Happy July 4th! Today we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, the only country in the world founded on the idea that individuals have rights that the government cannot arbitrarily violate for its own benefit or for the benefit of other people.
This year, the idea of individual rights is under attack. Some people think the government should forcefully crush individual rights to classify people into groups of oppressors and victims, or to enforce behavior for the greater good. It is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s a very old argument.
So this seems like the right time to explain the mechanics of building a free country. It is a structure that will work anywhere, regardless of history, geography or culture. And it’s a structure that can be destroyed anywhere, even in the United States.
The “basic rights of individuals,” wrote Sir William Blackstone, an 18th-century English judge and jurist whose work influenced the drafters of the American Constitution, are life, liberty and property. He described the right to “the legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of a person of his life”, the freedom “to change his situation or to move his person to any place as he wishes”, and the “absolute right “Of property,” which consists in the free use, enjoyment and disposal of all its acquisitions, without any control or reduction, except by the sole laws of the country.
The US Constitution went further; he limited, divided and controlled the power of government so that the laws of the land were never the arbitrary decisions of a monarch or the dictates of a bunch of irresponsible rulers. The principle underlying this new structure was stated in the Declaration of Independence of 1776: “We take these truths as obvious, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to ensure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
It is impossible to overstate what revolutionary idea these words embodied: the purpose of government is to guarantee the rights and freedom of individuals.
When life, liberty, and property are protected from arbitrary government actions, it becomes possible to undertake long-term efforts that produce phenomenal achievements. People are able to study, work, invest, invent, cultivate, build, research and engineer over a period of years, if not decades, knowing that they will eventually profit of the benefits of their efforts.
But when individual rights are not protected, there is no need to invest in a long-term project. All profits could be confiscated, nationalized or otherwise misappropriated to compensate someone else.
This is why countries that protect individual rights enjoy growing economies and rising standards of living, while countries that have a different governance philosophy rely on aid or theft to maintain economies. stagnant.
When a country moves towards freedom, prosperity follows. When he strays from freedom, suffering follows. And violence.
In countries where the government owns or controls everything and where individual economic security is subject to the whims of government officials, individuals are effectively forced to choose sides in a gang war for government control. The struggle for power is vicious and all-consuming. For individuals living under this system, the only path to success is to stay in the good graces of the good gang leader and then do whatever it takes to keep this gang in power.
In a free country, where the power of government is limited and individual rights are protected, individuals have a path to economic security that is not dependent on who serves in government. Property rights and freedom are guaranteed regardless of which party is in control.
Over the past fifteen months, the United States has had a gruesome experience of total government control and suspension of individual rights, an experience that still continues in California. Due to fear of COVID-19, government officials have imposed restrictions on the public unprecedented in American history. Then the government arbitrarily decided which rights were worth protecting (eg, protesters) and which were unimportant (eg, worshipers). The government decided who was “essential” and had to work, and who was “non-essential” and could not. Some people have lost their jobs. Some people have lost everything.
Last year, 4 in 10 adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder (56% of 18-24 year olds), up from 1 in 10 the year before, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Here in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom refuses to give up his emergency powers and restore a constitutional government that protects individual rights. While other states have lifted pandemic restrictions and lived to tell the story, California remains under arbitrary government control.
It is no coincidence that California’s unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is the third highest in the country, as is the state’s “underemployment” rate, which includes workers on the job. part-time and casual, at 18.4%. CalMatters columnist Dan Walters dug into the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis’s first quarter figures and found that while California’s economic output increased, two-thirds of states saw larger increases, and California’s personal income increase was the second lowest of any state.
By moving away from freedom, the California government has created uncertainty about the possible value of a long-term effort. The arbitrary control of the government has the effect that it has everywhere and always: it is an obstacle to study, to work, to investment, to invention, to the farm, to construction, to research and engineering. Why bother if everything can be stopped again at the will of the governor?
California has become the number one national producer of poverty and sadness.
Freedom is essential for the well-being of mankind, and freedom is made up of the protection of individual rights under a government with limited power.
Happy Independence Day.
Susan Shelley is a columnist and columnist for the Southern California News Group. [email protected] Twitter: @Susan_Shelley