Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

Freedom and Flourishing

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This week, most Americans will take time off to celebrate the Fourth of July. These celebrations will include pool time, beach time, hotdogs, fireworks, and other merriment. Independence Day is worthy of celebration as a day that institutionalizes the biblical principles of individual freedom and limited government.

On July 2, 1776, during the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies legally separated from Great Britain when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. After that, the Congress took to drafting the Declaration of Independence, which was revised and approved on July 4, 1776.

In anticipation of the Declaration’s approval by Congress, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail in which he said:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams believed that such celebration was appropriate, given the hard-fought American Revolution, which was an effort to free the colonists from tyranny. Liberation from the British Empire set forth a trajectory of self-government, often referred to as “the American experiment.”

Americans, in rejecting the aristocracies of Europe and the belief in the divine right of kings, set forth a social, political, and economic experiment that has resulted in unprecedented opportunity. This chain of events has created a society of opportunity where individuals are encouraged, through markets, to use their creativity and gifts to exchange, trade, and create flourishing for themselves and others.

It is because of our fallen nature that we need limited government and free markets, as they provide incentives for us to transform our potentially destructive or self-centered tendencies into productive behavior that benefits ourselves and others.

They help us focus on the common good in a way that autocracy and dictatorships cannot. In spite of our sinful nature, we are also born with a spirit of creativity and purpose. We awake each morning and have something significant and unique to offer the world. The more limited our government and the more free our society, the better we are able to offer our gifts to others and to serve the common good.  This is because we have the liberty and incentive to pursue our own interests under a free society.

Independence Day is a celebration of previous efforts to establish a political system that allows individuals to thrive. Interestingly, we take the day off from work to celebrate the past. Yet it is through the work we do each day that we are contributing to the common good and to the prosperity of others.

As you celebrate Independence Day with a reprieve from work, take time to pause and realize that your work is a gift from God. It is a way that you can create and build and serve others.  We are truly blessed to live in a free society in which we can contribute to flourishing simply by doing our jobs.

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