4th of July and the Nature of Independence
  • Ama-gi: Sumerian symbol which many believe to be the first written expression of liberty.



    Independence is autonomy. It’s the freedom to govern yourself and to rely upon your own independent judgment.

    Independence is freedom.

    But what, finally, is freedom?

    Freedom, in its most fundamental form, really has only one meaning: it is the omission of force.

    Freedom is the absence of compulsion.

    It simply means that you are left alone.

    The thing that distinguishes the free person from the unfree person is voluntary action versus action that is compelled.

    Freedom is one of those things that virtually everyone believes in — that is, until everyone finds out what freedom actually means. And then almost no one believes in it.

    The hard thing for people to accept about freedom is that it doesn’t actually guarantee much of anything. It doesn’t guarantee success or happiness, or shelter, or a certain income, or food, or healthcare, or a level playing field or a level training field, or anything else that must ultimately derive from the production or labor of others. Freedom means only that you are free to pursue these things and that if you achieve them, they are yours unalienably, which in turns means: they cannot be taken, transferred, revoked, or made alien.

    “The legitimate functions of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). Here, he’s speaking of — and against — the initiation of force.

    Around the same time Thomas Jefferson was writing those words, another erudite fellow, a German named Wilhelm von Humboldt, independently came to much the same conclusion:

    “Any state interference into private affairs, where there is no reference to violence done to individual rights, should be absolutely condemned” (The Limits of State Action, 1791).

    That — the absence of violence, the omission of force — is finally what Independence Day is all about.

    Happy 4th of July.






About The Author

The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • priya 07.03.2014

    I enjoyed reading this muchly. It left earworms, take-aways, and I leaned into it. I just love words that are in vogue. And so what about oppression? I find too many rules oppressive. People follow each one, break them all, run away, or sit in a dither, not knowing what to do…not even knowing all of them or which ones they followed and which ones they broke…or wished they had. In any form, it’s so exhausting and leaves no space for thinking, only reacting. I do agree with you that freedom is the absence of compulsion. But then compulsion is a whole entire topic. I felt compelled to write this and was free to do so at the same time. The Jefferson quote is apt as well. He is also credited as having stated “When people fear the government, there is tyranny. But when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Maybe he did say this, maybe not. So many quotes are attributed to him, Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and the Buddha. I hope you had a wonderful 4th and that your contest ends well. I was free to enter I know, but did not feel so compelled.

  • Hi Priya. It’s very good to see you here.

    Thank you for the lovely comment, and thank you for the 4th of July wishes. I hope you had a wonderful 4th as well.

    Thank you for dropping by.

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