Note: I posted this on my Facebook page on July 4, 2016. I neglected to post it here, but I would like to give this message a greater permanence than a passing comment on social media. Here was my message:
I AM TAKING THIS MOMENT to remember and honor what too many have
forgotten: the idea that makes America unique in the history of the
world. That idea -- embedded in our founding documents and defended with
the blood of countless patriots -- is individualism. It is the moral
principle that the individual is an end in himself, and not a
sacrificial pawn of kings, dictators, legislative bodies, "majorities,"
or collective Society itself. And as a moral end -- not a mere means to
the ends of others -- the individual has inviolate rights to his own
life, and to the liberty to peacefully pursue his own happiness. Our
Declaration of Independence celebrated not just an independence of
colonies from another faraway country, but something far more profound:
the independence of the individual from the forcible interference of
others, no matter how great their number or "need."
That was the
revolutionary idea underlying the American Revolution. Never before in
the history of the world had that principle been recognized by any other
nation or group -- which is why the history of the world is one of
chronic, blood-soaked barbarism of man against man. The American
conception of individual rights created the original "safe space": a
moral barrier around each individual, a barrier against the force,
fraud, and coercion of his fellow man. It declared him to be sovereign
within that safe space, as long as he, in turn, did not use force,
fraud, or coercion against others.
This idea -- even grasped and
implemented imperfectly -- led to the creation of the greatest, most
prosperous, most progressive (and I mean that word in its literal sense)
society and economy in the history of the world. It created more
opportunities for more people, higher living standards, and -- yes --
greater happiness than any society anywhere, at any time. America became
a beacon of freedom and hope that beckoned to millions around the
world, millions who uprooted themselves, crossed vast oceans, and came
here with nothing in their pockets -- just for the chance to "make
something of themselves."
America was the home of the self-made
individual. It was a place where anyone could literally make and remake
himself, becoming whatever he wished, without interference. All because
of the principle upon which the nation was established: that the
individual was a moral end in himself.
Barbaric tribalism is the
default position of humanity. It is what happens quite automatically
when the sovereignty of individuals is not respected and enshrined into
law. Gang warfare is what happens when the social barrier to mutual
exploitation -- the principle of individual rights -- is obliterated.
If we are now seeing a horrific, headlong reversion to barbarism --
abroad and here -- it's because generations of "intellectuals," chafing
against legal limitations on their power over unruly individuals, have
declared all-out war on the philosophy of individualism at the heart of
the American project. They have looked at the achievements of
individuals and proclaimed "You didn't build that!" and that "It takes a
village," instead. They have glorified dictatorial philosophies and
praised the thugs that imposed them on their societies. They have
enabled, ignored, and rationalized inhuman savagery against millions of
individuals. They have obliterated the idea that the individual is a
moral end, in order to reduce him to a helpless means to their ends.
On this Independence Day, as we have fun with our friends, eat our hot
dogs, and enjoy our fireworks, can we please pause to remember (if we
were ever taught it) the true nature of the "independence" bequeathed to
us by our ancestors? Can we grasp, if only for a single fleeting, quiet
moment, the moral principle that made America distinctive, and then
great? Can we soberly re-dedicate ourselves to that principle, and --
following the example of those who spilt blood for it -- vow to weave it
anew into the fabric of our society and laws?
If you lack the
self-esteem to do that for yourself, then do it for your spouse, or your
kids. Or in memory of those heroes before us, who gave their lives,
their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that their ungrateful children
could enjoy lives better than their own.