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InsiderOnline Blog: July 2010

Thoughts for the Fourth

In this fourth installment of our series highlighting the thoughts of conservative and libertarian leaders on American Independence and the Founding, we asked: On July 4, what thoughts do you share with your own family about America? (This series will continue until July 4.)

Eric O’Keefe, Chairman of the Sam Adams Alliance: America was created by ordinary people who worked and prospered on the edge of the North American wilderness. When the British government began taxing the colonists and claiming unlimited authority to rule them, the patriots organized to defend their existing liberties. Thomas Jefferson wrote this about the Declaration of Independence: “[I]t was intended to be an expression of the American mind …” Today’s tea party leaders are following in the footsteps of the early patriots, and demanding the government return to its proper role of protecting liberty.

Joseph G. Lehman, President of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy: Independence Day is the year’s greatest opportunity to help my family understand the work we do in the freedom movement and why it is important. Unlike life on the farm where I grew up, my work day typically produces a less tangible harvest. A farmer can tell if he’s plowed the ground on any given day, but it’s harder for a think tank guy to tell if he gained any ground for freedom.

So I’ve explained to perplexed parents, brother and sisters, extended family, and especially my wife and children how think tanks and their ideas shift public policy that affects us all. In so doing I’ve explained the linkage between intangible ideas and the very tangible blessings of liberty that are so easy to take for granted.

Independence Day brings to the fore the ideas of liberty, the fruits of liberty, and the sacrifices necessary to secure liberty. My favorite way to capture my organization’s devotion to the lofty ideals embodied in The Founding is something penned by my late friend and colleague, Joe Overton.

Joe wanted his staff to commemorate Independence Day the way he did, so he added this to our employee policy on holidays: “All staff are encouraged to celebrate Independence Day with passion and verve, remembering it as the signatory day of a document embodying the most sublime of political ideals, an apogee in mankind’s quest for liberty of thought and action, the restoration of which is the vision of our organization.”

Joe’s words have grown ever more sweet and meaningful since his passing seven years ago this week. Many of my colleagues and I share his words with our families every July 4th to enliven our spirits, remember the fallen, and arouse our gratitude for God’s good gifts.

Lawrence W. Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education: Patriotism is not blind trust in anything our leaders tell us. Patriotism is not picnics, fireworks, or a day off work. Patriotism is not simply waving the flag or showing up to vote. The patriotism that we should feel every day of the year, not just on the 4th of July, is a love of what our Founders gave us at great sacrifice and a firm resolve to restore and protect it at all costs.

Paul Jacob, President of Citizens in Charge: The most important thing to remember about the Founding and the Founders is that they didn’t get everything right, they weren’t perfect, and they would be the first to admit it. Their goal in drafting the Constitution was not to create a document that would never be changed, but one that would grow and adapt. Jefferson spoke of the absurdity of blocking change by suggesting how silly it would look for a man to have to wear the same small coat he wore as a boy.

What conservatives and libertarians rightly object to is not changes to the Constitution, but government acting outside and against the very clear parameters of our fundamental law, without bothering to amend it. It seems today that many of the changes we would like to make—term limits come to mind—are ruled to require a constitutional change, while a massive expansion of government commences without any constitutional basis.

I once gave my kids and nieces and nephews a copy of the Constitution with a note that said, “If you want to make any changes, just let me know.” First, I figured they’d be more interested in a document that was alive and could be changed, and second, I wanted them to know that this was their personal contract with government.

Some say they Constitution is alive when judges dream up wording that isn’t found in the document. I think it is alive when people read it and work to make it a true and binding contract between ‘We the People’ and our government.

Posted on 07/01/10 02:28 PM by Alex Adrianson

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