Something to Remember on the 4th

The 4th of July is an auspicious day in human history.  For the first time, a society was organized around the principle that the rights of humans came before the rights of the government, monarchy or ruler that administered them.

President John Adams always said the day should be remembered with the proper pomp and circumstance.  Fireworks are perfect.  The explosion of human freedom that happened because of what the Founding Fathers did is simply amazing.

When I read the story of Paul Revere, I was surprised at the level of fervor for individual liberty that was ingrained in every single American.  Property rights were paramount.  Markets organized society, not governments.  Revere and his peers would not be happy with the way America is today.

Across the country, many of our governments have forgotten it’s not about them.  It’s about the citizens.  Both Democratic and Republican legislators have forgotten.  The other thing our citizens have forgotten is why things are the way they are.  When I read Professor David Kennedy’s book, Freedom From Fear, I learned things about the 1930’s that were never taught to me in history class.

For example, we are conditioned today to think that health insurance is always attached to our job.  That is a byproduct of wage controls set up by the Roosevelt administration.  It’s not an iron law of humanity that insurance has to be attached to a job.  There are lots of other examples.

I was reading an essay by George Will and he starkly illustrated how our government has encroached on the freedom we were guaranteed by the Founding Fathers.  I think it bears thinking about and repeating here.  Here it is in Mr. Will’s words.

I want you to come back with me to a crime scene.  I want to tell you about something that happened in this country that you didn’t learn when you studied the New Deal.  The crime occurred in April 1934, the beginning of the second year of the New Deal.  It occurred at 138 Griffeth Street in Jersey City, New Jersey.  I recently visited this  neighborhood-now, as then, it’s a neighborhood of immigrants.  Now there are Asians and Latin Americans; then, they were from Eastern Europe.  Today 138 Griffeth Street is a barber shop; then, it was a man’s tailoring and pressing shop run by Jacob Maged, a 49-year-old immigrant from Poland, father of two daughters.

The crime he committed was putting in his shop window a sign saying he would press a man’s suit for 35 cents.  Now, how did that become a crime in the land of the free and the home of the brave? The New Deal was in power, the New Deal knew everything, and the New Deal had a theory.  The theory was, when you have a depression, prices go down; therefore-a historic non sequitur-we’ll have a recovery if we can force prices to rise.  Therefore, we must outlaw competition, because competition drives down prices. Therefore, they had the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the first National Recovery Administration (NRA), which wrote 500 different codes of noncompetition, cartelizing American industry.

Some of you may remember that the symbol of the NRA was a blue eagle-you were encouraged to fly the Blue Eagle flag over your factory or put a Blue Eagle poster in your shop window.  The government had decided that 40 cents was the proper price for pressing a man’s suit. For his nickel crime, Mr. Maged was arrested, fined $100 (doesn’t sound like much but the median family income that year was $1500) and sentenced to 30 days in jail.  The judge thought this was a teachable moment, so he canceled the fine, pardoned him from his sentence, and hauled him back to court where-and this is from the New York Times- he “gave him a little lecture on the importance of cooperation as opposed to individualism.”  Maged left the court with the New York Times trailing him.  Duly chastened, he went back to his shop and took out the offending sign promising a 35-cent job and put in its place the Blue Eagle.  The next morning the New York Times reported that Maged, “if not quite so ruggedly individualistic as formerly was a free man once more.”

A free man-if you define freedom as embracing a government propaganda symbol under the threat of fine and imprisonment.

Doesn’t that make your blood boil?  It certainly would boil the blood of the Founders.

Neither political party is committed to freedom and individual liberty.  They don’t believe in free market capitalistic systems.  They don’t let people decide for themselves. They don’t believe in the intelligence and creativity of individuals.  Mandates, rules, and regulations.  Both political parties are committed to creating a climate of fear in order to shepherd sheep to their will.

Today while you are taking in the pomp and circumstance, think about all the Mr. Maged’s there are out there.  You are one of them.



  • SuzyQ

    Moving piece Jeff. The Founders would be proud but not surprised at our nation’s state of affairs.

    • Even Hamilton would be alarmed at the size and scope of government