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Jewish World ReviewJuly 2, 1999 /18 Tamuz, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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The Fourth of July --
THE FOURTH OF JULY is more than the commemoration of America's independence. It commemorates the beginning not only of a new country, but of a new kind of society, in which the common man achieved a degree of freedom and opportunity undreamed of in any other country before.

That is why the emergence of America attracted international attention and the war which led to American independence was begun with what was aptly called "the shot heard round the world."

The echoes of that shot continue to be heard around the world to this day. The worldwide significance of the American revolution led to France's donating the Statue of Liberty on the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of this country that had led the fight for the rights and freedom of ordinary people. Its international symbolism is also why a replica of that statue was used by those fighting for such rights in China's Tiananmen Square a decade ago.

The only people who seem not to understand the worldwide significance of American society are our own intelligentsia. To them the Fourth of July is at best an embarrassment, if not something to sneer at. The flag-waving, the proud speeches and the Horatio Alger stories are just part of a nationalist "myth," as far as the intellectuals are concerned.

They could not be more wrong. The prosperity that we -- and they -- enjoy today is in large part a product of many, many real-life Horatio Alger stories about ordinary people who rose from humble circumstances to achieve success for themselves by creating a more abundant life for millions of other Americans.

Why are the masses of ordinary people in this country able to drive automobiles? Because Henry Ford, who began work at lowly jobs to support himself as a teenager, eventually rose to create efficient mass-production techniques that brought a luxury of the rich within the means of the masses.

Why do airplanes exist? Because two bicycle mechanics from Ohio, who never went to college, got the first plane off the ground on a beach in North Carolina, while others around the world were still trying to iron out the bugs.

Often it was not the invention or production of a new product that was crucial. Figuring out efficient methods of distribution is what brought the prices of many goods and services down to a level where millions of people could afford them.

At the beginning of the 1930s, most American homes did not have refrigerators but, by the end of that decade, most did. One of the things that made this possible was that the Sears department store chain was able to sell refrigerators at less than half of what they had cost before. A more efficient distribution system made this possible, not only for refrigerators, but for many other products and services, ranging from stoves to automobile insurance.

The man who founded Sears did not come from an elite background. Neither did the founders of such rival stores as Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney. Nor did Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, John Jacob Astor or David Sarnoff. None of them went to college and all of them began working as teenagers in lowly occupations, the kind our clever and smug intellectuals like to call "dead-end jobs."

There are no dead-end jobs. There are only dead-end people-- and most Americans do not fall into that category.

Economics is not everything, nor even the main thing. America symbolizes, above all, freedom and opportunity for ordinary people. That is what makes it a beacon to those in other lands who are seeking freedom and opportunity.

But this individual independence that attracts others is also what turns off the intelligentsia. Those convinced of their own superiority and itching to run other people's lives -- "making a differences," as it is called -- can never feel comfortable in a country where other people can live their own lives in their own way, without bending the knee to the environmentalists, the radical feminists and all the other self-anointed saviors and avengers.

These smug elites are not overtly plotting the repeal of the American revolution. They are just dismantling it piece by piece, in pursuit of their own particular goals.

No wonder the Fourth of July makes the intelligentsia uncomfortable. It celebrates the revolution that gave ordinary people freedom from the rampaging presumptions of their "betters."


06/29/99: "Urban sprawl" and liberal gall
06/18/99: A famous victory
06/14/99: A victory in Chicago
06/10/99: Mass shootings and mass hysteria
06/08/99: The other side of affirmative action
06/03/99: Childish labor laws
06/01/99: Demonizing for dollars
05/27/99: The real public service
05/24/99: Income, taxes and demagoguery
05/18/99: Random thoughts
05/14/99: Aborted knowledge
05/10/99: The new "fairness"
05/04/99: Holding parents responsible
05/03/99: Exit strategies
04/28/99: Tragedy and farce
04/26/99: Guilt and cop-outs
04/21/99: Choosing a college
04/16/99: When success fails
04/13/99: A photo-op foreign policy
04/09/99: Russia and the Serbs
04/06/99: Random thoughts
03/31/99: Irresponsible "experts"
03/29/99: Another Doleful prospect?
03/23/99: Random thoughts
03/22/99: Loving enemies
03/19/99: Naming names
03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
03/02/99: Facts versus dogma on guns
03/01/99: Losing the cultural wars
02/22/99: "Saving" social security
02/18/99: Too many Ph.Ds?
02/8/99: A national disaster
02/8/99: Economic fallacies in the media: Part II
02/5/99: Why economists visit dentists so often
02/2/99: Warning: Good news
01/29/99: What is at stake?
01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1999, Creators Syndicate