On Independence Day, we celebrate freedom from government. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
It’s difficult to say what most Americans commemorate or celebrate on Independence Day nowadays. Many appear to focus on some vague notion of “America.” Others even take to jingoism equating the United States government with the very notion of “freedom.”
Lost in all of this is the fact that the Declaration of Independence — the document we’re supposed to remember today — is a document that promotes secession, rebellion, and what the British at the time regarded as treason.
On the other hand, those who do recall the radical nature of the Declaration often tend to romanticize the American Revolution in a way that is neither instructive nor helpful today.
So, what should we remember about Independence Day, and what can it teach us? For starters, here are three things about the history and context of this holiday that should continue to inform us today and into the future.
One: If You Can’t Secede, You’re Not Really Free
The very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence lays it out. Sometimes, “it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another…”
The document then goes on to list in detail why 1776’s specific act of secession was justified and necessary for preserving the rights of the colonists.
By the 19th century, this philosophy of self-determination would become a foundational element of the ideology now known internationally as liberalism — or “classical liberalism” in the United States.
Not surprisingly, we find this idea in the later writings of liberals such as Ludwig von Mises who, writing in Vienna in 1927, concluded:
It must always be possible to shift the boundaries of the state if the will of the inhabitants of an area to attach themselves to a state other than the one to which they presently belong has made itself clearly known…
[W]henever the inhabitants of a particular territory … make it known … that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time … their wishes are to be respected and complied with.
Mises, like Jefferson, understood that without this right of self-determination, there is no freedom.
Nevertheless, modern opponents of self-determination and secession will claim that secession cannot be tolerated because it is not “legal.”
To continue reading: 3 Things To Remember On Independence Day