The Corner

Liberty and Loss

I’m afraid my Fourth of July column this year casts a bit of a damper on the fireworks. Perhaps the most depressing aspect of Obama’s speech last week was one so obvious it was barely remarked upon. As spokesperson for the spendaholic class, the president essentially told the world: Nothing’s gonna change. We’re gonna spend spend spend the republic into the abyss.

In my soon to be imminently forthcoming book, I quote one of the most poignant lines from the Declaration of Independence, one that never made it into the final text — Thomas Jefferson’s parting words to his fellow British subjects across the seas: “We might have been a free and great people together.” There is a sense both of regret at the separation yet also of its inevitability. Today America is divided between those who see no problem with a bloated, wasteful four-trillion-bucks-a-year behemoth, and those who understand it’s killing the country. A betting man might wonder how long this “free and great people” will wish to remain “together,” especially when the spendaholics’ policies seem consciously designed to fracture the citizenry: The old vs. the young, the latter crippled by debt run up by the former. Government union workers vs. a beleaguered small-business class, working till it dies to pay for the lavish pensions of those who retire in their 50s. Poor Hispanics vs. poor whites, both chasing jobs that no longer exist. Young Hispanics vs. old whites: 83 per cent of Medicare beneficiaries are white; 70 percent of births in Dallas’s biggest hospital are Hispanic. In a post-prosperity America, that would seem an unlikely recipe for social tranquility. Feckless bankrupt states like California vs. comparatively prudent, solvent states like New Hampshire: How many of the non-spendaholic jurisdictions are prepared to pick up the tab for Sacramento, Albany, and the rest for the privilege of keeping 50 stars in Old Glory?

This is not an age favorable to big, centralized entities that outlive their raison d’être – ask the Soviets and the Yugoslavs. I wonder if a 21st-century Jefferson will have cause to modify the original’s farewell to his compatriots: “We might have stayed a free and great people together.”

Not the happiest thought but Happy Independence Day nevertheless. And enjoy it while you can.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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