Independence Day: Any Reason to Celebrate?
By Bryan Caplan
Can anyone tell me why American independence was worth fighting for?
Most libertarians interpret the Revolutionary War as a libertarian crusade. But when you ask about specific libertarian policy changes that came about because of the Revolution, it’s hard to get a decent answer.
In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, independence had two massive anti-libertarian consequences: It removed the last real check on American aggression against the Indians, and allowed American slavery to avoid earlier – and peaceful – abolition.
If libertarians have little reason to celebrate American independence, who does? Leftists? They ought to take the Indian and slavery issues seriously, too. I guess getting rid of titles of nobility and such was a step toward greater equality, but a step worth shedding blood over?
How about conservatives? They’re likely to say “This war created our country – of course it was worth it!” But without the war, conservatives would still have a country to get misty-eyed over – it would just be Britain instead of America. If you’re going to love whatever country you’re born in, it’s hard to see the point of fighting to make a new one.
My favorite example: In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence keeps telling the Arab tribes to stop fighting each other: “You’re all Arabs! You should join forces against the Turks!” But he could just as easily have said: “You’re all Turko-Arabs! None of you have anything to fight about!”
In short, whatever your political orientation, it’s hard to see why American independence was worth a war.
Now I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade. I won’t be waving any flags, but I’ll still be lighting off a big box of fireworks tonight. If I can celebrate an atheist Christmas, why not an anarchist 4th of July?