The Declaration of Independence and the Case for a Polity Based on Universal Principles

The Declaration of Independence makes the case for a political system based on universal principles of liberty and equality, not ethnic nationalism. Those principles are as relevant as ever in our troubled times.


The Declaration of Independence

Last July 4, I put up a post on the universalist principles of the Declaration of independence, which stand in sharp contrast to the ethnic nationalism that underpins most modern independence movements, and the zero-sum identity politics that have become all too common on both the left and the right in recent years. I think the post is no less relevant today than a year ago:

One of the striking differences between the American Revolution and most modern independence movements is that the former was not based on ethnic or nationalistic justifications. Nowhere does the Declaration state that Americans have a right to independence because they are a distinct "people" or culture. They couldn't assert any such claim because the majority of the American population consisted of members of the same ethnic groups (English and Scots) as the majority of Britons.

Rather, the justification for American independence was the need to escape oppression by the British government – the "repeated injuries and usurpations" enumerated in the text – and to establish a government that would more fully protect the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The very same rationale for independence could just as easily have been used to justify secession by, say, the City of London, which was more heavily taxed and politically oppressed than the American colonies were. Indeed, the Declaration suggests that secession or revolution is justified "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends" [emphasis added]. The implication is that the case for independence is entirely distinct from any nationalistic or ethnic considerations…..

To be sure, the Declaration does refer to "one people" seeking "dissolve the "to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another." But in this context, the "people" does not refer to a culturally or ethnically distinct group. The Americans were not distinct, in that respect, from the people of Britain. The "people," in this case, is simply a group that voluntarily comes together to establish a new nation.

As critics from 1776 to the present have delighted in pointing out, the revolutionaries often failed to live up to their own ideals. But it would be a mistake to devalue the Revolution's significance for that reason:

Obviously, the Americans of 1776 fell far short of fully living up to these principles. "How is it," Samuel Johnson famously complained, "that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration, owned slaves all his life, even though he was well aware that doing so contradicted his principles. The Declaration's high-minded reference to the "consent of the governed" were in part belied by the injustices many state governments inflicted on the substantial minority who did not consent to independence, but instead remained loyal to Britain.

Later generations of Americans have not fully lived up to the Declaration's universalist ideals either. Racial and ethnic oppression, xenophobic discrimination against immigrants, and other similar injustices have been all too common in our history.

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to assume that the Declaration's ideals were toothless. Even in their own time, the Enlightenment principles underlying the Declaration helped inspire the First Emancipation – the abolition of slavery in the northern states, which came about in the decades immediately following the Revolution. This was the first large-scale emancipation of slaves in modern history, and it helped ensure that the new nation would eventually have a majority of free states, which in turn helped ensure abolition in the South, as well.

The Declaration did not abolish slavery, and its high-minded words were, at the time, undercut by the hypocrisy of Jefferson and all too many others. But the ideals the Declaration espoused played an important role in slavery's eventual abolition. As Abraham Lincoln famously put it, the Declaration established important aspirational principles, even if they could not be immediately realized:

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects…. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them…

They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.

They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all: constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, every where.

The universalist ideals of the Declaration also helped establish a nation that provided freedom and opportunity to immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Lincoln, who was a strong supporter of immigration, effectively conveyed this point, as well:

When [immigrants] look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"; and then they feel that that moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to those men… and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are.

Much progress has been made since Lincoln's time, to say nothing of Jefferson's. But at this point in our history, we are still far from fully living up to the principles of the Declaration. Certainly not when our government abuses refugee children and turns away escaped slaves on the specious ground that their forced labor somehow qualifies as supporting terrorism. Yet, as Lincoln suggested, we can and must strive to do better, so that the principles of the Declaration can be realized - if not completely, then at least more fully than ever before.

NEXT: What the Declaration of Independence Said and Meant

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  1. The time when this nation was postured to accept unlimited immigration is long past. At this time open borders amount to national suicide. At any rate, there are plenty of people who are citizens of this country that need help and charity ought to begin at home.

    Most favor polices that favor their own perceived best interest, Somin and I are not exceptions.

    1. How are open borders "national suicide"? We can surely build sandcastle walls to hold back the tide, but to what avail? The woes you imply are from overpopulation, not immigration. It should be noted that the policies of the current administration are counter to "help and charity", that is, these policies favor the rich and over-privileged.

      You point out so well that people look out for their own best interests, but democracy does not look out for the individuals' own best interests, it looks out for the best interests of the people as a whole. In theory, we live in a democracy.

      Thank you for your perspective. The People will duly consider it.

      1. It's not in The People's interest to have a new people "elected" to to speak. It's also not democratic when you flood these new people in without any actual democratic process, my dude. Funny that Hungary is the only country that actually put the question to the people and over 95% said no.

        1. How many informed, educated, decent Americans wish to emulate Hungary? I'll take America's reliance on immigrants every day, twice on holidays.

          1. How many informed, educated, decent elitist, indoctrinated, privileged Americans wish to emulate Hungary?

            FTFY. And... none I presume. But what you want hardly matters.

            1. Well, Mark.

              If you admire Orban you've got your guy.

            2. So...we live in such a wonderful democracy this should not be voted on?

              I'm confused.

          2. I wonder how America became a first world country and world superpower without infinite black and brown people. Whatever would we do without the ability to invest in Rape Futures.

      2. You point out so well that people look out for their own best interests, but democracy does not look out for the individuals' own best interests, it looks out for the best interests of the people as a whole. In theory, we live in a democracy.

        "Democracy" doesn't look out for anybody's interests. Democracy is any form of government in which power derives from the people (as opposed to God or the military or hereditary aristocracy). Many forms of democracy are authoritarian and illiberal (apparently, the kind you prefer). The Founding Fathers recognized that, which is why they didn't create the kind of majoritarianism you imagine, but created a republican, limited form of government.

      3. It's national suicide because it leads to a large voting bloc of low IQ, low skill people with high illegitimacy rates that do not share our values of individual liberty and self-determination. Why should they? Those values won't work for them.

        1. Those values won't work for them? Why not? They will work for anyone if the people around them uphold them.

          1. It won't work for them because "sink or swim" doesn't work well for people without the ability to swim.

        2. Of course those values work for them, that's why they want to come here in the first place. The people trying to enter the United States are not lazy. They aren't indifferent to their children. They aren't stupid (or at least aren't as stupid as the people here). We know this because you (and others) insist that when these people get here, they will immediately displace local jobs that they can do as well for less.

          What about self-determination would you possibly have to teach some third-world immigrant who showed up halfway across the world looking for a job?

          1. No, they come here because of the fact that we have a robust welfare state.

            1. Well you aren't talking about illegals; they don't get to access most of the "robust" (haha good one) welfare state, since entitlement spending is largely denied to illegal immigrants. And good luck convincing the rest of us that Professor Somin fled FUCKING SOVIET COMMUNIST RUSSIA to enjoy the "robust welfare state" that the US offered.

              1. Illegals still get free medical care under EMTALA, their illegitimate crotch droppings get "free" education under Plyler v. Doe, and if the children are "citizens," they get everything.

    2. At this time open borders amount to national suicide.

      Which has been said every by every anti-immigration group going back to this country's founding. I'm reminded about how my Irish immigrant great-grandfather had to move out west as the anti-immigrant mobs physically threatened him. One of his brothers was killed. The arguments and racism was wrong then. Its wrong now.

      1. I bet there's no qualitative difference between Irish people who were literally from the country adjacent to the original homeland of most of the founding fathers. So why not import Bushmen from areas of the world where the murder rate and crime rates match or exceed that of inner-city blacks? We should just bring in infinite Bushmen because well, who knows. I guess it would be bigoted not to and it's sad that they're poor, or something.

        Here are 14 sad photographs of brown people that will make you say "Fuck Having Borders and Law and Shit." to help you along.

        1. Gee, I wonder if "lulz farmer" is approaching this topic in a serious and genuine manner, or merely trying to generate angry comments?

          1. It is a serious comment, though. The angry comments are just proof that I'm right and that I've broken the taboo on pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. The angry comments have no counter-arguments, yours included.

            1. America has encountered successive waves of intolerance and ignorance, often related to immigration, religion, skin color, or perceived economic pressure, throughout its history. The Irish, eastern Europeans, Asians, blacks, Italians, Catholics, women, Hispanics, native Americans, gays, Jews, and others have been targeted -- hated, feared, demonized, discriminated against.

              Ignorance and intolerance are bad bets in America over all but the shorter terms, however, and the ugly voices of backwardness have not prevailed. This latest batch of bigots seems nothing special, its association with the insights, character, and reliability of Donald J. Trump notwithstanding.

              American culture has withstood the influence of egg rolls, fettucini, Jameson, pierogies, sushi, Jameson, bagels, collard greens, lutefisk, tacos, falafel, and the Friday fish fry. I am confident we will continue to improve and evolve, and to overcome anew the immoral, stale-thinking, insular voices that have argued against American progress, tolerance, and immigration for centuries.

            2. Sure thing, "lulz farmer". What you don't realize is that the angry comments are mostly coming from trolls, much like yourself, who happened to pick less obvious names. They appear to be more successful at getting your goat then getting their goat got.

              But you just keep pretending you're outrageous, if that helps you sleep at night.

            3. Above, it is stated, "Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic." Anger is not considered civil and thus not invited.

              I would much value reasoned thought, for I have an open mind I would readily change it if there were a compelling argument.

              I would suggest you re-read The Declaration of Independence and present reasoned arguments for your position, as the author of this article did. Particularly read each grievance; is there a parallel today? Why would you think that? This is the substance of civil discourse.

              The Declaration of Independence is seditious and treasonous. We were fortunate that the intelligentsia of the time had the courage to back up their words with blood. For if they had not, this very discussion would not be allowed.

              As I view your comments and those of your ilk, I feel they come from frustration born in overpopulation. It is possible to get over your xenophobia and bigotry with basic trust. My father learned this the very hard way at The Battle of the Bulge where he and his new friends survived.

            4. lulz farmer is a central planning communist who thinks the state knows the precise number of people to permit across a border.

              1. We can't be sure about the precise optimal number and qualifications of immigrants to meet business needs and spur growth, while also maintaining a tight labor market and high wage opportunity for all Americans, and while also ensuring that cultural assimilation and cohesion keep apace.

                So, just to be safe, we better go with indiscriminate open borders.

                1. There are a million options between "indiscriminate open borders" and "the wall". Like the current policy, which is working out very well for us as-is.

                  1. If folks can stroll across the border, say the magic word "asylum" and then be released and allowed to stay forever, that's almost de facto open borders.

                    A wall actually appears to be an extremely effective measure, and dirt cheap for what it gets done.

                    1. "...that's almost de facto open borders."

                      That's been the system here for large periods of time and hasn't resulted in "de facto open borders" or any other doom-and-gloom nonsense predicted.

                      A wall is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist here. Americans want the illegal immigrants here. Who do you think is hiring them when they arrive?

                    2. It's resulted in 12-20 million people here illegally. How is that not "de facto open borders." Further, take a look at LA and many other Hispanic ghettoes if you don't think the doom and gloom has come to pass.

                    3. Yes, those 'taco trucks on every corner!" The horror, the horror!

              2. Or I'm a nationalist who knows that nations are a people with territory, not the other way around. The founding fathers clearly didn't view America as some propositional nation to just allow any old people into, which is why their first immigration and naturalization act made it quite clear who it is they thought could actually become American.

        2. Bushmen (San people) are not seeking to enter or live in our country. They prefer their traditional way of life, and anyway, how would they get here? Their numbers are fairly small, too (less than 100,000 total).

  2. Thank you for your comments! Enjoy your day of celebrating the success of our forefathers sedition and treason and our struggle to reach the aspiration embodied!

  3. The title of this article should have read "The Declaration of Independence from a Marxist-Leninist Perspective.

    1. Personally, I find beets to be very Marxist-Leninist.

  4. The difficulty with this argument is that the Declaration of Independence espoused a religious philosophy, and the Supreme Court has said that the First Amendment's Establishmnet Clause protects against its being applied in any literal sense to government policy.

    If we were to take it permit considering this doctrine, then the traditional meanings ascribed to terms like "created" would become relevant to policy. At what point have human beings traditionally been considered created? The doctrine, if permitted to be considered, would make it rational policy, whether or not constitutionally required, to regard human beings as having some claim to rights or protection beyond that point.

    The fundamental problem with Roe v. Wade and progeny is that it doesn't merely eschew this doctrine. It outlaws it. It prohibits it from being considered. And I would fully agree with Professor Somin that this is wrong. If it's at the core of the Declaration of Independence, then it must be a permissible basis for policy. The Establishment Clause was not intended to repeal it.

  5. Have no problem with legal immigration so long as the immigrants vote to maintain the liberty and equality that generates the opportunities that make people want to come here. Most of the opposition to illegal immigration is the concern that the immigrants will vote for Latin American style socialism or totalitarianism. Given that the Democrats have elected quite a few outright socialists recently, I cannot say this fear is unwarranted.

    1. Most of the opposition to illegal immigration is outright racism.

      1. Every nation in the world has borders....that's a tautology. Every nation in the world has immigration laws, many more restrictive than our own. Many of those countries....Mexico, to name one...enforce their immigration laws more harshly than we do. Every nation treats those from outside attempting to enter without due authorization as "illegal". So: are all those other countries (as well as the US) displaying "outright racism" by (1) having immigration laws; or (2) enforcing their own immigration laws or (3) having borders?

      2. What if racism is just a buzzword to denude people the ability and language of perfectly legitimate interests like continuing to actually exist in the future instead of being conquered by being overrun and raped out of existence by actual savages. Really makes one think.

        1. Guys like you have been arguing for insularity and bigotry, against immigration and progress, in America for centuries. You always lose, because you're losers.

        2. being overrun and raped out of existence by actual savages

          I'm not an open borders guy, but this is sounding pretty racist.

          1. I'm sure you'd adore your daughter becoming a sex slave to a Pakistani sex slaver gang like in Britain, right?

        3. You just proved regexp's point.

          1. Only an out of touch fool would believe regexp's point, regardless of some false flag troll "proving" it on the internet.

    2. I would argue that the current administration supports totalitarianism; to wit: "fake news".

      Would you like to roll back all socialist programs in the USA? Social Security, Medicare, freeways (as in "free"), fire departments, juries selected from citizens, environmental protection, national parks. Almost the entire coast of California can be visited by anyone. Even the discussion we're having here is a socialist concept.

      And if I understand you correctly, the migrants that are leaving something terrible are going to try to re-institute it in their new home?

      I appreciate that you wrote. It gave me pause to think.

      1. If the current administration is truly totalitarian, I am glad that they are also truly inept - because they support citizens right to bear arms and appoint conservative judges and justices that are looking to peel back the administrative state. Both of which are completely against self interest.

        The economy was more dynamic and generally growing faster before those "socialist" programs like Social Security and Medicare. A faster growing economy means strong labor force growth, so we can absorb more immigrants into the labor force without curtailing wage growth. Productivity ultimately raises living standards, socialist wealth transfers don't do that. If they did, Venezuela and China would be the richest countries on earth.

        And yes, I think that there is a deep concern that the "migrants that are leaving something terrible are going to try to re-institute it in their new home." I'd like to say that this is #fakenews, but given that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outright socialist, ousted an incumbent in NY, I simply cannot dismiss the concern that Democrats are pro-illegal immigration because the unions want to import low productivity corruption from Latin America.

        1. Pakis and other such populations literally began forming rape gangs in Britain as early as the 1950s, but hey it would be highly bigoted to keep them out so please spread your daughter's legs for them.

          1. American women, unlike British women, #shootback. I'll put my daughters shooting skills against rape gangs any day.

            The thing is, America has a higher tolerance for bad actors emigrating here than other countries, so long as we preserve the right to self defense. Of course, if the bad actors come here and vote to disarm people alongside Democrats, that's a problem.

            1. The American posturing about muh guns is kind of cute because it's a false sense of security. None of you are doing anything with those guns even as your government is actually ethnically cleansing you via policy to the point where you now have more deaths than births, and this has been going on for decades.

              1. So is it the 'Paki rape gangs' (not racist) or is it the somewhat dumber concern of whites not having enough babies?

                Either way, you're sounding like a white supremacist.

                1. So would you have been OK with his comment if he'd used "Pakistani" rather than the derogatory term?

              2. It's not the government's fault that WASPs are not having kids at replacement levels, and/or aborting them.

                1. Well actually it is when the government is taxing us to death on one end, and instituting or allowing policies which have a crippling effect on the birth rate like affirmative action style policies intended to make it hard for us to find work on the other. All of which on a macro scale has a huge effect. It's almost as if resources are limited and when you steal from us to give to low IQ peasants from other nations whom you have brought into our territory without our consent, it doesn't really take a genius to see how that ends up.

                  1. Please tell me the causal connection between affirmative action (while wrong) has on birth rates. The effect on whites is invisible to the individual, that is, you never know if your spot was given to a less deserving minority, thus how does that play into the decision on whether to have a kid or not?

                    Define "taxing us to death" in terms such that we can measure the effective tax rate (state, local, federal) and track that alongside WASP birth rates. I suspect we will find that birth rates went down with both birth control and 2nd wave feminism and that it had nothing to do with the tax rate.

                    A much more logical and defensible argument to make is immigrant families will have children, regardless of whether they need welfare or not, while a WASP family won't. Then, you know, with actual data, you can show that MIGHT be what is happening (since immigrants use more welfare than native citizens). That still doesn't cover the fact that white birth rates were declining before the expansion of the welfare state due to feminism and birth control AND you'd have to make the case that whites DELIBERATELY decide not to have kids if they cannot afford them.

        2. "The economy was more dynamic and generally growing faster before those "socialist" programs like Social Security and Medicare."

          Your memory of 1935 may be better than mine, but I believe that was the midst of the Depression, so I wonder in what sense the economy was growing faster in the years before Social Security was enacted (1935)?

          As for Medicare, which was created in 1965, prior to that time retired people found it virtually impossible to get health insurance, and as medical costs were beginning to rise rapidly a serious strain was placed on retirees' ability to access health care. I doubt that economists trace the recession of the 1970s to Medicare, but public health specialists might trace an increase in longevity to the availability of medical care for retired people....

          1. I do not rely on memory, I rely on math. The best way to "improve access" to goods and services is to make them less expensive (i.e. productivity: produce more with fewer resources). Productivity is the main reason we do not all spend 12 days on the farm in the summer. Productivity is what makes goods cheaper and allows more people to "access" those goods. Including health care. Crop yields are higher now than at any time in history - and not due to government subsidies. Government subsidies and wealth transfers do not improve productivity. They only create goods and services price inflation. California is the one of the most unequal-income and most expensive states, its not a coincidence. California relies on the government, not the market to try to solve poverty.

    3. Exactly. People with low IQs and no skills or education will always vote for statism, as it seems to be better in the short term for unintelligent people.

      1. That's a broad brush......intelligent people tend to be statists because they think they know what's best for everyone else because they, themselves, are so successful (never mind the silver spoon in their mouths). Think of the limousine liberals who know what's best for flyover country. The intellectual yet idiots (as Taleb calls them) are also statists.

        1. Yes, but I'm not referring to the leaders/planners, but to the masses who vote for the free stuff and lack the intellectual ability to realize that too much "free stuff" leads to poverty for everyone.

          1. "Smart" people are more responsible for the rise in central planning and statism, if not more so, than average or dumb people. The latter just go along for the ride. The intellectual yet idiots are the ones who want to government to get involved with every sector of the economy and private life to:
            1) fix inequality
            2) increase diversity
            3) regulate the economy
            4) look out for their own class of person

            While "smart" they are not smart enough to understand what Hayek did, in that the "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

            So while dumb people don't make a nation better, it's the liberals with 110 IQs who went to college and who are not as smart as they *think* they are, who want to impose their views on the unenlightened.

            1. Agreed. However, look at the voting data. The 80-90 black/Hispanic IQ population votes with these "smart" 110-120 IQ statists, while the 100 IQ white population tends to vote for Republicans.

              1. Yes, so the question you need to ask yourself is who is more at fault. Our corrupted institutions of higher education that pump out deluded leftists who lead the charge, or the those that vote for them? Without the hucksters leading the charge and lying to them, they wouldn't vote that way.

                1. Without those people to vote, the hucksters would be screaming but having no ill effect.

                  1. You're making it a chicken/egg problem when it's not. Which came underclass or hucksters to lead them to the socialist promised land? The poor have always been with us, but there has not been, until the Marxists came along and took over the Academy, a self-perpetuating professional class of credentialed white liberals who claim to know what's best everyone.

                    What we needed is an America first message like Reagan's, and frankly a Republican elite that doesn't look down on average folks, no matter their skin color. Blacks and Hispanics voting Democrat for free shit need not be as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

                    1. I just don't agree that low IQ, poor people are predestined to want free stuff, no matter who is leading the movement.

                    2. *Everyone* seeks to maximize their own self interest and wants "free" (to them) stuff. It's why taxes aren't voluntary and there is the phenomena of the "tragedy of the commons." Smart people will, worth than a dumb one, be able to coordinate with each other and do so at a systematic level. A dumb man will steal from a bank, but a smart man with a Ivy League degree will get the government to bail out his bank after betting big on mortgage backed securities. The intellectual yet idiots have, over time, set up a system where a college degree and the right pedigree matter more than intelligence.

                      In the end, all you got is possibly the idea that low IQ folks are more easily misled. This MAY be true, it may not be, because there is equally strong evidence that "smart" college educated liberal folks with 100 IQs have gone along with as many, if not more, scams cooked up by Democrat Party insiders.

                    3. So what's your solution? If you flood America with enough low IQ, easily misled, people, they will vote with the Democrat scams. How do you stop that?

                    4. Trump's solution, and what America has wanted as a majority for at least since Ike (and likely before), that is a strongly enforced border with immigration limited enough to allow for assimilation. Maybe a few hundred thousand a year, but don't expect exact numbers.

                      That's what they thought they were getting in 1965, just from the whole world not just N. Europe.

                      Moreover, what I've already mentioned with you in these debates, that is welfare reform to reduce the incentives to come to the U.S. by moochers and goldbricks.

                      Welfare reform and a border wall will solve your problem about white demographic replacement, even if white people aren't having enough kids, and we are still letting in some folks in from say, India or Chile. If you took it a step further eliminated immigration from non-functioning societies, you virtually end the problem.

                    5. I agree with all of that, and I agree that's what the people wanted. I just don't see how that works going forward, with the number of third worlders who are already here.

                      That goes for immigration too. There are enough third world Hispanics here that attempting to close the border to more third world Hispanics is politically impossible.

  6. (Cont)

    The depths that can be reached by the idea that the Establishment Clause vetoed this Declaration of Independence doctrine are probably clearest in the Stevens/Ginsberg concurrence in the first Carhart case, where they held that if you can kill something, it's irrational to be concerned about the amount of pain it experiences, and the Constitution not only prohibits policy from considering it, but requires that professionals, not moralists, make the necessary decisions.

    Taken seriously, this view would render our participation in Geneva conventions and many of our laws of war, among others, just as unconstitutional as abortion laws. These laws reflect precisely the concern ms Justice Ginsberg found irrational, concerns about the suffering of those whom it is clearly constitutionally permissible for us to kill, and do so even at the expense of significant risk to American lives.

    And this concern is based precisely on the principles found in the Declaration of Independence. These concerns are precisely the concerns that Supreme Court Justices on the Court's liberal wing have repeatedly claimed to be an establishment of religion, irrational, unAmerican.

    At least when their own ethnic (or gender) interests are concerned. They are perfectly willing to claim to believe in them otherwise.

  7. (Cont)

    I personally think the Constitution does not completely implement the principles of the Declaration nor Independence. As one major exception, it permits the United States to act like a normal sovereign power of the day in foreign affairs, including permitting making war, controlling immigration, limiting the jurisdictional reach of its laws, etc.

    But the Constitution can never be interpreted to FORBID the full reach of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Legislatures are always free to enact more than the constitution requires in this direction, and doing so is always a rational and appropriate basis for policy,

    1. The Constitution is a grant of limited sovereign power to a general government--to order affairs between sovereign States. It's precisely *not* rational to implement principles not authorized by the Constitution.

      The most American speech might be the speech against the Force Act, delivered on the Senate floor, February 5, 1833. ("It is said that the bill ought to pass, because the law must be enforced. The law must be enforced! The imperial edict must be executed! It is under such sophistry, couched in general terms, without looking to the limitations which must ever exist in the practical exercise of power, that the most cruel and despotic acts ever have been covered. It was such sophistry as this that cast Daniel into the lions' den, and the three Innocents into the fiery furnace. Under the same sophistry the bloody edicts of Nero and Caligula were executed. The law must be enforced. Yes, the act imposing the a "tea-tax must be executed." This was the very argument which impelled Lord North and his administration to that mad career which forever separated us from the British crown.")

      1. The law must be enforced! The imperial edict must be executed! It is under such sophistry, couched in general terms, without looking to the limitations which must ever exist in the practical exercise of power, that the most cruel and despotic acts ever have been covered.

        Sounds like he's criticizing the Trump/Sessions/ICE thuggery. I agree with him.

        1. It is general enough, out of context, to apply to most situations (Masterpiece). Continue reading and it's far more specific. But it was delivered by an intellectual giant whose statues are being torn down by the radical militant left.

        2. It involved the controversy over tariffs during the Jackson presidency. South Carolina refused to collect tariffs. Jackson wanted additional authorization (being 1833, there were likely "limitations" much more than there were against ICE today) to force them to do so.

          1. South Carolina refused on the ground that the tax was not levied with a view towards revenue, and therefore exceeded Article I's delegation of power to the federal government. The federal government had no debt and had collected a surplus the year prior (and further collections would only increase the surplus). It was a narrow ground. Several little-known facts: (a) South Carolina called a state constitutional convention--it was the delegates who nullified federal law, not the South Carolina legislature; (b) she refused her portion of the surplus when it was divided among the States; and (c) she nullified the Force Act after repealing its nullification of the tariff.

            1. One state thinks a tax is not necessary and proper. That's nice.

              I think Congress at large could determine such things and there being a surplus, e.g., is not enough to decide. One state alone doesn't get to decide how much money is necessary for the needs of the nation.

              I figure the whole affair is little known.

  8. Just to be clear, it's good to be the kind of country people are fighting to get into. The Declaration of Independence was mad at George III for discouraging immigration.

    But if we have a valued commodity - immigration and citizenship - we can ask for a few things in return, specifically loyalty to the country's values. Which is a difficult demand to make as those citizens already here begin losing that loyalty.

    The best kind of immigrants are the hard-working, ultra-patriotic ones who become more American than the native-born - the native-born too often take their liberty for granted and aren't as alert to the risks of losing it.

    We've unfortunately seen that some immigrants either don't assimilate, or assimilate to the dark side of America rather than the part of America represented by the Declaration of Independence.

    If you have an answer to all this I'd love to hear it, because I'm not really sure there *is* an answer at this point.

    1. What American values do you think they should be loyal to?

      Immigrants, legal and other, work pretty damn hard, and have lower crime rates than citizens.

      And while we are talking about values, what values is the Trump Administration loyal to?

      Honesty? Compassion? Tolerance? The "family values" so touted by conservatives?

      1. "what values is the Trump Administration loyal to?"

        I don't know, I'm not from the Trump administration.

      2. First, illegal immigrants do NOT have lower crime rates than citizens. Immigrants as a whole may, but that includes the very law abiding East Asians and Indians. Further, "citizens" includes blacks and non-immigrant Hispanics. I'm interested to see the immigrant crime rate against the white citizen crime rate, which is really the important metric.

  9. "To us and our posterity" must have referred to Somalis, not those yucky people of European ancestry who are moral inferiors that are highly PROBLEMATIC and deleterious to things like global governance over a ~87 IQ light brown mixed race worker drone population.

    1. An ~80-90 IQ light brown mixed race population is exactly what the left has in store for us. Which is why any reborn America must include anti-miscegenation laws.

      1. Holy cow?!? You complain about statism, but you want the government to tell people who they can and can't breed with. I never thought I would break Godwin's Law, but that's some Nazi level shit right there.

        Look, I get opposition to gay marriage because it changed millennia of history. And I get pride in ancestral heritage, I'm proud of mine. And I get the legitimate fear of demographic replacement, because it's not accidental what is happening. But laws banning inter-racial or inter-ethnic children are stupid on their face, because how the hell are you going to define who belongs to what category, then enforce it.

        1. We had no problem defining it accurately even before DNA testing was available. We now have even better tools. In any case if we had freedom of association rather than forced integration as we have right now, it would mostly solve itself.

          1. You're conflating two issues...freedom of association and demographic replacement. You can have one without the other, or none, or both.

            And take about 5 minutes to think through how you'd enforce in a practical manner any anti-miscegenation law without any massive expansion of the state intruding into personal and private matters. Is somebody gonna call the cops on a mixed race couple hooking up at a party?

            "Hello...911? Yes, I saw a white male who was leading what looked like an Asian female to his dorm room. Yes...I'll hold. Okay, thanks. Yes, she was definitely Asian. The eyes ya know. Oriental, not southeast Asia as her skin was pale. Oh. I'll hold again. Okay, you're back. Yea, how did I know it was a white male then, and not another Chinese or Japanese male? Well, he had facial hair and was blond. By the way, is there a reward for this, like Crimestoppers?"

            You're giving me some lulz, lulz farmer.

            1. Anti-miscegenation laws were about preventing marriage and producing very unfortunate children who have worse outcomes in life. There's lots of data on that, by that way.

              It was not about preventing the kind of scenario you're talking about, but at the same time such scenarios didn't really much exist then because there wasn't a degenerate culture at the time promoting casual sex.

              1. Considering how mulattoes seemed to spring up out of thin air on the plantations and the master's wife always looked the other way, and by law slave status was passed down by the mother's status of slave, protecting the integrity of the white race was not too big of a concern. No, anti-miscegenation laws were about protecting white women.

                Anti-miscegenation was socially enforced at a time when having a child out of wedlock was still socially stigmatized. Without that stigma, they would be a waste of time today, and counter productive. Women will always want to breed with high status men, regardless of race.

        2. I was trolling with that post, and obviously, it's impossible to enforce. But a healthy society doesn't encourage interracial breeding, laws aside.

          1. It's impossible to tell if you're trolling or not.

  10. Imagine believing that this is what the founders intended when they crafted an immigration policy that literally said whites only and wrote and said lots of pretty explicit thoughts on race and things like Anglo-Saxon traditions instead of whatever gay stuff the King was doing at the time.

    The founding fathers were not Emma Lazarus and her post-facto poem, my dudes. If they could see the country right now and were in fighting shape they'd be picking up rifles and recruiting men to carve out a new country out of the territorial disaster-zone that America has become.

    Also, Abraham Lincoln actually ran on repatriating the negroes to Africa after they were freed. A promise he never got to live up to as he was assassinated.

    1. He tried colonizing some black people in Haiti (not Africa but close enough for government work, I guess), and when that didn't work (lots of colonists died) he began reconsidering his position and even endorsing voting rights for some freed slaves. He was moving away from colonizationism at the time he died.

      1. Fredrick Douglas is said to have convinced him that the slaves were American and not African, especially the ones born here as the slave trade ended a generation before the Civil War, and thus had no home in another continent across the sea.

        1. Liberian recolonization of Africa was by voluntary emigres, and it was only some thousands, compared to the millions of slaves in the Americas at the time.

  11. Only Somin could try to turn the founding document of a nation into an anti-national screed.

    It's like logic and rationality don't exist in his head anymore.

    1. Toranth, I gather you believe that in order to cite the Declaration as a basis for strongly criticizing the U.S., one must have abandoned rationality and logic. Is that right? (If No, you need to write more clearly, as the clear implication of your comment is Yes).

      If Yes above, then you presumably believe that the abolitionists who strongly criticized the nation's tolerance of slavery by quoting relevant high-minded phrases from the Declaration had *also* abandoned rationality and logic. Is that right? (If No, you need to think more clearly, as your first Yes clearly implies a Yes here as well. If Yes, you are at least consistent, but your moral compass is broken, and if your original comment is any indication, you also have a strong tendency towards dogmatism and all-or-nothing thinking).

  12. when our government abuses refugee children

    Have there been any actual refugees involved? AFAICT, they all crossed through Mexico, right? Doesn't sound like there could be any

    1. No, there are - we're saying they must give up their claim for asylum to be reunited.

  13. The colonies were declaring their sovereignty. Immigrants have no such claim unless you subscribe to the sovereign citizen nonsense.

  14. The Declaration of Independence makes the case for a political system based on universal principles of liberty and equality, not ethnic nationalism.

    That's a false dichotomy. There is no contradiction between accepting universal principles of liberty and equality and imposing immigration restrictions, even immigration restrictions based on arbitrary criteria.

    Certainly not when our government abuses refugee children and turns away escaped slaves

    I think we should admit all refugees and escaped slaves originating in neighboring countries to the US, meaning all Mexican/Canadian refugees and slaves. Everybody else should follow the UN law on refugees and apply for asylum in the nearest country they can safely reach.

    And, Mr. Somin, let me tell you from personal and unpleasant experience that it is your kind of ignorant advocacy that ultimately leads to racism and oppression.

    1. "And, Mr. Somin, let me tell you from personal and unpleasant experience that it is your kind of ignorant advocacy that ultimately leads to racism and oppression."

      The ultimate example of blaming the victim!

      "I didn't want to be a racist but these damn Mexicants made me one!"

  15. Does Prof. Somin think that ethnic solidarity independence revolutions and military action are illegitimate in some way? Such as the Jews setting up and then defending Israel, or the Kurds fighting for a carve out today?

    Essentially, I'm talking about Wilson's 14 points here, number 5 of which is: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined."

  16. The first sentence of the United States Constitution states the purposes of its establishment:

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    American nationalism need not be ethnic, at least not in any prejudicial or racist sense.

    Indeed, the founding ethos declared in "E Pluribus Unum" reflects a calling to forge "a more perfect Union" -- not just in the technical sense of a federation of thirteen colonies turned sovereign states, but more broadly as a cultural matter: to become a unified nation despite the wide diversity of ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, conflicting and sometimes unorthodox religious views, political and other views, which was already present at the time.

    But to the extent that "ethnic" means, as one Google definition suggests, "relating to national and cultural origins" . . . . then Somin's offensive demand amounts to a denunciation of country, culture and history.

    It's as if Somin is blind to the fact that the Declaration of Independence he claims to admire is definitional to, and part of the heart and soul of, the very same "culturally or ethnically distinct group" and its succession, which he attempts above to deny the existence of!


    1. 2/2

      America will always be one of the most generous, welcoming, and open nations (compared to others in the world), even if we take the necessary step of ending illegal immigration, and even if we take the prudent and advisable step of cutting legal immigration by half.

      Somin's vision of dissolving the borders and liquidating the nation into business assets for sale to the highest global bidder is the very antithesis of "secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." It is a hateful and deranged vision that should be and is widely shunned.

      1. America is not going to exist in another 20-30 years of mass immigration of not-Americans once the not-Americans begin to outnumber the Americans and demand infinite tribute forever in the form of handouts using sophistry like "reparations" (which they don't know the actual meaning of since reparations to them is returning them to a hunter-gather lifestyle), "white privilege" and other fanciful terms which either make no sense or which they don't know the meanings of.

        1. Exactly. Disparate ethnic groups like Italians and Irish were able to integrate into the American mainstream because they have the same genetic capabilities. Most third world immigrants do not. When you are incapable of ever achieving what the majority has, you'll demand free stuff. It's that simple.

  17. The irrational scribblings of Somin being a good thumbnail of the problem of roughly half of our nation and their complete inability to understand what, to coin a phrase, makes America great, why bother?

    Trump is merely a mirror image of these comfortable fools, tearing down the very foundation of liberty of which the document envisions.

    Why bother anymore?

    A national "divorce" is in order -- let us make it as bloodless as possible -- while we still have that option.

    1. The divide is urban/rural and Coastal/flyover country. How would we divvy up the place?

  18. The Declaration of Independence according to Jefferson was basically just a summary of the media political philosophy of the revolutionaries at the time, which suggests it is filled with general principles that are tricky in their specific applications. Things like liberty or equal or the importance of government to secure our rights or the basic idea of limited government (including a statement late that the new nation should have the powers a nation should rightly have ... not all power under the sun) are helpful principles. But, applying them will be tougher.

    1. That's why the Articles of Confederation were drafted at the same time the Declaration of Independence was drafted.

      One was a birth certificate; the other was an owner's manual.

      1. The owner's manual was updated.

        I wish there was more written about the creation and operation of the AOC.

  19. The Declaration sets forth universal principles. But not everyone believes in those universal principles. That's part of what made and makes the U.S. a "culturally or ethnically distinct group."

    By praising the Declaration of Independence and its principles, Somin is praising the ethnic heritage of the U.S., even though the principles themselves are universal and unrelated to ethnicity, i.e. "national or cultural origin."

  20. An article in the Economist this week: "In 1960, America was home to 9.7 million [legal] immigrants, 75% of whom were European. By 2016 that number had soared to 43.7 million---13.5% of the total population---89% [sic] of whom were non-European."

    This information is offered to rebut those commenters on this board who angrily assert (1) that our existing immigration laws are overly restrictive; (2) that our existing immigration laws are racist; and (3) that opposition to illegal immigration and support for the enforcement of existing immigration laws are also racist.

    1. We know they are overly restrictive because existing legal immigrants are not meeting labor demand in the United States. That's why illegals keep showing up.

      1. Well, I'm not sure how Central American women with children requesting amnesty, or unaccompanied minors crossing the border, have anything to do with our "existing labor demand". At any event, according to the BLS, unemployment averaged 8.1% during Obama's eight years, which percentage does not include the millions who stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. During that period there were plenty of Americans to fill "existing labor demand" which there was unfortunately not enough of. Now, of course, unemployment is at 3.8% or so, in significant part because illegals have stopped "showing up". Wages are moving up a bit also. This seems like a good thing to me.

      2. I suppose any time anyone in the country is making more than minimum wage, there will always be "labor demand" to have a new foreign replacement come in and do the job for less.

      3. And by labor demand what you mean is the craven desire for virtual slave labor so some people can make obscene profits no matter the long-term cost.

  21. Those who favor unlimited immigration might want to ask American Indians how it all worked out in their experience.

  22. I just saw the term 'ethnic nationalism' used a couple of weeks ago. It was a euphemism for racist white people. Excuse me if I didn't bother reading this article.

    1. How dare those UPPITY white people want to continue to exist in the future. Only brown people have legitimate territorial claims.

  23. Well, these days I suppose it's a small blessing that of the three Independence Day threads, only one of them got taken over by white supremacists.

    1. That's because only one of them, this one, attempted to turn the Declaration of Independence into a clarion call for open borders.

      1. It is a bit unfortunate that, based on the comments, there are only two possible positions on immigration -- open borders and out-and-out white supremacism (although there seems to be some wiggle room there on how much ethnic cleansing will be needed).

        If only there were a third way.

        1. The reasonable middle gets drowned out because both sides have a legit beef with at least some aspects of the current system, and because political power via the ballot box hangs in the balance.

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