The Government Demands That You Be Thankful

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Today in the United States, we celebrate a holiday known as "Thanksgiving." Many of us (including my family and I) will attend church services this morning and many more will eat a very large meal with the main dish usually being roasted turkey. At the table, most likely we will continue what began at church — speaking about those things for which we are "thankful."

At one level, I have no problem with people being thankful for their blessings. As a Christian, I thank God each day for my family, home, and other things that I believe come from the bounty of God, and I am not ashamed to say it. Yet, if we truly are thankful for our blessings on a daily basis, then why do we have a special holiday in which we repeat those things that we already have repeated?

In a word, the reason for Thanksgiving Day is government. It is on this day that the government — specifically the President of the United States — orders us to be thankful. Since our government is secular in form and content, we really are supposed to be thankful to government for our bounty.

For example, I almost certainly will hear someone at church say that he or she is "thankful that we live in a country where we can freely worship God." Yet, people around the world have that freedom. One can put it another way, a way that is guaranteed to offend others: "I am thankful that the American state has not yet destroyed all of our freedoms, including the freedom to worship God."

While I write this, the U.S. Government actively is debasing the dollar, waging war against people who were not at war with us, arresting people and falsely charging them with crimes, blocking mutually beneficial economic exchanges, making it more difficult to produce and sell goods (and then condemning producers for not producing enough), and then propagandizing us in saying that the government is the only thing that gives our lives meaning.

While we think of the Pilgrims celebrating a successful harvest in 1621, Thanksgiving as an official government-sponsored holiday came to this country via the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. While armies under his command were destroying the harvests of the southern states, burning houses and forcing families to face the winter without food and shelter, and generally plundering and pillaging, he declared an official day of "Thanksgiving."

The next president to further make Thanksgiving a government-sponsored holiday was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. Thus, two of the presidents who were most active in destroying the liberties and social fabric of this country were at the forefront of telling everyone else how thankful they should be.

Lest I appear to be an ingrate, again I say that I am thankful to God for the blessings that I have received, however undeserved those blessings may be. And I add that I am thankful to God that He has restrained the American state, if for a season, to where it has not done as much harm as it could have done. For now, we worship in relative peace; in the future, perhaps all of the Thanksgiving services will be held in government buildings in which we thank the state for the meager rations placed before us. We are not there, at least yet, and I will be eternally thankful if that day is put off forever.

November 23, 2006

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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