July 4th Opinion article by Evan Faggart – The views in this articles represents the views of the author
In the United States, July 4th marks the day of our independence. On this day, in 1776, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, which served as the culmination of an intellectual revolution that lasted for several years in the Colonies, and resulted in a bloody war for national sovereignty. Ever since then, July 4th has been celebrated as a milestone in the never ending struggle for human liberty and friendship between individuals. No longer were those 13 colonies subjected to the arbitrary, tyrannical rule of King George III and the British Parliament. They were finally free.
After the American Revolution ended, and Great Britain finally recognized the United States of America as a sovereign nation, the Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation, which would establish the system of governance that would replace the recently overthrown British rule in the US. The government set up by the Articles of Confederation marked the start of a grand experiment in human liberty, something that the United States has taken pride in ever since. But few Americans in the present day realize that the pre-Constitution government established by the Articles came dangerously close to creating a society of anarchy. The federal government had essentially no power over the individual states, not even the power to levy taxes upon the states or to raise an army. All interaction between the states had to be approved by the governments of those states, which of course got their power by being democratically elected by the people in the states. We must emphasize this point: there existed no federal government like the one which plagues the United States today. And the country did not devolve into chaos. However, after only 10 years– hardly enough time to decide whether or not this experiment in decentralized governance would be successful or not– in 1787, James Madison decided that the United States federal government needed more power, and called upon his colleagues in the 13 states to join him in a convention, which would become known as the Constitutional Convention. In this convention, the delegates from the separate states would draft the United States Constitution, which established the government that Americans live under today.
The Constitution gave the federal government immense power over the states when compared to the power it had under the Articles. But, thanks to Thomas Jefferson and the other Anti-Federalists, the Constitutional Convention passed 10 amendments to the Constitution upon the ratification of its original language. They named these 10 amendments the Bill of Rights, and they restrained the central government’s power over the individuals. However, even with the security of essential liberties through these 10 amendments, the federal government still had power over individuals that would start to evolve into a tyranny unimaginable to those American colonists under British rule.
Shortly after the ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s Treasury Secretary, advocated for the assumption of the states’ debt into one, consolidated national debt. Hamilton then wanted to use the new taxation powers of the federal government to fund this debt, and he recommended that Congress pass an excise tax on whiskey. He got his way when Washington signed the nation’s first “sin tax” into law in 1791, thereby placing a hefty– although insignificant by today’s standards– tax on whiskey. A group of people in Pennsylvania openly rebelled against this tax, and refused to pay it. In response, President Washington led an army into the state to terrify those rebellious citizens into submission. An eerie instance of foreshadowing, for the US government would place a similar tax on marijuana in 1937, and then would begin the “War on Drugs” in the 1970s, which marked the start of a campaign to dictate to individuals what they could and could not consume and to force a definite set of morals upon them– just slightly less than 200 years after that initial “sin tax” on whiskey. Furthermore, Hamilton took his success in assuming the states’ debt and used it as a foundation to materialize his vision for a federally controlled financial infrastructure in the US, which included the establishment of America’s first central bank. Even more foreshadowing, considering that in 1913 the Federal Reserve would be created by Congress, which has put the US on a long path towards economic ruin.
Ever since what was essentially a coup that overthrew the Articles of Confederation and installed the Constitution, individual liberty has been progressively eroded by the federal government. Granted, the Articles of Confederation was not perfect at all. In fact, America’s first independent system of governance was seriously flawed, including tyranny on the part of the state governments. But at least the federal government had no power to inflict violence upon the entire country! As a whole, the Articles of Confederation created an at least slightly more peaceful civilization because there was less government overall. Now, the central authorities can essentially do whatever they please to American citizens with impunity. And yet, every July 4th we celebrate how free our country is. Yes, we are very free, free to do whatever our government commands us to do. People really do consider that freedom, however, and they thank the government for keeping them “safe.” Better to have their liberties taken from them by their own government than some unknown foreign threat that their government constantly reminds them of, they suppose.
The Fourth of July is no longer a celebration of individual liberty, of the absence of government intervention. Now, this holiday is a celebration of the federal government and the blind nationalism it has created. Though, no American dares to use the word “nationalism” to describe their unyielding devotion to their rulers; that would make them seem a lot like the citizens of Nazi Germany. No, we are not displaying nationalism, but rather patriotism, something completely different. We do not celebrate the oppression that the federal government subjects its citizens to, along with the rest of the world. We celebrate the “freedom” that our government imposes upon the world. “Patriotic” has lost the meaning imputed upon it during the American Revolution, which was defiance of the government and advocacy for individual liberty. Now, to be “patriotic” means to have unconditional support of the government and advocacy for whatever policies it wants to implement, regardless of how unconstitutional or economically damaging they are.
This kind of thinly-veiled nationalism is what has given rise to the principles of rehashed Mercantilism, advanced by Lord Keynes with his grossly flawed economic theory of government intervention. This brand of Neo-Mercantilism, which essentially equates to economic warfare, has made the entire world worse off in the long term by setting us up for economic disaster. American nationalism is what impels citizens to vote for politicians who will wage perpetual war upon the rest of the world; the US is the best country, therefore we have to use our military to force the rest of the world to act like us, they say. Love for our government and unquestioning compliance with its mandates has led to the federal government waging a war on our minds and bodies, killing and imprisoning us for ingesting substances that they deem immoral. But this tyranny is all in the name of freedom! All the government needs to protect the really really important rights is for us to give up the ones that the government values as “less important.” These secondary rights include freedom of speech, the right to privacy, and the right to defend ourselves, along with all of the other rights that the Anti-Federalists fought to secure for us in the rising face of inevitable oppression. But if we have to give up all of our constitutional rights to secure the liberties that really matter, then what are those liberties? The freedom to consent to all of the mandates of the government through implication by your birth? The freedom to have your money stolen from you every year for the “greater good?” The reality is that our freedom is disappearing fast, and it is due to our undying love for the State, which we mistake for an undying love for liberty.
It Isn’t Only the United States
The United States of America is far from being the only country whose people have allowed the government to extremely overstep their bounds and become tyrannical due to nationalism. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia may come to mind when we think of rampant nationalism because those two nations were responsible for many evil acts. But nationalism does not always take the form of mass murders or other atrocities. Sometimes it manifests itself in much more covert acts of aggression, such as the previously mentioned Keynesian economic doctrine of Neo-Mercantilism, or competing welfare states, or even something seemingly insignificant as international sports tournaments, like the World Cup. Every country must implement protectionist economic policies in order to protect their wealth from other countries, because free trade is a zero-sum game, one can only gain at the expense of another. The countries that run the largest deficits and operate the largest welfare states care more about their citizens than countries with smaller welfare states, which creates feelings of superiority and arrogance among the citizens of the massive nanny-state nations. The best countries have the best international sports teams, therefore those countries who do not fare so well in international tournaments become targets for stereotypes and degradation. All of these things force people into collectives, represented by a single banner, and brutally pits them against each other. Even something as meaningless as sports puts the citizens of separate countries at each other’s throats.
Never mind the fact that protectionism makes everyone poorer, or that massive welfare states are unsustainable, or that athletic prowess means nothing in terms of what individuals can contribute to society. These things are of the utmost importance because we must prove that our country is the best, that our nation deserves to dictate how the rest of the world will behave themselves. Whether it be the United States, England, Russia, or any other country, it is likely that these feelings of nationalism exist in some magnitude. And as long as nationalism persists, as long as people worship their governments rather than appreciate what humans are capable of accomplishing as individuals, there will be perpetual war, poverty, and oppression.