest more tax dollars into an unwinnable war.
As you can see, even if Gabbard and Paul managed to use all of their time to force the Stop Arming Terrorists Act through Congress so it could get to President Donald Trump’s desk, the powers at play in Washington would do their best to sweep this effort under the rug. Not because individuals involved in pro-war lobbying are, perhaps, thirsty for war per se, but because the system under which they operate allows for bad incentives to produce a great deal of wealth and influence, tilting the balance toward evil.
Without a state that can be bribed, companies would be left to fend for themselves and stay afloat by making customers… happy. And you can’t make customers happy if all you have to offer is war.
This article was originally published at The Anti-Media.
By Jacob G. Hornberger
For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why the American people do not rise up en masse against the forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan in which the United States has been embroiled for more than 15 years.
After all, by now everyone must surely realize, despite the superficial rhetoric to the contrary, that U.S. soldiers are not over there killing and dying to defend our country or protect our freedoms here at home. They are over there killing and dying to protect the regimes the U.S. invasions and occupations put into power. That’s killing and dying for the sake of empire and interventionism, which, to belabor the obvious, is different from killing and dying for our country or to defend our freedoms.
By now, everyone must also surely realize the enormous costs that have come with U.S. interventionism in those two areas of the world. Both countries are totally destroyed and wracked with deadly and destructive civil wars. The violence unleashed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq gave rise to ISIS. The regime-change operations in Libya and Syria have spread the fire unleashed by the Iraq invasion. The entire conflagration brought about the massive refugee crisis in Europe.
There are the enormous financial costs. Federal spending and debt are out of control, in large part because of the enormous, ever-increasing costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ever-mounting federal debt threatens to do the same thing that massive debt has done to places like Greece, Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, and many American cities.
The destruction of American liberty at the hands of our own government must be factored into all this. The authority to incarcerate Americans, torture them, and assassinate them, all without trial by jury and due process of law. Massive secret surveillance of the American people by the NSA. That’s what totalitarian regimes do their citizens.
Is there anything positive that can be said about the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East?
Nope. There is nothing positive about them. It’s all negative. The only ones who are benefitting from these forever wars are the fat-cat contractors who are making a killing in what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.” In the words of Gen. Smedley Butler, it’s all just one great big racket.
So, where are the protestors?
Indeed, where are all those 60s’s protestors who succeeded in finally bringing an end to the U.S. government’s forever war in Vietnam?
It seems like most of them have grown up to become like their parents — totally deferential to the national-security state and trusting in its judgment about what’s right for America. Moreover, given that they’re now in their 60s, many of them are undoubtedly scared to death that if they openly protest against the federal government, as they did when they were young, it might retaliate by taking away their Social Security and Medicare.
What about American CEOs of big comporations? Surely there are at least a few of them who can recognize the destructiveness of these forever interventions. Why aren’t they taking a public stand against the interventions?
My hunch is that they are too scared that the feds will retaliate against them with regulatory inspections, income-tax audits, or insider-trader prosecutions, as they did to former QUEST CEO Joseph Nacchio after he said no to the secret federal request that was made of him to sell his clients’ interests down the river after the 9/11 attacks.
Where are the liberals?
After spending 8 years supporting President Obama’s continuation of President Bush’s program of death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, my hunch is that they feel too sheepish to suddenly turn around and oppose President Trump’s continuation of the Bush-Obama program in those two countries.
Where are the conservatives? Where they always are — enthusiastically supporting these forever wars, regardless of who is president, even while uttering their favorite mantra, “individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.”
Let’s face it: with a few exceptions, it is only us libertarians who openly and ardently oppose these forever wars and demand that all the troops be brought home, once and for all. Clearly, however, the libertarian movement is not sufficient to galvanize a large portion of the nation into action.
So, with all this silent acquiescence to what is surely a road to national destruction, is there no one who can lead us out of this morass?
Actually, there is: the spouses of U.S. soldiers.
Imagine if 100 of those spouses were to show up in Washington with signs saying: “It’s time to bring my husband home.” “It’s time to bring my wife home.” “Enough is enough.” “Not one more death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.” “No casket for my Bill.” “No body bag for my Mary.”
And then suppose 100 liberals were to join those spouses. And then 100 conservatives. And 100 libertarians. And 100 millennials. And 100 CEOs. And then 100 children of soldiers serving overseas. And 100 brothers and sisters of such soldiers. And then 100 parents and grandparents.
How could something like that be ignored? It would scare the dickens out of all those fat cats who are making a killing in this racket.
By participating in such a protest, would a military spouse be damaging the military career of his wife or her husband? Probably yes. The Pentagon might stick some notation in the soldier’s 201 file saying, “This man’s wife is out of control.” Or “Her husband could be a terrorist sympathizer.” Or “His spouse is un-American.”
But you military spouses need to ask yourselves: What’s more important to you: Your spouse’s military career or that he or she come home to your family alive and intact?
The thing every military spouse needs to finally come to grips with is this discomforting fact: If your husband or wife comes home in a body bag, no matter what they tell you he will not have died for his country or his freedom because no foreigner is invading our country or threatening to take away our freedom. And before anyone says, “Jacob, don’t forget the terrorists,” let me remind you that anti-American terrorism is rooted in U.S. interventionism abroad. Bring the troops home and the anti-American terrorism disappears.
There are better things to die for than defending foreign regimes that the U.S. interventionist state has installed into power. That’s just something that not one more U.S. soldier should be sacrificed for.
How about it, military spouses? How about leading us out of this deadly and destructive morass? Your spouses might be upset for a while with your protest, but I’ll bet that he or she will ultimately thank you for it. Your kids will undoubtedly be grateful. So will your country.
This article was originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation.