Jefferson on economic freedom

"The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Samuel Kercheval, June 12, 1816).

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence changed the course of human history. In the quotation above, its author, Thomas Jefferson, locates the "true foundation" of free government in the equality of every citizen "in his person and property and in their management."

Notice that Jefferson does not focus on "voting" as the true foundation, but rather on the right to be secure in your person, your property, and in your management of those two areas. This is very interesting and noteworthy.

George Gilder also illuminates the essential economic (rather than political) foundation of freedom in his most recent book when he writes: "Elections -- counting heads rather than breaking them -- are a prime tool of democracy, but hardly its essence. [. . .] Elections every day would not make a democracy of a society in which the decisive political forces are teenage gangs with guns and terrorist courtiers doling out foreign aid to an intimidated populace. No tenable theory of democracy allows the majority to destroy or expropriate the minority. Without a functioning and legally protected capitalist system, democracies swiftly sink into ochlocracies. Without the independent private sources of power imparted by free businesses, unbiased courts, and other institutions of economic order, any democracy becomes a despotism ruled by any tribe of thug politicians that manages to gain control" (the Israel Test, 224-5).

There are numerous examples of nations in this world that have "elections" but do not recognize the inalienable right of every citizen in his person, his property, and their management.

On this Independence Day 2010, we are grateful to men such as Jefferson and all those after him who have seen this truth and have been willing to stand up for it and at times to fight and to die for it. This truth is equally important and at risk today as ever, and all who value freedom should understand it and explain it to their friends and families.

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