Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical

If the Founding Fathers Returned
by Larry Sechrest

The Fourth of July is, or should be, the grandest holiday of the year for libertarians, especially American libertarians. It commemorates one of the noblest events in all human history, the decision of the American colonists to be free men, the moment when they told King George, "Get Stuffed!". And I have no doubt that this particular July 4th will be an extremely raucous one, filled with pompous speeches, impassioned prayers of thanks to a supposedly benevolent and protective God, exuberant music, and spectacular fireworks. Some of these activities can be enjoyed by anyone, but others miss the mark altogether and are troubling rather than uplifting. Don't get me wrong, the Fourth of July should be a special occasion. Picnics, band concerts, and fireworks are all fun. But we must never forget what we are supposedly celebrating. Patriotic events are mere noise unless the patriotism is a celebration of the dignity, the sovereignty, and the rights of man. If we fail to keep that in mind, the festivities become a sham.

Right now in America everyone is wildly "patriotic", or at least is expected to be. Ever since the tragedy of September 11, the red, white, and blue national flag is everywhere you turn: on lapel pins, flying from the radio antennas of automobiles, on soft drink cans, displayed in store windows. There are innumerable comments by politicians, religious leaders, newspaper columnists, and average citizens about the nation "coming together" and being "united" and how "God will bless and protect us" in our hour of need. Moreover, and ominously, the overwhelming sentiment is in favor of increasing "security" at all costs, whether that entails a loss of liberty or not.

There are two huge errors implicit in such notions. First of all, the unjustified assumption is made that security and individual rights are somehow incompatible, that increases in the former can only be achieved at the expense of the latter. Secondly, virtually everyone -even some alleged libertarians - takes it for granted that security can only be enhanced if we expand the powers of the federal government. Both propositions I believe to be false, and it is my firm conviction that those men whose intellect and courage gave birth to America would agree with me.

Let me give one telling example. What is obviously the biggest security issue in the United States today? Airline security, of course. What has the federal government accomplished? Nothing. They have nationalized the airports, instituted invasive baggage checks, mandated new construction standards for cockpit doors (which engineers say will be difficult and expensive to implement), and hired a lot of stupid and officious new personnel to make life miserable for millions of innocent travelers. Has this made airline travel safer? No. But it has brought losses to airlines, restaurants, hotels, and resorts all over the country.

Would the private sector have solved the problem more effectively and with less fuss, less inconvenience, and less expense? Yes. For months, various airline pilots' groups have asked that the federal prohibition of onboard firearms be lifted. They know better than anyone in Washington, D.C. that the first and best defense against airline hijackings is to have armed pilots. By the way, one of the gun manufacturers, Taurus, has even offered to give handguns to pilots who want them. I might add that a further benefit could be gained if those individuals who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon were encouraged to take the weapon along when they travel by air. Of course, as things stand now, that would cause you to be arrested instantly. So far, Congress has refused to allow pilots or the flight crews to arm themselves, and the idea of private citizens carrying firearms on flights elicits nothing but stuttering hysteria.

Let me revise one statement I made earlier. I must admit that the federal government has achieved something, namely, large increases in spending, many of them completely unrelated to the events of September 11. According to the Congressional Budget Office, expenditures from October 2001 to March 2002 are $60 billion higher than for the same period the previous year. Only in government will you find agencies which failed to protect taxpayers from foreign terrorists being rewarded with larger staffs and bigger budgets.

If time travel were possible, and we could bring back men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, John Randolph, and George Mason, what might they think of all this? I believe they would be shocked, deeply disappointed, and angry. In fact, I believe they would be furious. They put their lives, their liberty, and their sacred honour on the line in order to create a society whose guiding principle was supposed to be the inviolate sanctity of individual rights. Government was ever to be a servant, never a master. And the worst sort of government was a highly centralized one possessed of broad and ill-defined powers. Their minds would have recoiled in horror at ideas like the income tax, a central bank issuing irredeemable paper IOUs, federal control of education, and foreign wars of adventure. Government, to them, was a secular institution whose sole purpose was to prosecute domestic criminals and to defend against foreign invaders. The Founding Fathers of this country were secessionists, rebels, tax resisters, smugglers, and decentralists. They feared encroachments by their own central government as much as those by foreign powers. Two of them, Madison and Jefferson, wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, respectively, declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts (which squelched criticism of the Federalist Party's policies) unconstitutional and thereby null and void on the grounds that the "several states" were "sovereign and independent". They believed the states were justified in judging the constitutionality of actions by the federal government. It is very revealing that Madison usually wrote the United States "are", not the United States "is". Sadly, one can find echoes of the Alien and Sedition Acts in the USA Patriot Act of 2001.

In contrast to the country's founders, most Americans today are raving collectivists. Their notion of rights includes the "rights" to welfare, an education, and a job. And they perceive the federal government as the agency with the political muscle to dispense those "rights". It is no wonder that such people obey so readily. They often act more like animals than humans. If you feed a dog, it is likely to obey you. But what significance can the Fourth of July have for a dog?

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to The Free Radical?

Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (5 messages)