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My America: Self-Sufficiency - The Bedrock of Democracy


If I could sum up in a single sentence what I think the foundational principle of America is, it would be this:

America is a place where each person is free to live their own life without adversely impacting the lives of others.
What do you think of that? Agree? Disagree?

The founding fathers said it in their own way:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
It's important to note the less-quoted part of this opening phrase in the Declaration of Independence:
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Emphasis mine. They're saying, quite openly, that anytyhing that interferes with a man's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is worthy of partial or total rebellion.

Earlier this week, I received something from a friend of mine, quoted from Garrison Keillor.

This is Democratic bedrock: we don't let people lie in the ditch and drive past and pretend not to see them dying. Here on the frozen tundra of Minnesota, if your neighbor's car won't start, you put on your parka and get the jumper cables out and deliver the Sacred Spark that starts their car. Everybody knows this. The logical extension of this spirit is social welfare and the myriad government programs with long dry names all very uninteresting to you until you suddenly need one and then you turn into a Democrat. A liberal is a conservative who's been through treatment.
This is like a volleyball setup and spike: (Setup) You wouldn't drive by someone lying in the ditch, right? (Setup) You wouldn't avoid helping your neighbor get their car out of the snow, would you? (Spike!) Then obviously you agree with myriad goverment programs, right?

Paraphrased: if you're a good neighbor and a good person, you espouse social welfare. Right?

If I compare the two statements of Garrison Keillor and Thomas Jefferson, I don't think they're much the same. One says that people should be free to live their own lives and the government has no right to interfere with that, and the other says that people ought to help others live via myriad government programs.

Keillor's words are democratic bedrock? Not at all. They're socialist bedrock. I'll stick with Jefferson, thank you very much, who helped author the documents of democracy.

Between John Edwards' economic "tax-the-rich" populism and Hillary Clinton's "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good," what American principle are they following? They're in lock-step with Garrison Keillor, but not with John Adams, Ben Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson. It's not the government's right to take money from people to give to others. Nor is it the right of anyone to take money from anyone else. Jefferson viewed government as a "dangerous necessity" for this very reason, and felt that the federal government should have its powers circumscribed.

Freedom is the fundamental concept of this country. The limitation of government to intrude on the lives of its citizens is a very close second. The Bill of Rights isn't a declaration of freedoms allowed to us, so much as a declaration of limitations on the government:

  1. Congress shall make no law...
  2. ...shall not be infringed
  3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner...
  4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects...shall not be violated...
  5. No person shall be held to answer...
  6. [Exception]
  7. [Exception]
  8. Excessive bail shall not be required...
  9. ...shall not be construed to deny or disparage...
  10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
All of these but two expressly limit government. And the other two give rights to people held for trial.

In My America, this country is a place where each person is free to live their own life without adversely impacting the lives of others. It's a place where each person has a social obligation not to provide welfare, but to live on their own, provide for themselves, and provide for those for whom they are responsible.

Occasionally, some will stumble. I'll save that for another day.


Tags: my america | politics
by Brett Rogers, 8/4/2007 1:53:53 PM


I think it was Dennis Leary who said something about Americans' unalienable rights to be assholes. I might not help a neighbor start their car, for no other reason than I just don't want to. I certainly wouldn't want my government telling me I had to do so.

And I take care of me and mine, so I won't be going over to the dark side and looking to my government to help me. These hands are busy working. I don't have time to hold one out.



Posted by Annette (, 8/4/2007 4:07:23 PM

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