Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declaration of Independence

Today, of course, is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Instead of providing extensive commentary on the work, I recommend merely reading the document itself. I encourage you to read past the philosophical apologetic for independence down to the specific grievances listed by the signers. How many of them are true of our state in this day in which we live?

An interesting take on the legacy of the Declaration is given by Calvin Coolidge in his "Speech on the Occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence." Coolidge argues that the purpose of the Declaration and subsequent Constitution
. . .was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Those who are truly inclined to investigate the veracity of Coolidge's claim should consult Murray Rothbard's four volume Conceived in Liberty.

The essence of liberty as defined by the founders is the right to property. All of our other cherished liberties--freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom of speech--all derive from our being secure in our person and property. Let us not forget this fundamental fact on this day. 


  1. Nice blog. I just discovered it the other day.

    I agree with you concerning the importance of the right to property. But can true private land ownership really exist so long as property taxes are being levied against it? I would argue that as long as one is under obligation to pay a perpetual property tax on his land, to the point of threat of losing it if he ever finds he can't pay it, then he does not really own that land at all but is merely renting it from its proper owners--the state. This to me, is tyranny and a clear violation of our God-ordained right to private land ownership.

    From a biblical standpoint, I see zero justification for a property tax. Private property is a blessing given by God to the individual and family as an inheritance to be passed on from generation to generation. It is not something given to the state to then be mercifully rented out to the peons under it. Biblical Israel never instituted a property tax for this very reason.

    However, from what I understand, in the case of America, property taxes are as old as our Republic. If an individual cannot secure liberty to own land no matter where he goes, then how can he be free in either his person or property? And if a man is not free in his person or property, then he certainly can't be secure in any of the liberties derived therefrom.

    What do you think?

    1. Joel,

      You are right that property tax is a constraint on property. We are not full owners of our land, because if we do not pay property taxes, we can be fined and the land ultimately confiscated.

      Property rights can perhaps be best thought of as a bundle and not an all-or-nothing proposition. There is in fact a spectrum of property rights that people may legally have, from full blown socialism to full blown liberty. Ours is somewhere in the middle. The more regulations and the higher the taxes, the less control we have over our own property. The fewer regulations and lower taxes, the more right we have legally to control our own property.

      Although I am not an expert on American tax history, I suspect that they derived from the feudal quit rent system that was attempted early in the history of many American colonies.