Surely, conservatives who cherish the Fourth of July while cheering today’s wars have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. The American Revolution was, at best, a revolt against empire. The taxes at issue were being used to finance Britain’s national security state. The colonial rebels didn’t “support the troops” – they resented them. And they resented Britain’s status as the hypocritical world power, which closely resembled the modern United States – an empire claiming the mantle of liberty while smashing its colonial subjects. Today’s conservatives would have likely been partisans of King George. In our own time, true independence would mean Washington, DC, releasing control of its satellites and colonies worldwide.
We could also find it hilarious that Obama Democrats celebrate Independence Day, as though liberty of the old American sort has anything to do with their agenda. They have an implacable thirst for an expansive federal government whose depredations dwarf those of eighteenth-century England.
Indeed, the American Revolution had a distinctive libertarian flavor. The liberal values of anti-imperialism and anti-taxation were central. The grand ideals of legal equality for women, anti-slavery, and religious toleration began to flourish, thanks to the revolutionary spirit in the air. The colonial Americans inspired a philosophical revolution of global significance whose wonderful effects continue to this day. Although no nation has a monopoly over the universal principles of liberty, there are elements in American independence that should give hope to all who hold freedom dear.
But from a libertarian standpoint, the American Revolution has a very dark side. There is also nuance lost in the common narrative. …
There is a heroic side to the American Revolution, and surely no U.S. war since has been nearly as just in its cause. But the political shenanigans that led to war, the war itself, and its aftermath all deserve more criticism. Sadly enough, those who support the federal government’s domestic ambitions and foreign occupations while waving the flag on Independence Day are only as hypocritical as the colonists who tarred and feathered their antiwar countrymen in the name of liberty, the soldiers who invaded Canada in the name of anti-imperialism, the rebels who destroyed privately owned tea in the name of property rights, the Founders who waged a war against tyranny only to create a regime as formidable as King George’s, or the Father of our Country who started an unnecessary and tragic world war and then led a revolution in refusal to pay the bills for it.
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