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AIP Column: What Independence are We Celebrating Anyway?

I discuss in my AIP column today how in the 233 years since we told the king of England that we were going to make our own course the independent and self reliant streak of our Founding Fathers is no longer recognizable in so many Americans today. Here's a portion:

Since government interference into Americans' daily lives was kept to a minimum, independence and self reliance were principles that were valued not just because they were good character traits but because they were necessary for everyday life. These values, though, had been ingrained into the people who created and built our fledgling Republic, for they were the descendants of the brave men and women who sailed, cramped in wooden ships for months, from Britain to the New World to build the colonies. The new Americans had been handed down a hardiness and strong will to not just survive, but to thrive, which made them a bit different from their family members and friends who remained in the more established and comfortable world of Britain. They surmounted illnesses and bitterly cold winters without any of what we take for granted today. There were no government programs like welfare or food stamps or Medicare. There were no Wal-Marts or Costcos. Many people were farmers so they grew their own fruits and vegetables and raised cattle, dairy cows, and pigs to eat. They kept what they needed for themselves and then sold the rest to others in their communities. Many were skilled tradesman like carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, gunsmiths, and wheelwrights. Rugged individualism and an independent spirit ran strong through the early Americans. Government interference was minimal so independence and freedom flourished.

It is a bit unnerving that 233 years later Americans will celebrate Independence Day with many of its citizens dependent on the government for their income or some kind of significant assistance. Sadly, much of the rugged individualism and independent spirit that were the foundation of our Republic have been slowly dying. According to a study by Gary Shilling and reported in the Christian Science Monitor, in 2007, only two years ago, 52.6 percent of the American people were receiving significant income from government spending. It breaks down this way:

Mr. Shilling's analysis found that about 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending. A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension. About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidized housing, and 5 million get education grants. For all these categories, Mr. Shilling counted dependents as well as the direct recipients of government income.

With the passage of President Obama's stimulus bill that funds Democrats' dream projects, the mortgage relief plan that bails out homeowners who were irresponsible and bought too much house, the president's budget that expands welfare spending, grows government, and included over 9000 earmarks, the government takeovers of Chrysler and General Motors, Obama's proposed health care reform plan that will make millions dependent on government-run health care, and a potential cap and trade plan that will create a monstrous new government bureaucracy, this statistic will only continue to sky rocket. Unfortunately, when government grows, freedom, self-reliance, and independence shrink more and more as new regulations and laws are enacted to limit and control the behavior of the individual.

Sadly, the character traits that separated us from the rest of the world don't seem to be in existence in the majority of Americans anymore. It's a sad day when the President of the United States essentially tells us that we really aren't any more special than any other citizenry in the world, so we can let go of our history, our self-reliance, our independence - the great American experiment - and just conform to the rest of the world, which is heavily dependent upon their big brother governments.

Read all of my column and tell me what you think. Am I off base here? Brian Faughan also has a column today and he believes that conservatisim, which embraces the independence and self-reliance of our Fore Fathers, is on a comeback while progressivism is waning. TJ Brown writes about the Five Stages of Political Decline.


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Comments (4)

Everyone in the world in th... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Everyone in the world in the 18th Century was "self-reliant." There were no welfare programs, food stamps, etc., in England any more than there were in the Colonies. You either worked or starved, unless you were an aristocrat.
If you couldn't work, because of ill health or accident, there was no "safety net" here OR there. Unless you were an aristocrat, you just died.
The fact that we have government programs that help you if you are sick, injured, or otherwise unable to work is a good thing. The fact that we have education grants to help more people achieve the American dream, rather than a self-perpetuating aristocracy like we (and the rest of the world) used to have is also good.
It's called "progress."

At what point does your "pr... (Below threshold)
Michael:

At what point does your "progress" engender tyranny Bruce?

At some point, Michael. Not... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

At some point, Michael. Not yet.

I agree we need to be careful not to let government get too intrusive into our private, and economic, lives. That's why I agree with the President that we need a public OPTION in our healthcare system, not a public "takeover", for instance. And why I disagreed with Bush's (and apparently, now, Obama's) casual abrogation of Habeus Corpus.

Unlike a few of the commenters here, I'm not an alarmist or a conspiracy theorist. I wasn't really afraid that Bush was going to cancel the '08 elections, and I'm not really afraid that Obama is going to turn us into Venezuela.

Kim, once again you've fail... (Below threshold)
Jake:

Kim, once again you've failed to analysis the ENTIRE picture, instead glomming onto only part of the set of facts that make up that full picture.

I'm not going to argue the case that we are or are not free in the vision of the founders. It's an unwinnable argument for both of us, since they aren't here.

But if you're going to make the point that government "big brotherism" is causing a rift in the forefather's vision, then for crying out loud understand the full picture of the current big brotherism.

I don't understand why you think that independence is in jeopardy when our government has had programs for years that allow citizens to be wiretapped without warrants, programs approved at the highest levels possible to abduct and imprison and torture citizens and non-citizens alike indefinitely and without charges.

If you're going to make the case, then MAKE THE CASE, all of the case not just the parts that Rush or the RNC shove down your throat.




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