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Reflections on July 4th

By July 4, 2020July 6th, 2020Commentary

Back in the good old days when this was just an obscure health care research, policy and business blog, I would use major holidays as an occasion for reflection on the meaning of the holiday or other topics.  This has been a hellacious year.  First a devastating over-reaction to what is turning out to be a pretty mild and non-world-threatening epidemic.  Then, no doubt heightened by the economic and social consequences of that over-reaction, we are plunged into another frenzy of violence and soul-searching based on a largely false notion of systemic racism.  The most shocking characteristic of our crises is our seeming inability to avoid hysterical, mass delusional thinking; rather than looking for facts, conducting a logical analysis of an issue,  and coming up with rational solutions.  It is a sad state for the greatest democracy in the world.

And it is pathetic how little younger people seem to understand or appreciate of our history.  What the hell are they being taught in school?  At a time when the world was still largely governed by royal families who exercised whimsical control over their subjects’ lives, both in their home countries and in extensive colonial states;  brave men and women in the British colonies in North America were determined to create a different kind of government.  Reading the opening sentences of the Declaration of Independence still gives me a chill, and at the time it was written, it was outright heresy and treason to those royal families.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  We don’t have to prove that we are created equal or that we have certain rights that can’t be taken away from us and no government is legitimate which does not derive its powers from the consent of those who are subject to the government.   This is the most powerful idea in the world.  Equality, inalienable rights and self-government.

Government can have no purpose other than advancing the interests of the citizens who have created and who sustain the government.  Government must always serve the people, with the sole aim of facilitating the ability of that citizenry to live their lives as they choose and to have the maximum opportunity for success, as they each define it in their lives.  And government is always subject to ultimate will of the people, to the consent of the governed.

However imperfectly we may have hewn to the ideals of the Declaration over the decades and centuries, our country has for an enormous number of people both within it and in other nations, provided the opportunity and the outcome of an ever-increasing quality of life, in all of its facets.  There is a reason why people from all over the globe still are eager to come to this country for that opportunity.  And they aren’t seeking to go to many other countries, not China, not Russia.

Now we are threatened by mass ignorance and delusion, almost certainly aided by the conniving of nations which envy and feel threatened by our success, nations like China and Russia.  As long as a United States exists, they must fear their own citizens asking why they don’t live in a country with our level of freedoms and opportunity.  They will do everything in their power to tear us down.  Where will human freedom and possibility live then?  Which nations or people will stand up to the power of technology-enabled tyranny?

And we see the seeds of this tyranny in our own country.  Freedom of thought, speech and action is gone on most of our college campuses; our large corporations and media companies are content to aid in the establishment of a narrow vision of political acceptability, so long as they continue to reap profits; insane mobs think that burning down cities and destroying people’s lives is a positive change, and our political leaders appear to have no convictions and no qualities of leadership in a crisis.

I believe deeply in the value of this country, because of what it is has done for its citizens and the world.  Whatever mistakes we have made are trivial beside the wanton disregard for humanity found in other systems of government; systems that have slaughtered tens of millions in Russia, China and other countries and terrorized into submission the populations under those governments.  If we don’t pull ourselves together and get a grip on reality, we are headed for an incompetently ideological government, like those in most of our major cities, that only can succeed in making people’s lives worse and worse; followed by a backlash of unspecified nature.

We need to use this Fourth of July to remind ourselves of the magnificent ideal on which this country was founded and be grateful that we live under a government that has given most of us the realization of that ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that strives to continually improve all of our lives.

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