How Democrats Are Fleeing Principles of the Declaration of Independence
By: LAWRENCE KUDLOW,
July 2, 2021
In the late spring of 1776, Thomas Jefferson was asked by the Continental Congress to produce a draft of what would become the Declaration of Independence. I believe the Declaration is not only the most important document in the English language. It is the most important document in world history.
Let me begin at the beginning. “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
And then the famous words. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable 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, — that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”
For the first time in history, Mr. Jefferson lays out the principle of the laws of nature and nature’s god. Independence is a natural right. That came from the revolutionary writer Thomas Paine. Then according to Jefferson the true revolutionary governing pecking order goes like this: First, the creator; second, the creator gives that power to the people; and third, it is the people who give the power to the government. That is, “the consent of the governed.”
President Biden however, has a different pecking order. As he said to a joint meeting of Congress, “It’s time we remember that we the people are the government, you and I.” That is completely counter to what the Founders believed.
The principal grievances of the revolutionary Founders against the despotism of George III were obstructing the rule of law and the administration of justice, cutting off trade with all parts of the world, imposing taxes on us without our consent, depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury, suspending our legislatures, preventing immigration, plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns, and destroying the lives of our people.
“Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people…”
So the Congress assembled and, the Declaration noted, “appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”
And then again, the famous words: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
To this let me add some words on the influence of Adam smith, the economic rock star of the times. He influenced the founders, particularly Benjamin Franklin, who met him, but also Jefferson and Adams and many others. Smith was the founder of free market economics.
It was no coincidence that his book, The Wealth of Nations, was published earlier in 1776 and argued for free markets, free enterprise, and individual initiative. He insisted on the rule of law and in his earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which was published in 1759, Smith essentially argued that his free market philosophy required people who were good citizens abiding by the law and behaving with strong character.
Smith wanted an economic system of minimal government restrictions. Be it trade, taxes, or commerce. This became the American idea. This is what the Founders established — for all to copy in future generations. This idea of minimalist government owing its power directly to consent of the people has been the American economic system for 250 years.
Even with glitches from time to time, it has made America the most prosperous nation in history. As historian J.G. Vassallo put it in an article about 20 years ago, “Adam Smith’s ideas were every bit as astounding as Jefferson’s. Because, while Jefferson believed that men were not made to live under tyranny, Smith declared that men were not made to live in poverty.”
Unfortunately, President Biden has departed from the Founders’ vision. Mr. Biden wants an economic system completely regulated by the state. Rather than individual initiative and enterprise he seeks entitlement and welfare. Rather than rewarding the climb to success, he seeks redistribution and equity.
Rather than Adam Smith’s vision of free markets that are blind to color, race, or sex, Mr. Biden has embraced the far-left, progressive idea of critical race theory, which ultimately would tear down our economic system and our country. In contrast to critical race theory, by the way, there is substantial evidence that the Declaration unleashed a massive wave of slavery abolition throughout Britain and the Continent.
Then there is taxing authority, in some sense the trigger for the American revolution that exploded in the Boston Tea Party against taxation without representation. Mr. Biden is surrendering American tax sovereignty to multilateral groups like the Group of Seven and Group of 20.
There is no Trumpian America First here. This surrender of sovereignty also includes the Paris climate accords that would strengthen our enemies and Russia, China, and Iran, rather than protect our workforce and prosperity here at home.
So this is a time to cherish the revolutionary principles of our Founders. We are opposed to Mr. Biden’s sprint in the opposite direction. We’re fighting for free enterprise and freedom and democracy. Not statism or authoritarianism or worse.
The Founders had it right. Our job is to work tirelessly to bring their revolutionary principles back into the mainstream. Because that’s what will make America work.