July 04, 2003

The Declaration of Independence

Old Glory

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.

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 effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great- Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of the Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: 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.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, 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 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.

John Hancock.
GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton.
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr., Thomas Lynch, junr., Arthur Middleton.
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross.
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark.
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, C. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.

Posted by DeLong at July 4, 2003 11:59 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Da*m, that Tom Jefferson could write! Every time I read that I want to add "Amen."

Posted by: Lois Fundis on July 3, 2003 10:00 PM

To their credit, a significant percentage of the American colonists at the time recognised the Declaration of Independence was a mistake: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/H/1994/ch3_p14.htm

he he

Posted by: Bob Briant on July 3, 2003 10:25 PM


I don't know, it sounds shrill to me...

Posted by: Chris on July 3, 2003 11:30 PM

Chris, I don't think you are taking this sufficiently seriously. The Boston Tea Party in 1773, which seems to have started the whole calamitous course of events leading to the Declaration of Independence, was clearly a terrorist act.

By several accounts, the combatants who perpetrated that were disguised as native Americans, presumably intending to mislead the sailors on the boarded merchant ships, and therefore the legitimate territorial authorities of the colonies, into blaming innocent parties. That was entirely contrary to all the traditional coventions of war at the time, even had there been properly a declared state of war. Such action in violation of property rights and against the properly constituted authorities should be unreservedly disowned and the status quo ante fully restored.

Posted by: Bob on July 4, 2003 01:42 AM

Lame excuses for treason. Hang 'em all.

Posted by: PJ on July 4, 2003 01:54 AM

Without wishing to seem overly pedantic about this, it appears that up to 1870 the full sentence for High Treason was hanging drawing and quartering except for women, who were burned at the stake instead - see: http://www.richard.clark32.btinternet.co.uk/hdq.html

Posted by: Bob on July 4, 2003 04:15 AM

I'm not even American, I'm Canadian. But damn if:

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 effect their Safety and Happiness.

isn't the perfect statement of democracy. We all bash you guys, but it's a great country, and the world owes you a lot for that sentence. Best from Canada on your holiday.

Posted by: Andrew Edwards on July 4, 2003 04:59 AM

Bob, not to sound pedantic, but the penalty for treason for women was not burning at the stake. Rather, it was hanging, followed by a ritualistic burning of the corpse (which was still very gruesome and horrific, obviously).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct on July 4, 2003 05:13 AM

Sounds like something out of the Weather Underground. You sure Tom Hayden didn't write that? I bet you got it off a telephone pole in Berkeley or something. You can't fool me.

Posted by: vachon on July 4, 2003 06:30 AM

[quote]
FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:
[/quote]

I had always wondered about the above section and discovered many historians believe it to be a reference to the Quebec Act of 1774 which provided the basis for bringing French Civil Code to Quebec, a system of civil law distinct from English Common Law. It also protected the rights of Catholics as well as the French language and culture. Hardly the worst thing old George the Third ever did.

Posted by: Patrick Taylor on July 4, 2003 06:38 AM

Old George must have been fighting terrorism in Iraq, cause some of these sound mighty familiar:


HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

....

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

Posted by: huxley on July 4, 2003 06:46 AM

Breathtaking, isn't it.

Posted by: julia on July 4, 2003 07:43 AM

"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

This immortal statement appeared in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, it means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live and to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, made at the time of the French Revolution, in 1791, also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights."

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

Politically, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three different political regimes in the North, the Centre and the South of Viet Nam in order to wreck our country's oneness and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood.

They have lettered public opinion and practised obscurantism.

They have weakened our race with opium and alcohol. In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution and devastated our land.

They have rubbed us of our ricefields, our mines, our forests and our natural resources. They have monopolized the issue of bank-notes and the import and export trade.

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to extreme poverty. They have made it impossible for our national bourgeoisie to prosper; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists invaded Indochina to establish new bases against the Allies, the French colonialists went down on their bended knees and opened the door of our country to welcome the Japanese in.

Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation.

On the 9th of March this year, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrended, showing that not only were they incapable of "protecting" us, but that, in a period of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

Before the 9th of March, how often the Viet Minh had urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese! But instead of this proposal, the French colonialists only intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh. After their defeat and before fleeting, they massacred the political prisoners detained at Yen Bai and Cao Bang.

In spite of all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested a lenient and humane attitude towards the French. After the Japanese putsch of March 9, 1945, the Viet Minh helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued others from Japanese jails and protected French lives and property. In fact, since the autumn of 1940, our country had ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, our entire people rose to gain power and founded the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam.

The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese, not from the French.

The French have fled, the Japanese have capitualted, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Viet Nam. At the same time they have overthrown the centuries-old monarchic regime and established a democratic republican regime.

We, the Provisional Government of the new Viet Nam, republic resenting the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Viet Nam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.

The entire Vietnamese people are of one mind in their determination to oppose all wicked schemes by the French colonialists.

We are convinced that the Allies, which at the Teheran and San Francisco Conferences uphold the principle of equality among the nations, cannot fail to recognize the right of the Vietnamese people to independence.

A people who have courageously opposed French enslavement for more than eighty years, a people who have resolutely sided with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free, such a people must be independent.

For these reasons, we, the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, solemnly make this declaration to the world:

Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Read on September 2, 1945 by President Ho Chi Minh at a meeting of half a million people in Ba Dinh square (Hanoi)

Posted by: dsquared on July 4, 2003 07:51 AM

Bob: Yes, you're right, my apologies. Hanging is way too good for them. Perhaps we could also consider boiling in oil, breaking on the wheel or crucifixion?

Patrick: "It also protected the rights of Catholics as well as the French language and culture. Hardly the worst thing old George the Third ever did." Just about all the treasonable excuses listed in the Declaration of Independence are either grossly exaggerated or plain rubbish. So was American reporting of most of the incidents leading up to the War of 1000 Traitors. The United States was founded on a pack of lies, which covered up the fact that, to quote Dazed and Confused, "a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males ... didn't want to pay their taxes". The "all men are created equal..." must have seemed a hollow joke, not merely to the black slaves, but also to the Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during the Second World War, or the American Indians for whom the outcome of the War was so disastrous. Not that I'm anti-American - it's a great country to drive around. But the shameless hypocries who wrote the Dec of Ind besmirch the country, no matter how fine the prose.

Posted by: PJ on July 4, 2003 08:01 AM

hyprocries=hypocrites

Oh, by the way, I'd spare Sam Adams from my sentence, as he makes such damn fine beer!

Posted by: PJ on July 4, 2003 08:04 AM

The United States was born in hope, surprisingly hope for all beyond lines of class or ethnicity. WEB Du Bois wrote in 1904, that in the wake of the hope born in the United States there came grudging growing respect for the individual. I beleive this.

WEB Du Bois was among the first Doctorates at Harvard University and the first African-American Doctorate. "Souls of Black Folk" rings with hopefulness for the ideals of this country even at a time of full understanding of the fierce struggle ahead.

Posted by: anne on July 4, 2003 08:39 AM

I suspect the xenophobic and Catholic-bashing allusions in the Canada Act references are just early examples of politicans 'playing to their base'.

Plus ca change and all that....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 4, 2003 09:28 AM

William Floyd of New York is my ancestor!

Posted by: Bobby on July 4, 2003 11:50 AM

Greatest libertarian document of all time. ;-)

A bit too much, in the list of grievances, though. ;-) Nobody like whiners. :-)

It will be great as the U.S. and the rest of the world steers towards those ideals in the coming decades. :-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 4, 2003 01:02 PM

Greatest libertarian document of all time. ;-)

A bit too much, in the list of grievances, though. ;-) Nobody like whiners. :-)

It will be great as the U.S. and the rest of the world steers towards those ideals in the coming decades. :-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 4, 2003 01:02 PM

"Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence."

Freedom House currently ranks Vietnam as a pair of 7's...the absolute worst possible score, for both political and civil liberties freedoms:

http://www.freedomhouse.org/ratings/turk.htm

Further, Vietnam has NEVER had a ranking even equal to a pair of 6's, in it's entire history from 1976-1977 onward.

In terms of economic freedom, out of 156 countries ranked, Vietnam comes in at 135 (tied with Russia and Republic of Congo).

http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/

So if Ho Chi Minh ever gave a d@mn about the freedom of individual Vietnamese citizens (I have doubts whether he did), he must be spinning in his grave.

In contrast, Thomas Jefferson should be resting easy, as the level of freedom of U.S. citizens is among the highest in the world.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 4, 2003 01:32 PM

I am sure that the writers of the statement will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by the FBI under the new USA Patriot act. After all, we're at war now, and we can't have any dissent. Like Ari says, you better watch what you do, you better watch what you say. Because if you're not with us then you are supporting the terrorists.

Posted by: non economist on July 4, 2003 02:17 PM

Interesting comments. Being historically ignorant, I'm not sure what to make of the Declaration. It reads to me as a call to action, trying to convince the masses that they should be outraged.I would guess the average person didn't really give a damn, and yet would be asked to pay the highest price for the proposed fight.

But I wonder, who was the audience for this document? Was it to be shoved in the face of the King? Was it to inspire the common folk?

It doesn't make a strong case to me. Just when isn't a rebellion justified? They are pretty vague on this, just that it shouldn't be undertaken lightly. When do grievances rise to the level of "insufferable?" The list of usurpations tries to establish their case, but it is just a list of complaints, not philosophical or legal justifications.

There is no context for the grievances - comparative, historical. There is no discussion of the Crown's position, why it should be invalid. Didn't they invest a lot of money in the colonies?

Anyway, to me, it looks like a cynical, manipulative piece of propaganda.

Which does not of course, change the fact that this is a great country, comparatively. Enormous freedom, economic abundance. Protection by law. It's great, and I'm thankful. I think that we should always demand more though.

Posted by: andrew on July 4, 2003 03:10 PM

Andrew:

"... this is a great country, comparatively. Enormous freedom ..."

I've come across this idea that people have, that America has freedoms that no other country has, and I'm always baffled by it. What, exactly, is one free to do in America that one can't do in many other industrial democracies? Except possibly hate speech and owning a gun, I can't think of much. I can think, however, of many things that one can't do in America that one can do elsewhere. For example, an 18-year-old in many states can buy a gun but not a beer (beer is dangerous in the hands of 18-year-olds, you see). And in much of Europe and Japan, it is possible to live a reasonable life without driving, while in almost all of America, you can forget it. I don't ask this to poke fun, I'm genuinely puzzled as to why Americans always associate America with an unequalled amount of freedom.

Posted by: PJ on July 4, 2003 03:54 PM

Thank you, Andrew Edwards. Thanks very much.

Several of the rest of you: thank you too. The spirits of all the Americans who endured the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, are all no doubt glad to know that the U.S. prevailed in the Century of Tyranny, so that in 2003 A.D. it has a large quantity of critics who are free to flame it in any way they like. Thanks for giving them a cheerful laugh. No, really.

Posted by: Erich Schwarz on July 4, 2003 04:00 PM

Yes, god how awful. If we had lost the revolution we might have ended up like Canada or Australia. A fate worse than death...

Posted by: non economist on July 4, 2003 04:56 PM

hehe "Button Gwinnet" hehe

Posted by: Michael on July 4, 2003 05:54 PM

hehe "Button Gwinnet" hehe

Posted by: Michael on July 4, 2003 05:56 PM

I'm not sure what your point about driving is. Basically, America is a large country and so geographically speaking there are many places you can't get around without a car. The same thing is true of (say) Canada. However, there are many American cities (SF, DC, Philadelphia, New York) where you can get on just fine without a car. The difference is that America has a lot of areas where it's not practical as well. Moreover, there are tradeoffs to living in a car-free environment. For my part, I see the option to live in an environment where cars are necessity as a form of freedom, not the contrary.

As for whether the US is more or less free than other countries, certainly the US is vastly more free than pretty much all but the Western democracies, so we're already in the top rank.

Whether the US is more free than the other Western democracies depends, I suppose, on what you value. It's clear that you don't value gun ownership or hate speech highly, but many Americans do. The fact that Germany, for instance, feels it appropriate to ban certain kinds of political speech (objectionable though I find those forms) is something that many Americans perceive as a lack of freedom. Similarly, the French restrictions on economic behavior strike many Americans as oppressive.

Posted by: Eric Rescorla on July 4, 2003 05:58 PM

"Whether the US is more free than the other Western democracies depends, I suppose, on what you value."

Yep, and you can't say "Sh@t!" on TV in the US whereas in Japan, pubic hair is baned even from porn magazines.

"The fact that Germany, for instance, feels it appropriate to ban certain kinds of political speech (objectionable though I find those forms) is something that many Americans perceive as a lack of freedom."

Surely we don't need this kind of law in a country where voting for anything else than one of the two main parties is basically an act of political suicide.

"Similarly, the French restrictions on economic behavior strike many Americans as oppressive."

I am always surprised to read such broad and bold statements about what (many / most / the) Americans think in a country as diverse as the US... If you want to know what Americans think about something, well ask them (it's called a poll), but let me warn you: you're in for a few surprises. (I guess in a poll, it's uncommon to turn out voters just to get the answer you want, or is it?)

Anyway, the fireworks were awesome in Boston.
Long live Freedom!

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on July 4, 2003 09:54 PM

"Surely we don't need this kind of law in a country where voting for anything else than one of the two main parties is basically an act of political suicide."

That's right. We Americans have *both* unlimited free speech *and* a political system that can actually withstand unlimited free speech without going Fascist.

And that is our FAULT because ....... ?

Can we just agree on "Long live Freedom" and leave it at that, sir?

Posted by: Erich Schwarz on July 5, 2003 12:08 AM

Eric R:

"The same thing is true of (say) Canada. However, there are many American cities (SF, DC, Philadelphia, New York) where you can get on just fine without a car."

Many? Ten at most. I'd add Boston, Portland, Seattle and Chicago to your list, and take off SF, unless you mean just the City, and not the wider Bay Area. There are thousands of cities in the United States. Phoenix, AZ or Atlanta are cities where to be without a car basically impossible.

"For my part, I see the option to live in an environment where cars are necessity as a form of freedom, not the contrary."

If you were blind, under 16, had lost your licence or simply didn't like to drive, you would of course think differently. You're the first person I've ever met who would AVOID an area with good public transport merely because you don't need a car rather than the opposite. I like travelling around America and living in American cities, but my enjoyment is reduced rather than increased because you generally can't get around without a car.

Erich Schwarz - do you really think you can predict how the world would be in 2003 if the American Revolution of 1776 hadn't taken place? If the American states had remained part of the British Empire, would the free world have lost the First or Second World War? Who knows?

Finally, a trivial point. Those who go into raptures about Tom Jefferson's drafting should perhaps read the following sentence as he first drafted it:

"We hold these truths to be scared & undeniable; that all men are created euqal and independant, that from that equal creation, they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness." (Quoted in Bill Bryson, Made in America)

Less rhythmic imho. Not to decry Jefferson unnecessarily, but we must give Congress and the Committee of Five their respective dues.

Posted by: PJ on July 5, 2003 05:31 AM

scared=sacred of course

Posted by: PJ on July 5, 2003 05:34 AM

I was refering purely to SF proper. Obviously you can't get by without a car in the South Bay.

I think you misunderstood my comments, though. My point wasn't that I'd prefer not to have decent public transit but rather that public transit only works well in certain kinds of environments--namely ones where things are pretty close together. Lots of people would prefer to live in suburban situations where large-scale public transit is less feasible. That's the tradeoff I was referring to.

Posted by: Eric Rescorla on July 5, 2003 08:01 AM

To go from freedoms to public transport is quite a jump. In reality its the combination of rights that United States has that other countries lack.

Want to publish something bad about the President? Better not live in France.

Want to defend yourself from a physical attack? Better not live in England.

Want to say something not PC? Better not live in Canada.

Its the combination of freedoms that make the United States unique. Other western contires, and some eastern ones, have a wide variety of freedoms. It comes down to what you consider important and how its protected.

Posted by: james on July 5, 2003 09:02 AM

" * Read on September 2, 1945 by President Ho Chi Minh at a meeting of half a million people in Ba Dinh square (Hanoi)"

Posted by dsquared at July 4, 2003 07:51 AM

Not that you're any kind of "political hack", eh?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 5, 2003 10:38 AM

"To go from freedoms to public transport is quite a jump."

A good public transport is a great "elevator" of freedom, since it allows for a more efficient allocation of scarce ressources.

"In reality its the combination of rights that United States has that other countries lack."

Oh, yeah...

"Want to publish something bad about the President? Better not live in France."

What would happen?

"Want to defend yourself from a physical attack? Better not live in England."

From the Independent:
Firearm-related deaths (in 2000)

United States: 30,419 (11.3 per 100,000)
England and Wales: 159 (0.3 per 100,000)

By the way, we have guns, even the British. Simply we are not as obsessed as in the USA. From the same source:

Gun ownership per 100 inhabitants
United States: 83-96
European Union: 17.4
United Kingdom: 10


"Want to say something not PC? Better not live in Canada."

I do not know enough about Canada to contest that, I let the Canadian speak for themselves.

"Its the combination of freedoms that make the United States unique. Other western contires, and some eastern ones, have a wide variety of freedoms. It comes down to what you consider important and how its protected."

Unique, not optimal.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 5, 2003 10:51 AM

"Manly Firmness" heh heh

(can anyone explain what it meant then?)

Posted by: arthur on July 5, 2003 11:13 AM

Curious, after all the time we spend in Europe, I always thought there was all sorts of freedom in England and Ireland and France and the Netherlands and [imagine] Germany. Never felt at all unfree in Europe, though perhaps Denmark is the problem and we missed it. Duh.

Posted by: dahl on July 5, 2003 11:38 AM

Eric R

"Lots of people would prefer to live in suburban situations where large-scale public transit is less feasible. "

Sorry to go on about this point (I admit it's not really relevant to the Declaration of Independence), but it is something that affects the quality of life of hundreds of millions in the developed world and is a personal bee in my bonnet. In the suburbs of big European and Japanese cities, you can usually get by without a car (look at the reach of the London or Paris metros), while in American suburbs you can't. In rural areas anywhere, you pretty much need a car. In cities everywhere, you can often (though not always) get around without a car. But it's the suburbs where the difference is. This is not necessarily the case. Los Angeles is often held up as the ultimate car city, but in fact it sprawls in the way it does because of its turn-of-the-century mass transit system, which was bought up and systematically ruined by General Motors and others (they were convicted and fined for doing so). Decent public transport is possible in more-or-less any suburban situation, but it requires subsidies and political will. Suburban Americans often prefer to have low local and state taxes (or spend the dollars on more and more prisons) and drive huge SUVs, though it sentences soccer moms to decades of ferrying kids around. That's their right of course, but I think they're mistaken.

James:

"Want to defend yourself from a physical attack? Better not live in England."

You are allowed to use proportionate force in defending yourself from physical attack in England, according to my brother who is studying British law. You can't shoot somebody for being on your property uninvited, like I understand you can in Texas, but is that entirely a bad thing? The Japanese tourist who was shot (dead?) a few years back when he was about to ask the way from a house would probably say no. HIS freedom had definitely been violated.

"Want to say something not PC? Better not live in Canada. "

I've actually felt I had to watch my (conservative) mouth more at UCLA and Berkeley than amongst generally easy-going and tolerant Canadians.

"Want to publish something bad about the President? Better not live in France."

Read Liberation, which rarely had a good word to say about Chirac until he opposed Bush. Or ask the magistrates who have investigated him for being corrupt. Or Le Pen who hates Chirac and isn't shy about saying so. Of course you can say bad things about the President in France (though the row about the Dixie Chicks and what they said in London made me wonder if you could do so in America).

Posted by: PJ on July 5, 2003 01:03 PM

non economist writes:
Yes, god how awful. If we had lost the revolution we might have ended up like Canada or Australia. A fate worse than death...

That brings up a possibly contentious point for discussion. How do you think Canada or Australia might have ended up had the 13 Colonies lost the war? Particularly since Australia became a dumping ground for Britain's unwanted only after the Revolution removed North America from the lsit of available destinations.

Personally, I think that CAnada and Australia got such good deals from the British Government due to a strong desire on Britain's part not to go through anything like the AWI ever again.


Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 5, 2003 03:26 PM

"Personally, I think that CAnada and Australia got such good deals from the British Government due to a strong desire on Britain's part not to go through anything like the AWI ever again."

Absolute hogwash. In the end all the (white) british colonies ended up getting treated about equally, and it had nothing to do with the US. In fact, a little bit of history reading that I have done showed that the Brits were not all that interested in putting up with a big guerrilla war in the states when they were much more attuned to European affairs at the time. Basically if they had REALLY wanted to they could have quashed our puny revolution, but they tried to do it half-heartedly.

The fact that it succeeded, though, may have sprung into effect such things as the French 'revolution', etc., as well as blazed the trails for other countries to do things a bit better. With all of the inefficiencies and inconsistencies deliberately (and unknowingly) built into the US Constitution, it is really starting to show its age (it is after all the oldest in the world). Just look at Florida in 2000, not to mention the inherent injustice of our senate having 2 senators from each state.


And having just got back from 3 years in Brazil I can tell you that de facto, if not de jure, one has a lot more personal freedom in just about every sense in most latin american countries, especially Brazil, Argentina, Chile, etc., which are now democracies. Our new 'patriotism' smells to me like old fascism, and I now see a country less free today than 3 years ago.

Posted by: non economist on July 5, 2003 03:53 PM

"Absolute hogwash. In the end all the (white) british colonies ended up getting treated about equally, and it had nothing to do with the US."

Is it, now? Based on my own studies of the subject, the apparent consensus among British historians is that the AWI was a very traumatic experience that the BritGov very much wished to avoid repeating.

"In fact, a little bit of history reading that I have done showed that the Brits were not all that interested in putting up with a big guerrilla war in the states when they were much more attuned to European affairs at the time. Basically if they had REALLY wanted to they could have quashed our puny revolution, but they tried to do it half-heartedly."

Half heartedly? Indeed? The sheer size, scale and expense of the effort put into the AWI by the British was not at all half-hearted. Loss of the Thirteen Colonies would be a crippling blow the the British Empire, the British Government knew it, and strained every sinew to keep them. The power sent was not nearly the power that could have been mustered, but that was due to the fact that the British had allowed the power built up at the conclusion of the Seven Years War to decline, and by the time they had ramped up again, France, Spain and The Netherlands had invited themselves to the party. The European affairs you refer to were nothing less than a full-blown world war - sparked by the AWI.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 5, 2003 05:05 PM

It's been a while since I've been to Europe, but I think there's a real difference in scale here. Let's take the SF Bay Area for example. San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, and San Jose sit in what's roughly a rectangly, 50 miles by 15 miles, and another it's pretty much populated and suburban all the way. The entire Paris Metro system has 124 miles of track. It's not at all clear mass transit is economical in this case.

As for the argument that Americans chose to have lower taxes and drive cars. Sure. I'd call that freedom.

Posted by: Eric Rescorla on July 5, 2003 06:42 PM

Jean-Philippe,

You write:
"Surely we don't need this kind of law in a country where voting for anything else than one of the two main parties is basically an act of political suicide."

I'm sorry, I don't see your point. I was referring to the fact that it's illegal to sell Nazi material in Germany. That seems to me to be a significant infringement of people's freedom. People do in fact get punished for this kind of thing (see, for instance, the recent case in Canada). I don't see what the two-party system has to do with this at all.

"I am always surprised to read such broad and bold statements about what (many / most / the) Americans think in a country as diverse as the US... If you want to know what Americans think about something, well ask them (it's called a poll), but let me warn you: you're in for a few surprises. (I guess in a poll, it's uncommon to turn out voters just to get the answer you want, or is it?)"

I don't see what your point is here. Americans have had any number of opportunities to vote for the kind of economic restrictions that France has, and they vote against them. I think it's pretty reasonable to draw from that the conclusion that many think they are oppressive. Note, I didn't say most. But if there wasn't a substantial fraction who thought that they were a bad idea, then such laws would get traction.

Posted by: Eric Rescorla on July 5, 2003 08:09 PM

Publishing bad items about the French President is punishable by a fine of around 3,000 euros.

concerning self defense in Britian:

"In 1987, two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, ''My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life.'' In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon."

"In August 1999, Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two professional burglars burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before but, like 70 percent of rural English villages, his had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and 12 months for having an illegal shotgun."

"In 1994, an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house, while he called the police. When the officers arrived they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to put someone in fear. Parliament is now considering making imitation guns illegal."

http://216.239.37.100/search?q=cache:3OeY9hOWpAoJ:www.allsafedefense.com/news/International/Brit%2520Crime%2520Myth.htm+British+man+arrested+self+defense&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

A Dutch and a British colleague who live and work in the UK also have this impression.

Canada speech laws

""The government is going in the wrong direction," said Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "It should be repealing, or at least narrowing, the anti-hate legislation. It's already too broad an enactment."
The proposals continue a trend of eroding Canadian civil liberties, Borovoy said. "Ever since the government embarked on a course of trying to outlaw expressions of hatred, it's shown that there is a slippery slope. One thing has led to another.""

http://216.239.39.104/search?q=cache:c1sVV5QaXY8J:www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/16525.html%3Fwnpg%3D1+canada+hate+speech+laws&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

"December 17-19 -- Most unsettling thing we've heard about Canada in a while. We knew political correctness held great sway in the public life of our northern neighbor, but didn't realize the following: "Canada's most powerful tool against politically incorrect speech is its hate speech code, which prohibits any statement that is 'likely to expose a person or group of persons to hatred or contempt' because of 'race, color, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age.' Prosecutors are not required to show proof of malicious intent or actual harm to win convictions in hate speech cases, and courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that it does not matter whether the statements are truthful." (Steven Pearlstein, "In Canada, Free Speech Has Its Restrictions: Government Limits Discourse That Some May Find Offensive", Washington Post, Dec. 12, link now dead) "

http://overlawyered.com/archives/99dec2.html#991217e

Posted by: James on July 6, 2003 01:26 AM

What law says that saying bad thing of the french president is fined with 3000?

As for the UK way to handle crime, even if eroded since Thatcher, it is still more than 30 times better than the USA way. For the same population, if in Britain there was a murder in a month, in the USA there be one every day of that same month.

As for the anti-Canada rants, well, Canadian can migrate to the USA, they'd find a better climate, until their untimely demise that is.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 6, 2003 03:32 AM

When we cross the border to Canada, [not yet to stock up on prescribed drugs at reasonable prices], we are terrified absolutely terrified lest we say the wrong thing about someone's ethnicity and wind up in the fierce Canadian gulag. Whooo. Whooo.

There are them who are too comic for proper parody.

Posted by: emma on July 6, 2003 09:31 AM

Whew. Back from London. Imagine, twelve days wandering the city and we were only mugged six times. Thought it would be much worse, with us not packing heat.

Cheerio.

Posted by: lise on July 6, 2003 09:40 AM

" Los Angeles is often held up as the ultimate car city, but in fact it sprawls in the way it does because of its turn-of-the-century mass transit system, which was bought up and systematically ruined by General Motors and others (they were convicted and fined for doing so)."

Oh boy, even Semi-Daily Journal is not immune to urban legends propagated by movie cartoons!

Los Angeles lost its trolley cars for the same reason virtually every city did; better methods came around. Remember the reason rails were put down on city streets in the first place: It made it easier for the horses to pull the cars. All GM did was sell busses that IMPROVED public transit.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 6, 2003 10:06 AM

Lots of people would prefer to live in suburban situations where large-scale public transit is less feasible. "

"Sorry to go on about this point (I admit it's not really relevant to the Declaration of Independence), but it is something that affects the quality of life of hundreds of millions in the developed world and is a personal bee in my bonnet."

Yes, let's not go on about this! The "freedom" to ride in public transportation certainly wasn't considered by the author and editors of the Declaration of Independence.

But, before leaving the subject, I have some predictions:

1) Within 20 years, there will be a production automobile built without a steering wheel. Verbal instructions like, "Home," and "work" and "the soccer field" will be how the electronic brain knows where the car's occupants want to go. The front seat will face the back seat for easier conversation.

2) Within 30 years, no production cars will be built with steering wheels. And in the year 2033, with the U.S. population at...350 million?...there will be fewer than 1000 traffic fatalities; this despite the fact rush hour traffic will proceed at 70 mph, with less than 10 feet separating each car.

3) If you are under 25, your grandchildren will never learn how to drive.

All of these things will be done largely as the result of microprocessor controls and GPS navigation systems (accurate to within centimeters). Both microprocessors and GPS have been substantially developed in the U.S. Just like the automobile assembly line.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 6, 2003 10:16 AM

"...All of these things will be done largely as the result of microprocessor controls and GPS navigation systems (accurate to within centimeters). Both microprocessors and GPS have been substantially developed in the U.S. Just like the automobile assembly line."

There is also the development of computer vision. In a test done in Italy a few years ago they had a car going on a pentium 200, two standard video cameras(webcam type), and Linux as OS. I think it was reported on Linux Journal. One of the few cases thay had to manual drive was at tollbooth.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 6, 2003 11:04 AM

Linux Journal link about self-driven car:

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=3282

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 6, 2003 12:40 PM

Avoiding the automotive side-track, I've always said to myself that if I ever end up teaching composition 101 or C-18 For Dummies or some similar purgatory in a US college, I'll start off with a dissection of that particular piece of prose. Not just for the wholesale (and rather clever) lifting of John Locke, but for the rhetorical tricks of anaphora and personification by which Fat Loonie George (not a bad king, by Hanoverian standards) is made responsible for all those horrid things.

You don't get much better polemic, let's say.

I'll also teach 'Taxation No Tyranny', too, I think ;)

"We are told, that the subjection of Americans may tend to the diminution of our own liberties; an event, which none but very perspicacious politicians are able to foresee. If slavery be thus fatally contagious, how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

http://www.samueljohnson.com/tnt.html

Sam Johnson knew how to sharpen words like knives.

Posted by: nick sweeney on July 6, 2003 01:08 PM

"" Los Angeles is often held up as the ultimate car city, but in fact it sprawls in the way it does because of its turn-of-the-century mass transit system, which was bought up and systematically ruined by General Motors and others (they were convicted and fined for doing so)."

Oh boy, even Semi-Daily Journal is not immune to urban legends propagated by movie cartoons!

Los Angeles lost its trolley cars for the same reason virtually every city did; better methods came around. Remember the reason rails were put down on city streets in the first place: It made it easier for the horses to pull the cars. All GM did was sell busses that IMPROVED public transit."

This is an out and out LIE! There was a court case where it was proved that there was collusion to buy up the efficient, fast trolley car lines and put them out of business by GM, Standard Oil, and Firestone tire, in order to sell more cars. Back in the 20s one could go from West LA to Downtown in 20 minutes along the trolley lines, anyone try to do that recently along Venice Blvd during the day? It never fails to amaze me how conservatives will go to any length to twist their perceptions of the world to suit their ideology.

Posted by: non economist on July 6, 2003 02:52 PM

As we veer way off-topic, from the Declaration of Independence to the LA trolley system, I have to agree fundamentally with Patrick Sullivan on this one. Non-Economist, the LA trolleys were already past their peak in th 1920s, and they were a pitiful shell, with ridership down by an order of magnitude, in the 1940s when the court cases occurred (with mixed verdicts).

Fundamentally, they did not operate well on streets with a lot of cars. That's why the (expensive) attempts to bring them back now use dedicated rights of way.

A pretty fair summary can be found at:

http://www.calendarlive.com/visitor/cl-me-then23mar23.story

Posted by: Curt Wilson on July 6, 2003 05:58 PM

" There was a court case where it was proved that there was collusion to buy up the efficient, fast trolley car lines and put them out of business by GM, Standard Oil, and Firestone tire, in order to sell more cars."

Oh gee, how shall I put it? "This is an out and out LIE! ", would be pretty accurate.

GM et al, were convicted in an anti-trust case in the late 1940s of monopolizing the sales of busses and supplies in 47 cities. Not of conspiring to destroy public transit "in order to sell more cars".

Ever hear of the free rider problem (in this case, literally)? Wouldn't Chrysler, Ford, Packard, Nash, Studebaker and on and on, have been able to undersell GM since they wouldn't have had to recover the costs of buying up the mass transit systems?

Not to mention that the trolleys were NOT efficient, they were not fast, they were not safe, they were not comfortable (no airconditioning). The new technology, the bus, was superior in all the above.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 7, 2003 07:29 AM

The url which Curtis Wilson provides, while it does succinctly explain the actual reasons for the demise of Los Angeles trolleys, contains this error of fact:

" The giant corporations with a stake in cars and buses were prosecuted half a century ago by the federal government for conspiring to deep-six the region's streetcars."

Not true. That was never the charge, only that they conspired to monopolize public transit, and to monopolize the sales of the necessary busses, tires, and fuel. As the article hints, the trolleys were being replaced by the superior busses long before GM et al entered into their exclusivity contracts. As the judge in the companion civil trial acidly noted (after writing that the "exclusivity" contracts between Nat'l City Lines and GM et al were in fact, legal):

"It has been litigated and decided that it is illegal to foreclose the sale of
buses, tires, and petroleum products used by forth-six local transportation
systems in forty-five cities and sixteen states. How much less would suffice
has not been here tried."

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 7, 2003 08:12 AM

I made the original reference to the Red Lines, and having read the source materials, I've come to revise my views somewhat. As Fletch once said, "It takes a great man to admit that he's wrong. And I am NOT a great man". Still, I think that it detracts only slightly from whatever argument I was making.

Posted by: PJ on July 7, 2003 09:37 AM

The Constitution was backed up by the Bill of Rights, and the Second Amendment put some teeth into that reinforcement. It's been an a target of politicians ever since, and the more so as the coming New World Order, with its promise of 'global governance', looms on the horizon.

There's an excellent article on the sources and goals of the drive for gun control, "GUN CONTROL AND THE NEW WORLD ARMY", at http://www.survivalistskills.com/nwa.htm

It was originally on the 'New World Order Intelligence Update' site at http://www.nwointelligence.com, but has now been re-archived, while that site is being re-constructed, together with:

'OPERATION GARDEN PLOT' at http://www.survivalistskills.com/GDNPLOT.HTM

'STATE DEPT DOC. 7277 - THE OFFICIAL PLAN TO DISARM AMERICANS' at http://www.survivalistskills.com/STAT7277.HTM

'THE PLANNED US AND CANADIAN CONCENTRATION CAMP AND DETENTION CENTRE PROGRAM'at http://www.survivalistskills.com/camps.htm and

'FEMA - AMERICA'S SHADOW GOVERNMENT' at http://www.survivalistskills.com/fema.htm

A substantial selection of other related 'New World Order Intelligence Update' articles has also been archived at http://www.rarehistorybooks.com/NWOLINKS.HTM

And for some really chilling foretastes of the total surveillance planned for Americans, see the recent news items added to the "DECEIVING AMERICA" page at http://www.survivalistskills.com/kgb.htm. We're now paying top KGB officers to improve surveillance of the average American citizen!

Posted by: John Whitley on July 13, 2003 06:55 AM
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