Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States... (The Declaration of  Independence)
It's a Fourth of July tradition of mine to read The Declaration of Independence and wear this ostentatious shirt:

At the end, The Declaration of Independence describes what the founders had in mind for what countries (or at least, the freed colonies) can do. "[T]hey have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do." The Constitution outlines in the preamble what the goals of this country should be:
...form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity....
Then the rest of the Constitution outlines a system of limited government  to achieve those goals.

But, what is a country? It's a little nebulous because borders and regimes and constitutions change all the time; countries can be occupied or dissolved. Countries are endogenous, no matter how convenient it is for us to think of them as exogenous.

I like to think a country uses a common currency, enforces borders (trade of goods, movement of people may be restricted), and speaks a common language. A successful government of that country would then (using the common language) resolve disputes that arise from using a common currency, free trade, and unrestricted movement.

But, I'm not entirely happy with this answer. There is usually some element of a common culture. Most laws are legislating some kind of morality. We require a minimum amount of behavioral conformity from each other. Usually there is a military which defends the whole country, a system of justice, etc. But often these issues lead into "what should our country be?" rather than "what is a country?" It's hard to separate that out.

So, what should this country be? What is our place in the world? How can we strive to become a more perfect Union today?

Sounds like a good Fourth of July cookout discussion to me!

Further Reading:
The Declaration of Independence
The Constitution (The Archives kindly redlines where Amendments replace the original text.)

Related Posts:
Enumerated Powers and the Commerce Clause
Trial by Jury and The Electoral Jury (David Hagen)

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