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A Reason to Celebrate This Fourth of July

The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence have helped keep us mostly free.

We celebrate the Fourth of July because that's the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, 242 years ago. You might call July 4 America's birthday.

The Declaration didn't just declare our independence from Britain; it vowed to create a government that respected all people's rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It said nothing about patriotism. Or making America "great."

America became great because the Declaration (and the Constitution that followed) set down rules that kept government small and out of the way. That let creative individuals flourish.

When the Declaration was signed, the founders didn't know what America would look like. They knew, though, that they were sick of being bossed around by the British king, so they worried about government having too much power.

Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues wrote the Declaration to assert that our "natural rights" could not be taken away by any government, and to set the stage for the creation of a government through which people could rule themselves.

At the time, America was considered a backwater. Just a few years later, America had become the most prosperous, and probably the freest, country in the world.

The Fourth of July is not about barbecues, fireworks, or even patriotism. It's about that idea: that people have the right to rule themselves.

Ironically, government has grown so much since the founding that you might not even be able to buy fireworks where you live. In much of America they are now illegal because government officials have declared them to be too dangerous.

Yet the Declaration and Constitution weren't written to make government provide for public safety. The founders assumed that was something adults would do for themselves. The founding documents are about freedom—about limiting what government can do.

"Trust no man with too much government power," wrote Jefferson. "(B)ind them with the chains of the Constitution."

It's good that the Declaration and Constitution have those "chains." No matter how insistent the state's busybodies get, they may not arbitrarily search our homes or jail us. We have a right to bear arms, to practice whatever religions we choose, to exercise free speech and more.

Growing government has eroded some of our freedoms, but we still have more freedoms than most countries in the world.

Consider the country we declared independence from, Great Britain. Authorities there recently locked up a man merely because he made a Facebook live video outside a courthouse. He wanted to draw attention to child abusers on trial, but Britain's government puts limits on what reporters may cover. England has no First Amendment.

Some people who write critical things on Facebook or Twitter get visits from police.

Great Britain also has no Second Amendment, and has far more restrictions on guns than we have. That hasn't stopped crime. London had more murders than New York City this spring.

Now London's mayor wants "knife control." Really.

One British police department even bragged about its "weapon sweep" that confiscated "scissors and pliers." But don't worry, tweeted the Regents Police Agency, they were "safely disposed and taken off the streets."

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  • vek||

    Probably the only writer at Reason I basically never disagree with about anything. Happy 4th Stossel! I hope you don't get too much BBQ sauce stuck in the 'stache :)

  • Adans smith||

    Happy fourth everyone.

  • Eddy||

  • LarryA||

    The ultimate unofficial national anthem:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQP563gKwIU

    Fifth Dimension

  • Last of the Shitlords||

  • Longtobefree||

    "It's good that the Declaration and Constitution have those "chains." No matter how insistent the state's busybodies get, they may not arbitrarily search our homes or jail us. We have a right to bear arms, to practice whatever religions we choose, to exercise free speech and more."
    Sounds good. And we live better than the rest of the world as far as individual freedom goes.
    But they do search arbitrarily. Cars, persons at airports, govt buildings, traffic stops, 'wrong addresses'. etc
    But they do not lets us freely bear arms. It is an expensive and a sometimes thing to get the 'permit' for this right.
    But we cannot practice our religions in commerce.
    But we cannot speak freely on a college campus, or on a social media sight, or at work.
    This is a good day to remind us we still need to fight the revolution every day.
    Vote in November. Welcome to the revolution.

  • vek||

    "This is a good day to remind us we still need to fight the revolution every day."

    THIS. People got too lazy about this stuff over many generations. We've let too many important things get chiseled away at. It's been almost nothing but down hill for several decades now. It's about time that process starts going the other way.

  • Rockabilly||

    Have a great 4th!!!

  • Eddy||

  • Eddy||

    Another unofficial national anthem

    (authorship issues acknowledged)

  • Eddy||

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Eff yes, Stoss. Stick it to those Limey pricks and remind Americans why we're better than those silly crown-worshipers.

  • Eddy||

    But...but...one of the royal princesses had a baby!

  • vek||

    I ran into a Brit the other night while out drinking... I ribbed them pretty hard since the 4th came up. They took it in good stride, and it was a fun interaction.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Wait, what? You were drunk-driving and collided with a British pedestrian? Cuz, fuck King George?

    Cool.

  • vek||

    THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, DON'T TELL THE POLICE PLEEZE.

    Fuck King George!!!

    Either that,or I met a 20 something year old chick from England at the bar I was drinking at. Since the 4th was only a couple days away I may have then proceeded to make fun of England getting their asses kicked. She may have mentioned that they LITERALLY don't even bother to mention the Revolutionary War in history class in the UK out of pure shame. I may have told her they should be ashamed. She may have agreed. There may have also been more nuance to the story I am too lazy to type.

    IT WAS ONE OF THOSE TWO SCENARIOS ANYWAY.

  • Eddy||

  • Eddy||

  • Eddy||

  • vek||

    I'm kinda partial to "The Battle Of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton too. One of the few songs about that second time we kicked some British asses!

  • sarcasmic||

    Tyranny of the crown has been replaced with tyranny of the federal government. The idea that there can be a revolution through the ballot box is a joke. The bureaucracy runs the government, and they can't be voted out. But that is the natural progression of government. Jefferson said that all governments will become tyrannical, given enough time. And here we are. The government decides how much water our toilet may use and what kind of bulbs we may put into a lamp. Liberty is dead.

  • creech||

    No, they can be "voted out" but only when, say, 75% of the voters want to do it. As long as the country is split roughly 50/50 on "free shit" vs. "work for what you need" then the bureaucracy will go on.

  • vek||

    Pretty much. Fortunately the ammo box method of voting requires no such super majority, as the Found Fathers proved in their righteous endeavor.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Good luck. In recent polls a consistent majority wants "more government" (brand not specified).

  • vek||

    Those polls vary a lot from time to time, but on average most people say they prefer less government. The only real problem is politicians never deliver on what the people want once they're in there...

  • Jerryskids||

    The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War with the King of England agreeing that the colonies were free and independent, was signed September 3, 1783. But we don't mark our independence from the day the King said we were free, we mark our freedom from the day we said we were free. Freedom starts from the day we stood up and said we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more.

    Everybody knows the line from the Declaration about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", but there were several "self-evident truths" listed there, among them that government's purpose is to secure your rights and that when government loses sight of that purpose you have the right to alter or abolish the government. The Declaration of Independence is the foundational document of America, the Constitution is the foundational document of the government and despite the Constitution's assertion that it's the supreme law of the land, I'd argue that the Declaration is a higher law.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'm stealing that first sentence

  • Nardz||

    "government's purpose is to secure your rights and that when government loses sight of that purpose you have the right to alter or abolish the government."

    9th amendment

  • vek||

    People often say that the Declaration isn't a legal document... But if officially declaring an open rebellion against the government of the nation you're supposed to be a part of isn't a "legal" proclamation, I don't know what is.

    But the fact is we have ignored it as a legal document the whole time, and more just as a sentiment to which we agree. Whatever the case we can call it out if push really comes to shove as justification for nixing the government we have presently.

  • Rock Lobster||

    Happy 4th of July to all!

    May we treasure our individual liberty carefully, guard it zealously, and remember at all times that it walks hand in hand with personal responsibility.

  • Rock Lobster||

    Happy 4th of July to all!

    May we treasure our individual liberty carefully, guard it zealously, and remember at all times that it walks hand in hand with personal responsibility.

  • Rock Lobster||

    The squirrels are insidious agents of collectivism!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    It was worth appearing twice. Good stuff.

    Happy Independence Day!

  • Michael Cook||

    Remember Jefferson and John Adams both passing on this day, fifty years after sighing the Declaration. Each ex-president as he died feared the other had outlived him!

    Someone mentioned the song, "The Battle of New Orleans" which brings to mind the only U.S. president that a man tried to assassinate on the capitol steps, like Julius Caesar. The man was armed with two cap and ball pistols, both of which misfired. Andrew Jackson, a survivor of 18 duels, in one of which he killed a man and in one of which he himself was severely wounded, then commenced to beating his would-be assassin down.

    I have been worrying this week about sanctions on Russia for this or that bad behavior and the way FDR ratcheted up sanctions on Japan (on oil and scrap iron, which Japan desperately required for their wars in Manchuria and China) in the summer of 1941.

    The Japanese imperialism on the Asian continent was bad behavior, but Roosevelt's aggressive embargoes against Japan (so similar to the way Democrats want to treat Russia today) were openly reckless and provocative in their own way. When you back a highly militarized opponent into a corner like FDR was doing Japan in 1941, how can you NOT be ready for Pearl Harbor?

    Trump meets Putin soon for a reason.

  • vek||

    On Jefferson and Adams, when I first found that out I thought that was something truly amazing... I don't really believe in fate, or anything too mystical, but there was just something so magical or special, about them both dying on the same day. And THAT day if all days. It's almost like it WAS fate.

    Jackson was a bad mother. He did a lot of stuff that's a bit harsh by todays standards, but I still love the guy. He was really our first president who came from truly humble roots and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps completely. He was also really good at killing people and whippin' peoples asses, which can be a pretty handy talent at times. I love him for his spirit, if not his every action.

  • Brian||

    Seriously, the Brits confiscate pliers?

    Is that what happens with gun control? Every other object becomes "maybe a weapon", and everyone keeps shitting their pants?

    Whoopie for them.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Soon to come: lock up all men and boys over age 8, or maybe age 5, or whenever they start running around hitting each other with stuff, using sticks and legos and fingers as guns, or otherwise indulging in "weapon behavior".

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    No more finger banging?

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