of taxes limits our freedom
This long weekend we celebrate Independence Day.
Hawaii’s beaches are full of families at play, the
hot dogs and hamburgers are on the broiler and the
drinks are flowing — all in “the Pursuit of
Little thought will be given to the reason for the
celebration — independence — which is to say, our
freedom and independence as individual
It would be preferable if our citizens on this day
were to give just a little thought to what we
Americans have gained — and what we have lost —
since the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration
of Independence as representatives of the thirteen
“Free and Independent States.”
Certainly we have to celebrate a complete
revolution in race relations. The abolition of
slavery has been the pre-eminent gain. Here in
Hawaii it is difficult to imagine that 40 years
ago, haoles excluded Asians from their clubs,
classified ads for “help wanted” routinely listed
“AJA only need apply” and it was unacceptable to
have a Filipino supervisor over Japanese
employees. Those are real changes.
The Fathers had a different opinion of the meaning
of independence than the generality of Americans
have today. Ask the average American for the
meaning of freedom and independence and they will
tell you that it is about freedom of speech. The
Fathers were more concerned that we should have
freedom from the tyranny of government.
The natural progress
of things is for liberty to yield and government
to gain ground,” as Thomas Jefferson put
The sadness of it is that few of today’s
celebrants even know that to gain our independence
the Founding Fathers fought the British over a tax
burden that was a tiny fraction of what it is
today. In fact, since customs duty was the only
tax in those days, if you did not buy any imports,
you paid no tax at all. Today, we have so many
taxes, many of them hidden, that the U.S. Tax
Foundation estimates that we work the first four
months of the year just to pay
The historian A. J. P. Taylor, a
wrote that, “If we
were offered the freedom which our grandfathers
enjoyed before the First World War we should not
know what to do with it. We should be like men
released after a long prison sentence, overwhelmed
by our unaccustomed
For example, in 1900 there was no income tax,
Bayer Heroin could be bought over the counter, and
no one needed passports, let alone drivers’
licenses. And the endless federal regulations that
ensnare us today were then so few that there was
not even a Federal Register.
So as you bite into your hot dog, contemplate
this: A much quoted remark by a political leader
is that we should not ask what the state can do
for us but rather what we can do for the state.
Who said that? Soviet Russia’s Lenin, Italy’s
Mussolini or our President Kennedy? Are you
The price of our independence is eternal
vigilance. As we celebrate Independence Day are
you being eternally vigilant? How?
Cliff Slater is a regular
columnist whose footnoted columns are at
"I have tried
to be a Marxist but common sense kept
breaking in." Taylor, A.J.P.
From Napoleon to the Second International:
Essays on Nineteenth-Century
1995. p. 5.
Atheneum New York. 1980. p.