Nearly every year on the Fourth, American Vision runs an old essay from Gary North, “Happy Fire Works Day.” I am glad to see it is archived in full here. It is one of my favorite essays of all time. It really woke me up twelve years ago when I first read it.
Since you’re busy preparing for your own Fireworks Day, I will only excerpt a short portion here, upon which I will comment briefly below.
THE WORLD WE HAVE LOST
For most Americans, the story of the American Revolution is more like a series of museum displays with toy soldiers than a series of events that grab our collective imagination. . . .
There was a slogan: “No taxation without representation.” How did that slogan turn out? In 1776, there was no income tax. So, we got our representation, but taxes today are at 40% of our income. Washington extracts 25% of the nation’s output. In 1776, taxes imposed by the British were in the range of 1% in the North, and possibly 3% in the South. I’m ready to make a deal: I’ll give up being represented in Washington, but I’ll get to keep 74% of my income. I’ll work out something else with state and local politicians. Just get Washington out of my pocket.
Jefferson put these words into the Declaration of Independence:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He had no idea. Not counting troops, who were here to defend the Western territory from the French after 1763, the number of British officials was probably well under a thousand. They resided mainly in port cities, where they collected customs (import taxes): Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. The average American had never met a British official in 1776.
By any modern standard, in any nation, what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration to prove the tyranny of King George III would be regarded by voters today as a libertarian revolution beyond the dreams of any elected politician, including Ron Paul. Voters would unquestionably destroy the political career of anyone who would call for the restoration of King George’s tyranny, which voters would see as the destruction of their economic security, which they believe is provided only by politicians and each other’s tax money. . . .
This is why the documents of the American Revolution make no sense to us. We read the words and marvel at the courage of those who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor by signing the Declaration. But we cannot really understand why they did it. We live under a self- imposed tyranny so vast, so all-encompassing by the standards of 18th-century British politics, that we cannot imagine risking everything we own in order to throw off the level of government interference suffered by the average American businessman in 1776, let alone the average farmer.
If we could start politically where the Continental Congress started in 1775, we would call home the members of that Congress. We would regard as crazy anyone who was willing to risk a war of secession for the sake of throwing off an import tax system that imposed a 1% burden on our income.
The Declaration of Independence points a finger at us, and shouts from the grave on behalf of the 56 signers: “What have you done? What have you surrendered in our name? What, in the name of Nature and Nature’s God, do you people think liberty is all about?”
We have no clue. American voters surrender more liberty in one session of Congress than the colonists surrendered to the British crown/Parliament from 1700 to 1776.
This is amazingly and frightfully correct. And it is worse. Consider Jefferson and company regarding less than a thousand officers spread throughout the colonies as “swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance” as a point of remonstrance worth the life-risk of political secession.
Imagine that. And then look at the explosion in our own time of no-knock home invasions by SWAT teams. The rise from a handful of unique exceptions in the 60s and 70s to over 50,000 routine raids by SWAT units in 2005 (over 136 instances per day), often for mundane purposes or even mere suspicions, constitutes a “swarm of officers” homegrown and far beyond anything George III could have dreamed of.
And we have done it to ourselves.
And worse, for the most part, conservatives are proud of it, and many conservative men would proudly take part in it.
And that’s just one line from the Declaration of Independence.
We moan and cry all the time over those words “Creator” and “Nature and Nature’s God,” as if the long-diminishment of these words by liberals has been the great demise of our country. We don’t accept responsibility for the ways in which we ourselves have abandoned so much of the actual substance of the Declaration, sometimes wholeheartedly endorsing the violations it decries, and doing so in the name of the Creator at its head.
Let me suggest that, while we must obviously turn to the Creator before we can right the great ship America ever again, we can only do so in humble willingness to uphold the rights and laws according to His terms. We cannot pretend to right this nation or land in the name of Creator and Nature’s God while at the same time indulging in all the tyrannies of laws, police, military, courts, and much more which that document so famously outlines as actionable offenses against Nature and Nature’s God.
If you’re not willing to pursue serious reforms in areas near and dear to conservative hearts—SWAT raids, drug wars, standing armies, prison systems, administrative law, government education, etc.—then the return to freedom in the name of God is hypocritical and delusional.
Until then, watch the fireworks explode. And as they explode, do not entertain any sentimental dreams about victories of independence, or “bombs bursting in air” (a reference to the War of 1812, not 1776 anyway). Instead, think of flash bombs bursting at your door, and troops storming in. Imagine IRS agents swarming, and BLM agents bullying, and a hundred other government agencies with hundreds of thousands of agents pouring through every seam of society, armed and armor-clad, ready to shoot without remorse, thinking they have done Nature’s God a favor.
And what shall be the Grand Finale of this, if we do not repent and reform?