Nearly two and a half centuries ago, the founding fathers of this nation risked their lives so they might one day live in a state of freedom unparalleled in history. They risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to repel the oppression of the most powerful country at the time. With a single fiery document, our Declaration of Independence, they communicated their shocking and unprecedented stance.
The American Colonies, a poetic gang of the best known malcontents in history, would not suffer tyranny. It took a revolution to break the chains of oppression and to allow for the creation of an independent government.
Having fought and bled to escape the clutches of one tyranny, our forefathers were loath to lose the liberties they had secured to another ruler. They acknowledged and understood history. And history shows that the greatest and most habitual violators of individual rights have been governments.
Oppressive governments have forced people to adhere to religious ideologies, have partaken in unpopular wars for the state’s betterment rather than the country’s security, have pillaged, raped, murdered, and much more.
It would have done little good to chop off the head of the beast only to have two more grow in its place. A foreign tyranny could easily be replaced by a domestic tyranny. Our founders recognized that governments, even the American government, must have restraints. To enforce this they drafted the Bill of Rights, which spells out with irrefutable clarity the rights of individuals and the limitations of government. Thomas Jefferson was known to refer to the “chains of the Constitution;” a document which literally enchained the government and restricted it to its proper scope.
Another groundbreaking conception of that time was the notion that government is the servant of the people. The ends of government are to be directed by the people in order to most efficaciously secure their safety and happiness; it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish any government that becomes destructive of these ends.
These are earth-shattering ideas that have not lost any of their saliency over the years. Even a cursory reading of the primary documents of our founding conveys a stark difference between what was envisioned and what has been realized over the course of our country’s history. Every four years we are encouraged – indeed instructed – to blindly trust in the efficacy and rightness of our democratic process. But I ask you, what has this process wrought?
Our leaders, both Republican and Democrat, have steered this nation further and further away from that principle upon which it was founded: liberty.
We have a variety of shameful anecdotes spewing from every major media publication to choose for illustrative purposes if we wish. What of the Republicans who preach on the immorality of homosexuality only to shamefacedly confront one of their own caught cheating on his wife with another man? Who is to say that the Democrats are any better when they claim to be defenders of our civil liberties while weakening property rights or voting for the Patriot Act, as many Democrats did?
Lately, Republicans seem to be bent upon convincing us that our rights will be secure if only we are willing to secure the borders of our empire and engage in unconstitutional wars. And so Americans leave their families and their homes to fight in far flung countries for aims which the armchair generals in D.C. endlessly redefine according to the latest news headline. Meanwhile, Democrats seem ostensibly convinced that it is the government’s role to cure the host of social ills and inequalities by providing social services to anyone and everyone. The government can only give that which it takes, so who among us should be taken from first?
Are we a free people? Or are the definitions of liberty changing to match the whims of a world spiraling into madness? It seems that our present rulers would have us believe that we are freest when what they have chosen for us is the rule. This is not what our founders intended. Government is not supposed to dole out the fruits of our labor because they think it is fair. Government is not supposed to legislate how we are to live our lives because they think they know what is best for us. In sum, government is not supposed to infringe on any aspect of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Once upon a time, there was an age when we had conquered a historical foe that had tyrannized peoples ever since the dawn of time. That victory and, I fear, the dream that accompanied and inspired it, are fading ever faster, but that does not condemn it forever to the annals of history.
If any of the above has resonated with you, if you believe you know how to live your life better than the government does, if you believe the Constitution means what it says, then you might want to join us, the Libertarian Party, and start the next revolution.
Jeremy Hicks is a 2008 political science graduate and the founder of the Cal Poly Libertarian Club. “Don’t Tread on Me” will appear in the Mustang Daily every Wednesday as a weekly political column.