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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Independence Day, USA

Economic Independence Day

By David Morris, AlterNet

Posted on July 1, 2005, Printed on July 1, 2005


Tens of millions of Americans will celebrate this 4th of July in the

conventional way: saluting the flag, marching in parades, and consuming

large quantities of beer and hotdogs. Our political leaders will urge

us to demonstrate our patriotism.

But perhaps some of us could take a few moments to ponder what

patriotism meant to those who took the considerable risk of declaring

war on the mightiest nation on earth. And how they went about declaring

and defining their independence.

Many events led up to our formal declaration of independence. But the

pace quickened when, on a cold December night in 1773, a band of

colonists forced their way onto three ships docked in Boston Harbor and

dumped more than 90,000 pounds of tea into the sea.

As Thom Hartmann points out in his excellent book, "Unequal

Protection," the colonists' actions were as much a challenge to global

corporate power as they were a rebellion against King George III.

The ships were owned by the East India Company, a vast corporation with

significant economic power over Britain's colonies around the world.

The company had suffered large economic losses, in part because of a

boycott of their merchandise by the American colonies. That represented

a significant loss of revenue to the British government as well.

Thus, in 1773 the British Parliament passed the Tea Act. The Act

exempted the East India Company from paying taxes on tea sold in the

colonies. The aim was to enable the company to undercut the prices of

small competitors, all of whom were subject to the tax, and drive them

out of business.

The British government and the East India Company were betting that the

lure of cheap tea would overpower any sense of solidarity among the

colonists. They were wrong. The colonists continued to support

independent merchants and boycott East India tea.

Britain retaliated by closing Boston's harbor to trade until the city

paid for the lost tea. The British also converted formerly elected

offices in the Massachusetts government into crown-appointed positions,

restricted town meetings unless their agendas were approved by the

royal governor and required Bostonians to house and feed British


Britain's actions inspired the 13 colonies, for the first time, to work

together. The first Continental Congress met in New York City in the

fall of 1774. The representatives passed resolutions asking the

colonies to raise militias. And they called for an organized boycott of

all British goods.

This last was a key development. The colonists understood that

independence could occur only if they had the capacity for economic

self-reliance. They could claim political authority only if they had

the economic, productive capacity.

Before we declared our political independence we declared our economic

independence. All things English were placed on the blacklist.

Frugality came into fashion. Out of the First Continental Congress in

New York came the embryonic nation's first Chamber of Commerce. Given

the current policies of the Chamber, it might be useful this July 4th

to recall its first campaign slogan, "Save your money and you can save

your country."

Bostonian Sam Adams, the fiery leader of the movement, knew that

frugality was not enough. To become truly independent, America had to

produce at home what was previously imported from England.

Members of Boston's Whig Party demonstrated their patriotism by nursing

tea leaves and mulberry trees in their gardens. New England farmers

were exhorted to convert their oak plains into sheep pastures and

produce enough wool to clothe every American. Colonists were urged to

abstain from eating lamb or mutton in order to encourage American

woolen manufactures.

In less than a year the boycott had so disrupted Transatlantic trade

that thousands of British workers lost their jobs.

Faced with this economic insurrection and the rising level of violence

in the colonies, Britain declared war. On July 2, 1776, the colonies

declared their independence. The Declaration of Independence was

adopted two days later.

When our nation was born, we understood the relationship between

political independence and economic independence. Benjamin Franklin

offered this bit of sage advice to the former colonists. "The man who

would trade independence for security usually deserves to wind up with


Our current leaders have ignored Franklin's wisdom. Today we have a

President who, surrounded by 100 American flags, ardently proclaims his

patriotism. But it is a patriotism that Sam Adams and Thomas Jefferson

and Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry would have found unfathomable and

even, perhaps, treasonable.

The United States is now the world's largest debtor. Two thirds of our

oil is imported, up from a third when OPEC first exercised its

collective power and precipitated the first oil crisis in 1973.

Our corporations have displayed their form of patriotism by fleeing our

soils and supplying us from foreign shores. As a result our trade

deficit is at all-time levels. China is now using its enormous

storehouse of American dollars to buy key U.S. productive assets: IBM,

Maytag and soon, perhaps Unocal. That last bid turned a few heads in

Washington. But just a few days ago, the White House gave the green

light for a British company to purchase a key U.S. supplier of military

hardware to the Pentagon.

The President has just asked Congress to ratify a new free trade

agreement that will aggravate our slide into dependence. He

passionately supports an omnibus energy bill that does virtually

nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

On July 4, 2005, amid awe-inspiring displays of fireworks, our

corporate and political leaders will celebrate Independence Day. Then

on July 6 they will get back to work, designing and implementing

policies that make us ever more dependent.

The brave members of the Boston Tea Party wouldn't call them patriots.

Neither should we.

David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for

Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnnesota and director of its New

Rules project.

1 comment:

Chi said...

Commenting on my own blog! I think this applies to Costa Rica as well. CAFTA is just another step in the wrong direction for both countries. Costa Rica would LOSE its independence under CAFTA! And thousands of USA workers would lose their jobs! It's a no-win situation all around.

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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