Saturday, July 04, 2009

Individualism in America

[Speech given at the Asheville Independence Day Tea Party. Special thanks to John Lewis and Sylvia Bokor.]

America has not always existed. I don't mean so much America the nation, but America the idea.

For thousands of years, people lived in societies not as autonomous individuals with a right to live for their own sakes, but merely as members of 'the group,' 'the tribe,' or 'the state,' without individual worth outside their limited value to the collective. And they lived under the thumb of a dictator, a priesthood, or some ruling elite. And also without any political structure that would protect their natural individual rights – or to even acknowledge them in the first place. In a sense, they lived by permission and not by right.

Then came America's Founding Fathers. They did something unique in all of human history: they created a nation based on an idea. That was the idea called The Rights of Man.

The Founders saw each of us as endowed with unalienable rights; rights that may not be separated from our nature as autonomous beings. They envisioned a form of government based on the moral principle of man's right to live for his own sake. They shaped the world's first representative republic; a limited government whose sole task was to guard our freedom – making us the freest nation on earth. They gave us a Bill of Rights – the first explicit statement in history that acknowledged the individual's sovereignty and his rights. Broadly speaking, these unalienable rights are:
  1. The Right to Life; which is the right to live your own life, to choose your own goals, to define your own values, and preserve your own independent existence.
  2. The Right to Liberty; which is the right to act in order to achieve your goals, free from the coercion of others.
  3. The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness; which is the right to act in ways to achieve your own success, your own prosperity, and your happiness, not someone else's.
  4. The Right to Property; which is the right to gain, keep and enjoy the material products of your efforts.
In the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, the Founding Fathers made it quite clear when they said, "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted." At last, people were free to earn a living as they chose, free to pursue their own values, free to dispose of their own property as they saw fit, and free to live without government interference. At last, the individual was put in the driver's seat and the government took the back seat.

It is this political principle of man's individual rights that freed the slaves, liberated the poor, and ended the traditional subjugation of women. This is America's contribution to the rest of the world. And it is a contribution that we dishonor by abandoning the idea that fueled its influence: And that is the idea of Individualism.

My friends, for quite a long time now we have been witnessing a reversal of the Founder's ideal of a government that is subordinate to the individual and one that secures our rights, with its powers circumscribed to a small and limited sphere of action.

We have, in fact, seen a complete reversal of the idea that the government is the servant and the individual is the master. Now, it is we who are to serve the government in whatever way is determined to be “the greater good.” We have seen the principle of the sovereign individual turned on its head, where the government is now our master, deciding which rights will be protected and which rights will be violated, depending on who holds power. We have seen our Constitution virtually re-written and, in many cases, simply ignored, leaving us with no recourse to redress our grievances.

This is not a trend that has developed only this year – or even over the last eight years. No, for over a hundred years we have been gradually straying farther and farther away from the American ideal that the Founders worked so hard to craft.

Today, we are over-taxed in a growing multitude of ways; most egregiously, on our personal incomes. What is an income tax but a prior claim on the fruits of your labor? – a tax burden that presses productive achievers into involuntary servitude.

Today, we see businessmen and entrepreneurs, who have created the richest nation on earth, being persecuted, taken over, and ordered around by politicians. What else is the bailout-mania besides a government power grab?

Today, we hear demands that doctors and nurses be enslaved based on the erroneous notion of a “right to health care.” What else can a “right to health care” mean but a right to someone else's labor, property and innovations?

Today, we have a central bank issuing phantom money and credit, distorting the economy, and making every dollar in your pocket worth less and less every day. What else is inflation but a clever backdoor tax on you and your children?

Today, we see a greedy government that knows no bounds and views the individual as merely a means for achieving its own power-hungry ends.

Today, a Department of Homeland Security marks you down as a terrorist. Now you know how the Founding Fathers felt when they were targeted by the King of England.

But, my friends, we know better. There are those among us who remember what was intended when this country founded. And, my friends, this is not it!

Being the crusty Americans that we are, we know that there must surely be a limit to the suffocating growth of government. We know that there must surely be a limit to the destruction of our individual liberties. We know that there must surely be a limit to the abuses we are forced to quietly endure.

My fellow Tea Partyer's, there is a limit – and we have reached it. We have reached it! We have reached it!

For too long, our paternalistic government has been in the driver's seat. For too long, we have been riding down that dead-end road that leads to socialism. For too long, we have been the back-seat passenger crying out to deaf ears, "Are we there yet?"

It is time now for U-turn. It is now time that we reassert our moral status as sovereign, autonomous individuals. My friends, as we travel down the road to serfdom, now comes the time to kick the government out of the driver's seat and take back the wheel.

My fellow Tea Partyer's, I call on you to do what the Founding Fathers would have you do and that is, from this day forward, to put the individual American citizen back in the driver's seat.

[Music: "Driver's Seat" by Sniff n the Tears]

The government can take a walk. Put the individual back in the driver's seat!

Ayn Rand was right. Read Atlas Shrugged.

Thank you.


Fear of big government helps unite tea party members
Joel Burgess | Asheville Citizen-Times | July 26, 2009
A former 1960s radical, a veterinarian from Barnardsville and a stay-at-home mother of four. It's a group that wouldn't normally have much in common. But Western North Carolina residents John Schuske, Kathie Lack and Erika Franzi have found one thing to rally around recently.