Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence Day

On July 4th we celebrate Independence Day. The day that the United States of America declared independence from Great Britain. As I think about Independence I think about freedom and what that means for the individual. defines independent as:

  1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
  2. not subject to another's authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
  3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.

The Declaration of Independence was more than just a declaration that the fledgling country would be independent from Great Britain's rule. It was also a declaration that the individuals in this country would also be independent. Really all the citizens wanted was to live their lives the way they saw best and have the opportunity to make the best of it. I don't think any of that has changed today.

So what's the best way to be independent? To me, the best way is to live my life in a way that allows me to achieve my goals without infringing on others. When I say infringing on others I mean infringing on their ability to achieve their goals.

The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal”. It does not say:

  1. All men are treated equal
  2. All men have equal talents and abilities
  3. All men are to have things equally

The Declaration also says that we have inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Being independent means that we also have these rights. It also means we DON'T have the right to impede others of these rights.

Now there are situations where people are not able to pursue happiness. We have poverty, hunger, abuse, criminal activity, etc. These things hinder people from pursuing happiness. So how do we handle it? We do it through legislation. Unfortunately there are times when well meaning legislation actually impedes on our independence and inalienable rights. To me, all legislation should pass a basic test. This test being:

  • Does the legislation allow people the opportunity to lift themselves up and make themselves better?
  • Or does it allow people to become dependent on another entity and thereby remove ones independence

A simple test right? Now I know I will hear about how if the government doesn't do it for some people then it won't happen. That reminds me of the saying:

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

The saying can be taken one step further. Suppose the man that learns to fish decides that there are better ways to do it. Because he has learned to fish he is free to exercise his independence and innovate new ways to fish that could benefit him even more. Also, the man could remember that being taught to fish set him free and find ways to help others become independent.

So on Independence Day I'm going to celebrate the independence I have. I have the opportunity to make my life better. I have the ability to reach goals. I have the motivation to do so. I will celebrate that I have been taught to fish and look forward to the opportunity to innovate how I fish to make things even better.