Revolution in Liberal Thought

Posted on July 3, 2010


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.

On July 4th, the United States celebrates Independence Day – or, as one of my Welsh friends refers to it, Bloody Ungrateful Colonials Day. Regardless of which side you fall on, we would do well to consider our Declaration of Independence on July 4th. It is one of the great political documents.

What many people don’t realize is that the one sentence I quote at the top represents one of Thomas Jefferson’s most brilliant ideas, and a revolution in liberal political thought. For the first time in history, we defined freedom as being toward something – the aforementioned life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Before this Declaration, freedom had always been defined as being away from something – tyranny, oppression, or despotism.

The trouble with the latter is that, once you are free, you have no clear vision of where to go next. Jefferson set that part down on parchment before our struggle for freedom ever began. July 4th is a day in which we should appreciate that.

Enjoy yourselves, and if you must set off your own fireworks – you’re a damn foo…I mean, please try to be safe. Light it and let go.