Have we been looking at the Declaration all wrong for decades? Are we forgetting what the Revolution was really about?
So to celebrate the 4th, the entire NPR staff read out the Declaration of Independence, each one reading about a paragraph or so.
I’ve read the declaration many times, and had it read to me. But as it was 6 AM when I heard it, I wasn’t focusing on it, and so it was like I heard it all over again.
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been told that the revolution was all about unfair taxes. And it’s pretty clear unfair taxes were a concern. The Stamp Act meant that printing important tracts, books and leaflets would quickly become prohibitively expensive. The Tea Tax ensured that everyone who wanted to drink a nice, hot, cholera-free beverage was going to lose money. And there were of course many other unfair or stupid taxes.
But the Declaration seems to put unfair taxes pretty low on the list. The word "tax" is mentioned only a few times, and usually as the last thing on a list of greivances. What these guys seem more concerned with is the fact that their government doesn’t care about them. It represents the interests of the King’s cronies and isn’t afraid to use the police and military to ensure that monopolies stay in place. They complain again and again that local authorities are being overruled by distant, greedy lords, and that when the locals need to put a very important law into effect TODAY, the King stalls it for months or years so that he can make sure nobody on his side would be financially harmed or insulted by the new law. And, of course, there’s the fact that the King hires mercenaries and installs them in places where they aren’t welcome and protects them from legal prosecution.
I can’t help but think, then, that there are a lot of people who have gone to a lot of trouble to make me believe that the Declaration and Revolution were about taxes, when in fact they were really about the same things we complain about today. Just as the Founding Fathers chafed under unfair government monopolies, so do we chafe under the inability to select which bloated monopolies control our access to telephony, electricity, water, and the internet. Yesterday’s Hessian mercenaries are today’s Blackwater, both allowed to operate free from legal prosecution even on American soil. And when the common man needs sensible laws concerning gun control, healthcare reform, and banking regulation, these laws are held up in Congress until every rich croney corporation gets a chance to dilute the law to meaninglessness, or until it is killed entirely.
When you get down to it, the founding fathers were pretty much like us. They weren’t gods, they weren’t anti-tax zealots, they were just a bunch of intelligent, hardworking men who wanted to get a fair shake in the world. And they couldn’t do that if they were being oppressed by a government that didn’t listen to them, police and mercenaries immune to prosecution, and corporations whose monopolies prevented competition and innovation.
Just like we have now.
So I can see why the big corporate goons and their lackeys in government would want us to get all steamed about taxes, and work so hard to make us forget that the founding fathers were less concerned with taxes than they were a government which didn’t care about them. Because our government doesn’t care about us. And there are a lot of people who want it to stay that way.