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July 4, 2010

Celebrating our declaration of rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

Declaration In addition to enjoying a beautiful day, I plan this afternoon to read aloud to my kids the full text of the Declaration of Independence.   And in this space, I encourage readers to comment on what this starting section of the document signed 234 years ago today should be thought to mean in the context of our modern American systems of criminal sentencing and punishment:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

July 4, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I am just glad that the evils of our time are still tolerable.

If civil war in the 1860s was terrible I shudder to think what it would be like now. Especially as it would likely be at least a three way fight with the survivors then turning on each other.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 4, 2010 11:39:39 AM

Please, recall the War of Independence was over a tax beef. I see no necessity for a war that will bust up the place.

I do see the need to enforce the law, arrest the lawyer hierarchy, try them for insurrection against the constitution, execute them summarily. All our social and economic problems are solved the next day. Criminals are eradicated, increasing the level of efficient trust, versus the high cost of personal security today. Rent seeking social parasites lose their immunities, entitlements, and high privileges, including all the freaks now running the setting of cultural standards. There will be cheap, effective, corporal punishment, instead of long prison terms, which are useless babysitting services for ultra-violent criminals. The family is restored, especially in minority communities, by returning to a sensible patrimony, one not wasting the great intelligence and talents of mothers. No one is returning to being a full time housewife because technology is irreversible. No one has any immunity not shared by everyone, especially incompetent, predatory, careless judges and lawyers. The rule of law being an essential utility, its quantity is regulated to benefit the public and not to benefit its elite.

Lawyers will be better off. There will be 500,000 fewer of them. Their income will be double because the value will be quadrupled, and no rent will be tolerated. The esteem of the public will be a well deserved 10 times what it is today.

This is the War of Independence 2.0.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 4, 2010 11:57:59 AM

Celebrating our declaration of rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" - the Magna Carta was just as big a deal in its time in the UK. Both are episodes of history and it is right they are remembered. But times move on, and the pursuit of rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" has a different meaning today. Those that live in the past have condemned many of the present and future to a life (sometimes short) of custody and misery. Those who were responsible for the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution which followed, would not recognize your modern American systems of criminal sentencing and punishment as meeting or furthering their aims and intentions.
Today, there is a "special relationship" with the old country. Not so special that you respect the right of the old country, or any other, to protect and support their own citizens against the excesses of your own destructive systems of criminal sentencing and punishment.
The Times (UK) on Saturday lashed the US and its own government over the case of Linda Carty (UK citizen under severe threat of execution in Texas). It ran both a scathing editorial and a two page spread about the Carty case. The editorial can be read at the web address linked to my name. The opening paragraph is:

As a metaphor for the special relationship, it is a devastating indictment of the way that America treats its closest ally. After the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear her case, Linda Carty, a British citizen who was born in St Kitts, remains on death row in Texas. Her case is disturbing both in principle and in its particulars. Not only were there shocking holes in the prosecution case. But the US also reneged on a consular agreement that requires it to notify Britain if it takes legal action against a British citizen. Friends must sometimes agree to disagree — Britain forbids capital punishment, the United States supports it. But good friends must above all honour their word.

Posted by: peter | Jul 4, 2010 1:59:52 PM

Doug --

Congratulations on getting them to sit still in one place long enough to hear the whole Declaration.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 4, 2010 5:11:03 PM

Doug; ironically I heard of a similar effort by an interviewer on public radio last Thursday. Saturday evening my family read the Declaration, each reading a segment. It is a tradition I intend to maintain. Ashamed to say that I had never the entire document at one sitting.

Posted by: Steve Meyer | Jul 6, 2010 2:01:51 PM

This document is in perfect sync with the psyche of teen age boys. I had one son who fell in love with it at the age of 11. He found a poster of it, framed it and hung it on his wall.. He still loves it and lives in Maui.

Posted by: beth | Jul 7, 2010 12:18:27 PM

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