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My America: My Declaration of Independence


In my last My America installment, Annette wrote this in the comments:

I take care of me and mine, so I won't be looking to my government to help me. These hands are busy working. I don't have time to hold one out.
Amen. The government should not avail itself as a source of assistance in living life, and we shouldn't reach out to it to help us.

And just as people shouldn't reach out to the government to live, we should not allow the government to reach out to us to tell us how to live. That's the focus of this installment: my life is my private life and not the business of the government.

There is a well-known phrase in the Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." You knew it before you even finished reading it - that's how well-known it is. Where did that phrase come from? What does it mean?

The phrase is based on the writings of John Locke, who expressed a similar concept of "life, liberty, and estate (or property)".
John Locke believed that "that property is a natural right and it is derived from labor." Locke believed that liberty meant the right of individuals to do as they pleased with their own lives and their own property. You work for it; you earn it; it's yours. You get to decide what to do with it.

Some in the government would tell you how to live. They would determine for you what you can do, and what you can't do. Be it the religious zealots who despise homosexuals and what they do in the privacy of their own home, or the environmental zealots, who demand that a person cannot cut down trees on their own property for fear of harming an "endangered" animal. Laws are enacted to tell us how to live. This nanny-ish quest for - and acceptance of - power is in direct opposition to a "Declaration of Independence."

Annette also commented:

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 you know what? She's right. What independence do we have when we allow - no, encourage - the government to tell us how to live? We don't.

If a person chooses to be stingy with the property they've earned through their labor, that's their right. And if we choose to look down our noses at such a person, that's our right. We might abhor such behavior according to our own personal morals, but it is not our right to tell others how to live their own lives, spend their own money, or determine how to occupy their own time. The government should not be the convenient vehicle it's become to mandate how others should live.

Liberty, if we truly prize it, means what Locke said it meant: the right of individuals to do as they please with their own lives and their own property.

  • If they want to have consensual gay sex, have lots of consensual gay sex.
  • If they want to drive by the stranded and not help people out, then drive on by.
  • If they want to cut down a tree on their property that harbors a spotted owl, then rev up that chainsaw.
  • If they want to despise the way that others live, then despise all you like.
But don't use the government as a means for dictating lifestyle to others. That's not freedom. That's not liberty.

And it's simply not American.


1 Comment
Tags: my america
by Brett Rogers, 10/26/2007 3:59:44 PM

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.


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

Solutioning America


President Bush is a lousy listener.

A businessowner hosted a roundtable on healthcare and small business, which President Bush attended. The result?

"He answered his own questions."
Which is pretty dumb.
"I thought the whole concept was to ask us, so I was a little bit frustrated. I would have liked the opportunity to give him my viewpoint, rather than him knowing the answer."
This entrepreneur, Clifton Broumand, happens to believe as I do on the subject of healthcare: that all children should be covered, and he gives a great reason.
"My personal feeling is that the plan should be to cover every child, whether it's private or federal," he said. "When you don't cover children, what ends up happening is that when kids are sick, which happens in my office, parents aren't productive. They have to go home."
Also like me, he doesn't see the government as an answer to this. He doesn't say why a government-run health system is not his choice, but for me, government is never an efficient answer for anything. And like Michael Moore, Mr. Broumand hates insurance companies.
The [insurance] plan he offers to his 28 employees costs $300 a month for individuals and $800 for family coverage. The business pays $5,600 a month for health insurance - more than it spends on rent - and premiums have increased 73 percent since 2003, he said.

Private insurers "are like the Godfather - they make you an offer you can't refuse," Broumand said. "When my insurance goes up 73 percent in four years, that's a tax... All these things are hidden taxes."

So what is the answer?

It might be in P2P insurance... which takes the profit motive out of the equation, while keeping the inefficiency out of it.

P2P will utterly change the face of the financial industry in the next 10 years. It will touch every financial product on the market. It will be interesting to watch as it unfolds...

I'll be creating an ongoing series called "My America." It will give what I think are the directions in which America ought to move, one of which will be covering healthcare costs for all children - but not for adults. I'll give my reasons later.

In the runup to the 2008 elections, I think it would be cool if bloggers would voice their ideas and opinions about the direction they think America should go. I believe that we the people are much smarter collectively than the politicians who greedily run this country for their own interests. So perhaps if bloggers jump in with a bunch of good ideas, one or more of those ideas will stick and bring solutions to life.

After all, you never knows who's listening.


Tags: listening | my america
by Brett Rogers, 7/24/2007 9:12:16 AM