Image: Signing of the Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull (1819).
United States of America, July 4 – If one is serious about reforming government, the Declaration of Independence provide the single greatest guide for getting the reform done.
The real signing of the Declaration of Independence likely occurred on August 2, 1776, although the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration on July 4, 1776. It is very unlikely that the signing was anything close to as orderly as John Trumbull depicted the occasion in his 1819 painting.
While independence was, of course, a gigantic declaration, the Declaration of Independence didn’t become a major document to which Americans looked for fundamental truths until President Abraham Lincoln quoted a portion of the most famous phrase of the Declaration during his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Lincoln’s exact reference to the Declaration of Independence formed the beginning of his Address:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (Emphasis added.)
The central portion of the Declaration of Independence follows:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
If you’ve ever had any doubt about the basis of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government as a fundamental source for the Declaration of Independence, the sentence, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” is the primary theme of Locke’s work.
As Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick explains the fundamental moral basis of government, the people form governments to serve as “mutual protective associations” from internal and external enemies. Locke, Nozick, Thomas Hobbes, and Thomas Jefferson all argued that, when government deviates far from its core moral function to protect, that is when government becomes tyrannical.
In 1776, that formula for tyranny was quite easy for American colonists to understand.
In 2019, that formula for tyranny is quite easy for vigilant Americans to understand.
Let’s not mince words. When government strays from acting as a mutual protective association, there is no moral basis for government.
In Montgomery County, Texas, government provides a law enforcement function by providing domestic public safety. Unfortunately, what that really means is that about ninety percent (90%) of your property tax bill represents tyranny, such as:
- County Commissioners awarding themselves giant pay raises on top of their already massive salaries;
- County Commissioners awarding lucrative and bloated contracts to vendors who pad their coffers with political contributions;
- Money-losing airports, which are little more than politicians’ monuments to themselves;
- Awarding millions of dollars to “charities” which shouldn’t exist if they can’t support themselves;
- Plowing money into favored political supporters, such as Terri Jaggers, the thief from orphans;
- Urging the use of County resources to support adoptions by transgenders;
- School administrators awarding themselves enormous pay raises almost every year;
- Hiding information and manipulating information through paid public relations consultants and employees in order to fool citizens into believing government is behaving as it should rather than as it shouldn’t;
- Competing directly with private companies in utility delivery, tollroads, and ambulance services;
- A river authority choosing to flood families and homes rather than make arrangements for controlled releases of water;
- Schools which don’t teach basics but instead teach vocational skills to manipulate children to become low-level employees rather than managers or entrepreneurs, because corporate sponsors direct through financial largesse;
- Use of public dollars for political purposes in school districts, the County government, and almost every single government entity in this community;
- Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on taxpayer-funded lobbying to lobby against property tax relief and reform;
- Owning and maintaining extravagant buildings and real estate;
- Across-the-board spending increases.
That is tyranny.
What should someone do about this situation?
The Declaration of Independence provides the direct answer: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
How do we apply those principles to Montgomery County?
Clearly, there are many governmental entities which should not exist: San Jacinto River Authority, Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, Montgomery County Hospital District, and many others.
Citizen lobbying to enact the Red Light Camera Ban and to enact the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act during the 86th Legislative Session revealed that citizens working with intelligent, pro-citizen legislators, such as State Senator Brandon Creighton, State Representative Steve Toth, and State Representative Jonathan Stickland, can accomplish important tasks. In the 87th Legislative Session in 2021, citizens should examine SJRA, LSGCD, and MCHD closely.
Clearly, citizens cannot trust school board trustees to set curricula, hire pro-citizen and pro-education school administrators, and formulate a pro-taxpayer budget. School trustees almost uniformly succumb to careful manipulation by school administrators who clearly run the schools to prosecute their own interests, which seem adverse to students, taxpayers, and teachers.
Clearly, citizens cannot trust the County Commissioners Court, which seems to have a two-fold agenda: (1) raise their own salaries as high as possible, and (2) erect every possible roadblock to prevent citizens from accessing truthful and open information about the functioning of the County government. They achieve part (2) through secrecy and through affirmatively spending fortunes on public relations functionaries.
Citizens must get involved. Citizens must flood local government entities with citizen comments, telephone calls, emails, and text messages. Citizens must question, discover, and then release their research about the evils of local government.
Citizens must “alter or abolish” government way beyond mere participation in elections. Citizens must make clear to elected servants, who just recently (conviction of Terri Jaggers who stole a fortune from orphans, removal from the so-called “county ethics committee” of Reagan Reed, one of the most ethical people involved in politics) revealed their cognitive dysfunction. Clearly, when politicians take the oath of office, their love of power and fame blinds them and leads them to act with far less intelligence than they might otherwise enjoy.
As the Second Continental Congress made clear, it’s up to all of us, not to the government employees who work for us.