Sunday, July 3, 2011

Was the Declaration of Independence premature?

In school we are taught that the colonists along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent issued the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, stating that they, for good reasons, no longer wished to be consider themselves ruled by the English crown.  It is a stirring document, filled with wonderful phrases that clearly enunciate rights that every "man" should have.

The words were visionary at the time, establishing ideas that were literally unknown in the existing governmental systems.  They became "fighting words" and ultimately led to the revolution that resulted in the creation of the United States of America.  However, they did not establish the independence of the country for all time.

No country is truly independent these days.  It's likely few ever have been.  In one sense we're all dependent because trade is critical to our well-being.  As the industrial age advanced, trade became even more important because the raw materials needed weren't available everywhere.  You can search all you wish, but some metal ores and gemstones just don't exist inside the boundaries of the United States, at least not in remotely adequate quantities.

However, trade, by it's very nature, is a two-way street.  A manufacturer in the United States can purchase something from Europe because Europe wishes to purchase something from him.  There is, however, one place where that is no longer true: Oil!

The US is not independent when it comes to energy, largely because our dependence upon oil cannot possibly be met by US stocks.  Since that is true, we went elsewhere, and in a somewhat colonial atmosphere, US companies located vast reserves all over the world.  Eventually, the colonial era died, however, and the US was left dependent upon those countries, forced to yield whatever they demanded in exchange for the lifeblood of the American economy.

We've known that for years.  When OPEC was created, it was largely to form a cartel that would regulate prices and production.  It worked.  We are now held hostage to the oil-producing countries, and if you don't believe that, check the price at the pump and then read the news to find out why.  The answer?  Libyan unrest.  In truth, beyond general humanitarian concepts we have no interest in Libya except oil.  Why do we tolerate what we consider to be inhuman treatment by other Middle Eastern regimes?  Oil.

1776 was a long time ago, but I think it's time (or well past the time) to write another document.  It won't include a lot of phrases about human rights.  It won't speak too much about redressing grievances against governance.  It won't directly accuse any foreign leader of doing unfair things to us.

Instead it will simply say that it is time for us to declare our Energy Independence.  That doesn't mean more drilling, both because we couldn't possibly find enough oil domestically and we shouldn't be trading one disaster for another.  It means developing new ways to harness the energy we already have.  It means making solar and wave energy economically viable.  It means funding the research to examine, and hopefully perfect, fusion.  It means creating new and better machines that use less energy.  It means spending some money and effort to make our atmosphere sustainable.

Not only would all that oil money stay home, but Americans would be put to work supplying the energy needs of Americans.  It means we would be living within our means.  It means we could become good stewards of the environment.  Ultimately it means we could have a foreign policy that isn't held hostage to the whims of dictators and governments that penalize us for holding human rights sacred.

I like the Declaration of Independence.  I'd like to see us issue another one.  I think it's well past the time to do so.

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