And I mean Happy – in spite of all that follows, as such things as the Declaration of Independence (or parts of it) and, especially, the Bill of Rights deserve to be honoured. The world stands of falls by the fate of the American Bill of Rights – that really is the truth.
The first American Independence Day that sticks in my memory was that of 1976 – the 200 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Millions of people were being murdered by the Communists in Indo China (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam), but at least “the war was over” as far as the United States was concerned (for the Boat People and so on it was rather different). No conscription any more – and no wild inflation either (unlike Britain), sit back in 1976 and watch all those television shows set in California – which, in those days, was part of the United States (rather than Mexico and the rest of the Third World), although California was already in decline – Governor Moonbeam was busy unionising government work. By way Governor Moonbeam is back as Governor again. Now he is as bald as I am, but he clings to the ideas of his youth – as I suppose (in a very different way) I do also.
Richard Nixon was out of the Whitehouse (although he had done nothing that the media had not winked at when Johnson, Kennedy and Roosevelt did it) and the bumbling, but decent, Gerald Ford was President. America was at peace – overseas, and (to some extent) with itself (although violent crime in the cities, such as New York, was out of control – an evil fruit of 1960s “liberalism”).
And segregation was finally over in the South – the final holdouts, big spending Democrat populists Lester Maddox in Georgia and Governor Wallace in Alabama having gone or given way. Not that the Democratic party had given up racial groups politics – it had just gone over to promising stuff to black people because they were black, rather than to white people because they were white. As that charming man President Johnson said about his welfare schemes and “civil rights” laws – “now the niggers will vote for us for a hundred years”.
The idea of not appealing to people on the basis of rich-versus-poor or black-versus-white being alien to the Democrats. The central observation of Classical Liberalism, that the long term interests of “rich” and “poor” (or of people in different racial groups) are THE SAME, escaping the modern Democrats. Although President Grover Cleveland seems to have understood – although he neglected to impress his Southern colleagues with this point. Hard though it may be believe now – but in the 19th century the New York State Democratic Party (not the Democratic Party as a whole) was the more free market of the two major parties.
Although there was a major reduction in the size of government under President Grant, Grant did not campaign on that basis – his was more of a “vote for me – I am General Grant” campaign (rather like Ike in 1952 and 1956), indeed the first Republican to campaign and win on the basis of reducing the size and scope of government was Warren Harding in 1920 (and he did it – Harding is perhaps the most unfairly attacked President in American history, in reality he was a sincere anti big government man and a sincere defender of black people against lynching and other persecution).
In 1876 (not 1976) the Republicans were the party of tariffs (although not the “Liberal Republicans” , “liberal” meaning almost the reverse of what it does now, who were free traders). This was the time of President Grant and the “Gilded Age”.
An age that is rightly denounced for its corruption – but the good side of the hundredth anniversary of American independence is often forgotten.
Taxation was low (no income tax or corporation tax) and so was government spending – sorry “libertarian left” but “Corporate Welfare” is a lot less expensive that welfare-for-all (which does NOT make “Corporate Welfare” right). The Welfare State (created in two stages – 1930s [some of the 1930s stuff was actually repealed in the late 1940s - the glorious "Do Nothing Congress" elected in 1946] and 1960s and then left to grow and grow) was not in existence.
Also blacks were not subject to the full force of “Jim Crow” law in 1876 – but soon the United States army was to be withdrawn from the South and the KKK and the “Redshirts” (and other Democrat armed terror groups) were to take back power in the South. Take back by power by threats and by murder – both of black people and of white people who opposed the terror groups.
Not only was (not “was not”) the Civil War about slavery – especially its expansion (the Charles Beard, Woodrow Wilson, Murray Rothbard “economic class conflict” historical theory is wrong). But the war did not really end in 1865 – the Southern “Bourbon” Democrats (who looked down on the KKK and the Redshirts – but did little to stop their activities) may have had some regard for private property rights (of white people) but leftist Democrats such as Governor Bilbo of Miss combined vicious racism (and anti Semitism) with a hatred of “big business” and a fanatically faith in government (in his own wise hands of course) to do good for “the poor”, “the little guy”, “the workers” (the ancient lie that goes back all the way to Pericles).
Almost needless to say the real causes of Southern poverty – the corrupt and arbitrary nature of power (government and armed private groups) that discouraged private investment and capital accumulation (the “capital” of the old South had been largely human) were not taught – then or now. Any more than many Southern Democrats being IN FAVOUR of “gun control” is taught – I hope the reader can work out which people these Democrats wanted not to be allowed to own firearms.
Even as late as the 1960s the father of Condi Rice had to drive off a Klan attack on his home with a rifle – and the local Church was bombed by the Klan (and some childhood friends of Condi were killed) – the modern South of such people as Senator Tim Scott was, as yet, far in the future even in 1976.
In the future – or in the past, as there had been black United States Senators and Governors before (in the brief period that came to an end in 1876). But the time was not right – and, to be blunt, people were often not really either. Although white politicians were often just as wild spending as black ones – in the post Civil War chaos.
Eastern Tennessee has remained constant since the 1860s – Republican (and the right sort of Republican), rejecting both racial politics and class (“rich versus poor” politics).
And the Bill of Rights? If you need me to tell you why they are important (to the world – not just the United State), you will have to wait for another time (this means – work it out for yourself, they are the essence of limited government, of universal principles not dependent on time or place).
I am tired. It is not 1976 – I am old. For individual people grow old – and die. Only principles live on.