An Anniversary Worth Celebrating

by Harry Browne

October 24, 2002       

This Monday, October 28th, should be a national holiday.

In addition to being my wife's birthday, it is the anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

As with most parts of American history, very few Americans are aware of the Statue's background.

It was a gift from the French people to the American people. And when I say, "French people," I mean it. It wasn't paid for with French taxes; the money was raised through voluntary donations, given freely by French people as a token of friendship to the United States.

Why would they do that?

Because at that time the United States was truly unique. It was the one country in the world where individual liberty was prized far above "national greatness." And it was the one major country that didn't embroil itself in the endless wars the European people were so used to.

How Times Change

In the 1880s, people all over the world looked to America for inspiration. Its very existence was proof that it was possible to have a relatively free and peaceful country. No income tax, no foreign wars, no welfare state, no intrusions on civil liberties.

Of course, that's no longer the case. We now have all those things and more. And, worse yet, most Americans have come to accept them as necessary evils. Government schools make no attempt to show children that it wasn't always this way that it doesn't have to be this way.

Liberty Alone

When the Statue arrived in the U.S., Americans donated the money again, voluntarily to build the pedestal and assemble the Statue on Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor.

The great monument isn't called the Statue of the World's Superpower, or the Statue of National Greatness, or the Statue of the World's Policeman. Because individual liberty was America's one possession so prized by others, the monument was named the Statue of Liberty.

It is an impressive sight. Notice that Lady Liberty faces outward toward the world, not toward America. With her torch held high, she is reaching out to the world as the symbol of liberty bringing light and inspiration to people everywhere.

The Statue's Message

At the time of her creation, she was saying:

Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you can just get to America, you can be free. No matter what your station where you are now, you'll be equal before the law here.

No one will ask for your papers.

No one will fasten a number on you.

No one will extort a percentage of your income as the price of earning a living.

You'll be free to pursue the life you've always dreamed of.

Emma Lazarus summed it up in those lovely words that are inscribed on the base of the Statue:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me;
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.

That is the America we once had the beacon of liberty, providing light and hope and inspiration to the entire world the America we have forsaken for a mess of tasteless pottage.

That is the America we should have.

And I am determined that it is the America we will someday have again.