• A Forgotten Day, a Forgotten Country

    Email Print
    Share

    On
    this date in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was first unveiled in New
    York Harbor.

    You’re
    probably aware that the Statue wasn’t built in America. It was built
    with money voluntarily raised from the people of France – and
    then erected in New York Harbor with money voluntarily raised from
    the people of the United States.

    Foreigners
    were grateful for America’s liberty, because the very existence
    of such a country as ours meant that someday they might be able
    to have the same peace and liberty in their own countries.

    Then
    & Now

    Today,
    117 years later, that America doesn’t exist anymore – even
    though politicians love to talk about "our freedoms."

    In
    1886 America had an open hand to the rest of the world. America
    didn’t fear anyone and no one feared America. Today Americans live
    in a state of siege.

    The
    idea of invading the Philippines or bombing the Sudan or intervening
    in Nicaragua or overturning a government in the Dominican Republic
    or starting a war with Iraq would have seemed ludicrous to the American
    people in 1886. As John Quincy Adams put it, America didn’t go abroad
    in search of monsters to destroy. Today America has troops in over
    a hundred foreign countries.

    In
    2003 the maximum personal income tax rate is 35%, plus 15% for Social
    Security tax. In 1886 the maximum income tax rate of any kind was
    0%.

    In
    1886 taxes at all levels of government consumed less than 7% of
    the national income. In 2003 taxes take roughly half the national
    income.

    In
    1886 the federal government spent $242 million. In 2003 the federal
    government will spend over $2 trillion – 10,000 times as much.

    In
    1886 the federal debt was $1.40 per person (adjusted for inflation
    to dollars of 2002 value). In 2002 the federal debt was $21,564
    per person.

    In
    1886 there was no Securities & Exchange Commission, no Food
    and Drug Administration, no Interstate Commerce Commission, no Federal
    Trade Commission, no federal regulatory agencies of any kind. In
    2003 every conceivable thing in America is regulated in some way
    by some level of government.

    In
    1886 there was no Federal Reserve System. The U.S. government simply
    minted coins from gold or silver brought to the Treasury. All paper
    money was issued by private banks, who redeemed the paper money
    on demand with gold or silver. While there occasionally were bank
    failures, small panics, or crashes, there was nothing to compare
    with the gigantic failure of the banking system and the Great Depression
    that occurred after the founding of the Federal Reserve System in
    1913.

    In
    1886 there were no crimes against the state – no drug laws,
    no prohibitions of any kind. People lived their own lives, and if
    you didn’t like the way someone lived, you simply didn’t associate
    with him. You didn’t run to the legislature to try to get a law
    passed to change his conduct; you just stayed away from him. In
    2003 there is no law regulating conduct that is so ridiculous that
    someone won’t introduce it in the U.S. Congress or some state legislature.

    In
    1886 America, the individual stood above the state. In 2003 the
    state’s "compelling interest" comes first.

    If
    America in 1886 was a land of liberty, what is America in 2003?

    A
    Free Country

    In
    1886 anyone living in America could be assured that:

    • No one would
      ask for his papers;
    • No one would
      fasten a number on him;
    • No one would
      extort a percentage of his income as the price of getting a job;
    • No police
      would invade his home without warning and a warrant; a person’s
      home truly was his castle.

    No
    Longer Unique

    Today
    politicians talk about our liberty, our freedoms, our unique heritage
    – as though they still existed in any meaningful way.

    In
    fact, there’s nothing unique about America anymore. Yes, it’s a
    better country than others in some ways. But by and large, America
    is little different from the countries of Europe and Asia –
    where every public issue must be settled in the legislature and
    imposed upon everyone by force.

    Today
    any group of people can get together and vote to take money away
    from the people who’ve earned it, vote to regulate the lives of
    other people, vote to tell other people how to live. We have long
    since torn up the Constitution and every single article in the Bill
    of Rights.

    I
    love the Statue of Liberty, standing tall with her lamp held high
    – "liberty enlightening the world." The mere sight
    of it is a moving experience.

    But
    it’s been desecrated by politicians who take its name in vain.

    And
    what we have in America today is so far from what existed in 1886
    that they really should replace the Statue of Liberty with something
    much more appropriate – perhaps soldiers holding assault rifles.
    Call it the Statue of the World’s Policeman, the Statue of the Superpower,
    the Statue of the National Interest, or the Statue of the All-Powerful
    State.

    But
    don’t try to call it Liberty. That isn’t what we have today.

    Restoring
    America

    Today’s
    date won’t be celebrated, because what it stands for no longer exists.
    It’s a forgotten day, just as the real America seems to be a forgotten
    country.

    But
    it isn’t really forgotten. Many of us know what once was and what
    could be again. And that’s why we refuse to give up.

    We
    want to bring back 19th-century freedom and marry it with 21st-century
    technology.

    Then
    we can again celebrate this day and this country as it should be.

    And
    once again that great statue of Lady Liberty can provide light and
    hope and inspiration to the entire world.

    October
    29, 2004

    Harry Browne [send
    him mail
    ], the author of Why
    Government Doesn’t Work

    and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
    in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

    Email Print
    Share