I’ve noted before how the Declaration of Independence resonates even today, with its indictment of government that is pursued for the benefit of rulers instead of the governed. Glenn Reynolds points out the document not only lays out charges against a king, but also propounds a new theory of government as a guarantor of rights, not a giver. Then he poses a question:
Does our government now have, as its principal function, the protection of people’s rights? Or is it more of a giant wealth-transfer machine, benefiting the connected at the expense of the outsiders? And, most important, does our government enjoy the consent of the governed? (According to a 2014 Rasmussen poll, only 21% think so.) What would the drafters of the declaration say?
Reynolds concludes by urging our ‘ruling class’ to spend a little more time with the document, pondering the principles it lays out. They won’t, of course. As even he acknowledges, it’s no accident the lack of attention the Declaration receives. Indeed, our leaders like to claim that anyone who pays too much attention to the roots of our nation’s founding, or who loves the idea of individual liberty, might be a dangerous radical. Dangerous to their comfortably corrupt system of power and wealth extraction, perhaps. So Wormtongue works overtime in our land, distracting people from the ideas that matter, promoting a sense of helplessness and a retreat into personal amusement rather than confrontation with a system that has been corrupted.
So while the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes of the land aren’t likely to spend time digesting the Declaration, the rest of us must. For it is a potent reminder that it is “we, the people,” who ultimately determine the direction of our nation. The current state of affairs will continue only if we accept it and fail to address it.
My family and our holiday guests read the Declaration aloud this 4th, and discussed it. I suspect that discussion won’t just be confined to July from now on, either.