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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10216/big-government-and-the-4th-of-july/

Big Government and the 4th of July

July 2, 2009 by

As we prepare to celebrate the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence we should recall why the American colonists made their decision to break away from the British Empire. The Declaration, in the enumerated grievances against the British Crown, makes it crystal clear that the cause was Big Government.

I explain this in a new piece of mine, “A Declaration of Independence from Big Government.”

It was a Big Government that violated the colonists’ personal and civil liberties, and denied them economic freedom through the stranglehold of a spider’s web of commercial regulations, controls, and restrictions. In addition, the hard working people of those thirteen colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America were burdened with numerous taxes that consumed significant portions of their wealth, and were imposed without their consent.

Everywhere, the king appointed various “czars” who were to control and command much of the people’s daily affairs of earning a living. Layer after layer of new bureaucracies were imposed over every facet of life. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance,” the Founding Fathers explain.

In place of this oppressive system, the Founding Fathers declared the principles of a free people: every individual’s right to his life, liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. The ground was laid for the noble experiment of a society of free men associating on the basis of voluntary consent and mutually beneficial exchange.

Unfortunately, in our own time we have returned to a system of government controls and fiscal burdens that are far more oppressive than the ones our Founding Fathers revolted against.

Those freedom-loving colonists rose up against a government that taxed a fraction of what the U.S. government plunders the American taxpayer, nowaways. And the intrusive hand of government in our personal, social and economic affairs is far more pervasive today than anything those American colonists faced 233 years ago when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

This 4th of July, each of us should try to remind our fellow Americans about why the Founding Fathers led a revolution against the British government, and why the dangers of Big Government is far greater in 2009 than anything they faced in 1776.

Richard Ebeling

{ 16 comments }

Mike Sproul July 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

One of the colonists’ biggest complaints concerned British suppression of the colonists’ issue of paper money and free banking. Unfortunately, Austrians are divided on the issue of free banking. Followers of Rothbard claim that fractional reserve banking is tantamount to counterfeiting. This misguided opposition to free banking discredits the Austrians’ valid positions on free trade in general.

David Spellman July 2, 2009 at 11:31 am

It is true that the colonists revolted against a government far less oppressive than what we have now. But while the modern State is bigger and badder than ever, the slave masters are also smarter. They have learned the lesson of history and now are quite careful to subvert and waylay their opposition.

I hear people talk of secession, reform, and even revolt. The overlords have their ear to the ground and are paying attention. Anyone who stands for freedom needs to recognize that the road is more dangerous now than it ever was for the Founding Fathers. The only reason that is not obvious yet is because currently the cause us liberty is losing ground so there is no need for strong measures.

But when the day comes that the forces favoring freedom begin to make headway, we need to make sure we are not summer soldiers or sunshine patriots. In the colonial days the nation was evenly divided between Tories and Rebels with some intrigue and betrayal, but it was nothing compared to the system of secret police, sophisticated surveillance, torture, rendition, and imprisonment our current government openly advertises.

Ask yourself why the government is so cavalier about letting the People know their methods and willingness to inflict torture and abuse. Torture does not extract useful information, but it does work upon the minds of opponents to make them think hard about resistance. It is good to talk in flowery flowing phrases about the virtue of individual liberty and free commerce, but remember that the enemy is already practiced in their methods of violent opposition.

I admire the patriots found in every nation who have stood for justice and the rights of man in every age even in the face of death. No nation can be held in bondage if enough people will fight for freedom. Many battles are won by strange twists of fate in the fog of war, and no one knows going into it how it will end.

Thomas Paine said, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” The British were quite willing to give him death, and don’t kid yourself about what the modern counterpart is willing to offer you if you take up the banner of Liberty. Our cause is just and we will need great resolve to carry the day.

Stephan Kinsella July 2, 2009 at 11:37 am

I’m beginning to think not only was the Constitution a huge mistake, but so was the Declaration. America is not and never was even close to libertarian. This myth needs to be torn down. I am chucking my Jefferson and Declaration framed prints. Down with the Founders!

Nate July 2, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Makes me think of the line from The Patriot, “Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away, for 3000 tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights, just as easily as a king can.”

Thinker July 2, 2009 at 12:34 pm

The problem with the Founders (many of them, at least) was not their lack of liberal idealism, but their concept of Limited Government. Government is limited by two things solely: the willingness and ability of the enforcement arm to execute the decisions of its leaders, and the leaders’ not issuing new decrees.

The Founders set out to create a government that would be limited by the bounds of law rather than the restraint of men, which they wisely did not trust
.
They failed, and they knew it.

David Spellman-that was Patrick Henry, not Thomas Paine. Minor quibble.

Horst Muhlmann July 2, 2009 at 1:21 pm

People who viewed 2% taxation as oppressive are my kind of people!

With that said, Stephan, I think you are onto something here. Compare the United States with the Cayman Islands and with pre-takeover (or even post-takeover for that matter) Hong Kong. Areas that have remained British colonies have fared far better than those that have become independent.

Hmmm. Is India the counterexample? I’m not knowledgeable enough to say. Pakistan certainly is not a counterexample.

Jorge Borlandelli July 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Mike Sproul,
I disagree, the divide is between fractional reserve banking or not. All Austrians are in favor of free banking, some add the need to redefine the deposit contract so that no fractional reserve banking happens, some say that competition among banks is enough to avoid the harmful expansion of credit.
I do not think that his minor argument discredits the Austrians in any meaningful way. On the contrary, I would say that the Austrians are starting to receive the attention they have always deserved.
All the best, Jorge.

Econ Guy July 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Mike Sproul,

You need to actually read Rothbard before making such claims. If you took the time to read Rothbard, here’s what you’d find:

“contrary to propaganda and myth, free banking would lead to hard money and allow very little bank credit expansion and fractional reserve banking. The hard rigor of redemption by one bank upon another will keep any one bank’s expansion severely limited” (The Mystery of Banking, pg. 124).

Rothbard held this view because he understood Ricardo’s specie price flow mechanism. Without government intervention, redemption between competing banks (and countries) allows for almost no fiduciary media expansion. Mises also held this view.

Rothbard’s criticisms of free banking are entirely ethical. This does nothing to weaken the economic arguments for free trade in general.

I Hate Psychiatry July 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Thinker,

Government is limited by ONE and ONLY thing: The willingness of the people to defend their freedoms at all costs and even at the cost of life !!!

America was willing in 1776, but not in 2009 !!!

Freedom
1776 – 2009
R.I.P.

Thinker July 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I Hate Psychiatry,

When government takes action, you are right. Only the people can defend themselves from government encroachment.

But government does not always encroach, and it tends to do so in stages rather than seizing infinite power instantly. Over time, government does expand, but its directors must choose to do so and its enforcement are must consent before it can act.

Freedom died a long time ago, when the first caveman claimed the right to rule his fellows in the division of food. And it has hardly risen since.

Michael Wiebe July 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm

“In place of this oppressive system, the Founding Fathers declared the principles of a free people: every individual’s right to his life, liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. The ground was laid for the noble experiment of a society of free men associating on the basis of voluntary consent and mutually beneficial exchange.
Unfortunately, in our own time we have returned to a system of government controls and fiscal burdens that are far more oppressive than the ones our Founding Fathers revolted against.”

So this is just an unhappy coincidence? I think not.

A limited government has both the capacity and the incentives to become Leviathan. We should be surprised that the U.S. government remained limited for as long as it did.

As Hülsmann wrote in “Secession and the Production of Defense” : “With hindsight, the real question is not—as most twentieth-century libertarians have assumed—why the happy days of classical liberalism faded away and ushered in a new era of unprecedented government control. The real question is how classical liberalism could flourish even the few decades that it did flourish.” (emphasis added)

“Big Government” is not the problem. Government itself is the problem.

I Hate Psychiatrists July 2, 2009 at 9:50 pm

The reason that government exist is because there is a fatal flaw in the human DNA.

Individuals absolutely DON’T want to stand up for their rights and are affraid to die in the name of freedom.

Nature is obsessed by reproduction and therefore couldn’t care less about individual freedoms nor private property.

Zoo animals can live longer and reproduce more in captivity than in the wild.

The entire mankind is captive of it’s DNA.

The human DNA is hardwired for peer approval and the seeking of validation by others.

Individuals want to be part of a group and approved by a group, even if it means being the slave of the group.

Nobody wants to stand alone, everybody is affraid to stand alone against the group of hoarders.

Groups control commerce and ressources and forces the individuals to conform to group’s laws or else.

Individuals standing for themselves are portrayed as lunatics and crazies and then nobody in the group wants to socialize with this individual out of the fear to be identified with him and share his fate.

It’s in our DNA. I fear that libertarianism will never happen because nature is a Tyrant itself and has programmed submission to tyranny in our DNA.

I think that all this human misery and human suffering is the direct result of our DNA programmed psychological and affective dependence on others.

And by our DNA programmed behavior of annihilating and destroying independent individuals who don’t fit in the group.

Strangely, the seeds of individual destruction are planted in the human DNA.

The tyrant is not the strong guy forcing you to do as he says.

The tyrant is your own DNA forcing you to obey your master without even thinking that you could say no and be independent.

It would seem that nature wanted the masses of humans to be slave to a handful of masters.

Nature is a tyrant, tyranny was invented by nature, not by man.

I Hate Psychiatrists July 2, 2009 at 9:51 pm

The reason that government exist is because there is a fatal flaw in the human DNA.

Individuals absolutely DON’T want to stand up for their rights and are affraid to die in the name of freedom.

Nature is obsessed by reproduction and therefore couldn’t care less about individual freedoms nor private property.

Zoo animals can live longer and reproduce more in captivity than in the wild.

The entire mankind is captive of it’s DNA.

The human DNA is hardwired for peer approval and the seeking of validation by others.

Individuals want to be part of a group and approved by a group, even if it means being the slave of the group.

Nobody wants to stand alone, everybody is affraid to stand alone against the group of hoarders.

Groups control commerce and ressources and forces the individuals to conform to group’s laws or else.

Individuals standing for themselves are portrayed as lunatics and crazies and then nobody in the group wants to socialize with this individual out of the fear to be identified with him and share his fate.

It’s in our DNA. I fear that libertarianism will never happen because nature is a Tyrant itself and has programmed submission to tyranny in our DNA.

I think that all this human misery and human suffering is the direct result of our DNA programmed psychological and affective dependence on others.

And by our DNA programmed behavior of annihilating and destroying independent individuals who don’t fit in the group.

Strangely, the seeds of individual destruction are planted in the human DNA.

The tyrant is not the strong guy forcing you to do as he says.

The tyrant is your own DNA forcing you to obey your master without even thinking that you could say no and be independent.

It would seem that nature wanted the masses of humans to be slave to a handful of masters.

Nature is a tyrant, tyranny was invented by nature, not by man.

D. Saul Weiner July 3, 2009 at 10:52 am

I hate psychiatrists,

Bear in mind that human psychology was adapted for hunter/gatherer days when there was not a state. That said, without questions, tyrants later found myriad useful aspects of human nature to exploit in establishing and growing the state.

In contemplating the founding of the U.S.A., it is worth recalling that while heroic, the founders were really focused on the tyrannical conditions and aspects of the rulers of their day and trying to counter them. They were not really able to grasp or overcome the more core issues.

mdeals July 4, 2009 at 3:55 am

A declaration of independence from big government.

Patri Friedman July 4, 2009 at 5:35 pm

If y’all are interested in reading more about government, independence, and the 4th of july, my blog did a big secession week blogging event, with lots of links.

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