The national anthem of America says, “the land of the free,” but have we lived up to this value? Although there is a lot of emphasis on the values listed in the Declaration of Independence, not all people of the United States are actually able to achieve the goals that these values infer. Three important values that I believe are the best examples to discuss in order to prove that the government has not lived up to the values listed in the Declaration of Independence are self-rule, individualism, and equality. These three values show that the well-being and the voice of Americans, that are not the ones in power, are not as accessible as the government depicts.
There are many ways in which the people of America have an impact on the ways of the government. They can participate in referendums and initiatives that propose new laws or policies, vote for the next President, and more. But these acts have limits that do not give actual power to the people. Self-rule “contends that governments derive ‘their just powers from the consent of the governed’” (page 66).
According to chapter two, a referendum is “an election in which citizens vote directly on an issue” (page 29). This means it gives power “to voters to decide whether to uphold or repeal the law” (Ballotpedia). Although this sounds like a great way for the people to use their voice, only twenty-seven states allow this. To add on, the people do not always get the power to participate in a referendum. It is only when a law is put on a ballot for a popular vote. Similarly, initiatives are a process that allows the people to suggest new laws to the government. This process does not enforce laws that the people want. It only proposes new ones.
People may feel like their input is what shapes our government, but this is shown to not be true. When voting for president people fill up poll sites to cast their vote on who they wish to become president. But, the people aren’t the actual people who elect the president of the United States. “When people cast their vote, they are actually voting for a group of people called electors. The number of electors each state gets is equal to its total number of Senators and Representatives in Congress. A total of 538 electors form the Electoral College. Each elector casts one vote following the general election. The candidate who gets 270 votes or more wins” (USAGov). This means that the people’s selection for the republican or democratic nominee actually implies who the electors in their state will vote for. Sometimes it happens where a presidential nominee will win the popular vote but not the electoral vote. Voting in America is a process that has sparked a lot of debate about whether or not it is effective. This shows that self-rule in the United States is one of the values of the Declaration of Independence that has not been lived up to be as significant as they make it seem.
According to Google, liberty is “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” The American government praises the importance of individualism, but at the same time communalism. The Declaration contradicts itself with these two ideas making it hard for us to understand where the line should be drawn when it comes to implementations from the government. A big example of this is in regards to homeless people. Homeless people do not have the same opportunities to pursue their goals as other people. The rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are supposed to be secured by the government, yet we praise the idea of individualism, which is “the idea that individuals, not the society, are responsible for their own well-being” (page 36).
Many homeless people are not capable of taking care of their well-being. They aren’t able to manifest their rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness “was entangled with the pursuit of wealth” (page 66). You need to be able to take care of your well-being in order to reach the pursuit of happiness. And you can’t take care of yourself without money. So, the government’s actions to fix this was with taxes. But, the government violates “your freedom when they collect taxes from you to feed the hungry” (page 26). So if not the homeless people’s freedom, then your freedom will be violated. It’s a cycle of obstruction of one’s rights to fulfill their pursuit of happiness and violation of liberty.
One more value that the government has not lived up to is equality. One aspect of equality is social equality. “Social equality means that all individuals enjoy the same status in society.” This means to say that people are not born into status. A simple example of this is Kylie Jenner. All the Kardashian kids, Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kylie, Kendall, and Rob, were born into wealth. Kylie Jenner was just named the youngest billionaire. Some people argue that she was self-made because “her parents cut her off at the age of 15.” Others say that “she was born into wealth and privilege” (Warren). I fully agree with the second opinion. Even if Kylie’s parents cut her off at age fifteen, she still was born into a higher status.
The status of her parents and siblings gave her a better opportunity to obtain wealth. Similarly, now all the Kardashian grandchildren, Psalm, Saint, Stormi, Mason, Penelope, Reign, Dream, North, True, and Chicago, were born into wealth and privilege. North West, who is six years old, has recently performed an original song on stage of Kanye’s tour. This sparked popularity and fame for the six year old. No regular six year old would have this opportunity to sing on that big of a stage. The value of equality might be important but is not practical. So many people are born into wealth and poverty. There are possibilities for “regular” people to gain wealth. For example, Mark Zuckerburg, gained his wealth from his creation of Facebook. It is possible for people to make their own wealth, but there are more people that are born into wealth that create their own wealth.
The Declaration of Independence holds many values of the American government that have not been fulfilled. Equality is a value that is highly desired, but unimaginable with the difference in statuses we have. Secondly, individualism is a constant debate about what implementations the government should apply. Lastly, self-rule has many limits to it. The government has not set specific and effective rules to make the ways of the government fair for the people of the United States of America.