Happy Independence Day

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

As I have at least once in the past, I'll commemorate Independence Day by recommending an old favorite of mine, "Put the 'Independence' Back in Independence Day: The Forgotten Meaning of America", by Michael Berliner. Berliner concludes as follows:

To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is "the only oracle of man," and Thomas Jefferson advised us to "fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God." That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.

Independence is the foundation of America. Independence is what should be celebrated on Independence Day. That is the legacy our Founding Fathers left us. It is a legacy we should keep, not because it is a legacy, but because it is right and just. It has made America the freest and most prosperous country in history.
I find this essay both timely and inspiring, because it discusses the relationship between the virtue of independence and the value of political freedom, in the form of American independence. Our country is at a cultural and, consequently, political crossroads. If we are to ultimately rescue freedom, it will be because we have fought for it and won. Truly understanding what freedom is and why it is important is crucial for both winning the intellectual battle and for having the stamina to see it through.

If freedom is of a piece, so is the resolve required by its defense. As I noted some time ago regarding economic controls:
Just as economics is a system of abstractions drawn from the totality of our existence, so do economic decisions affect other areas of our lives. Freedom is of a piece, and attacks on freedom do not confine themselves to any one area of life.
No matter how well one might understand and value political freedom, it is important to step back from time to time to think about its splendor, especially in the wake of adverse events, such as the recent Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare, which bothers me more the more I think about it. Obviously, it can be easy to dwell on what's wrong with America today after such events: They not only eat away at freedom, they can prove demoralizing.

Therein lies the value of celebrating Independence Day no matter what -- both by thinking about its meaning and by enjoying the traditional fireworks and gatherings with loved ones. By enjoying ourselves, we remind ourselves in an immediate, concrete way of the importance of the abstract ideals that make our prosperity and happiness possible. That is a weapon the enemies of freedom do not have and cannot hope to have.

-- CAV

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