July 21st, 2014 // 6:09 am @ Sara DeMille
My Eureka Moment
It was downright amazing! Surprising, in fact. Shocking. Actually, I don’t think the American founding generation would have been surprised at all. They would have expected it. But for me, raised in our modern world, it was a true Eureka!
I should have seen it coming, to tell the truth. In fact, if someone had asked me beforehand to predict what would happen, I’d have put on my forecasting cap and I…probably still wouldn’t have known. But nobody asked, and I didn’t give it a thought. I guess I’m getting ahead of the story, though, so let’s back up a bit.
Petitions and Amazing Happenings
Last summer and fall a number of people in our small town went around getting citizens to sign a petition. The city had decided to raise taxes to meet the growing demands, and some people thought this was a bad idea. The truth is, the leaders in our town are very dedicated and honest—the ones I know personally, which includes most of them, are people of deep integrity.
The same is true of the citizens who talked to me about signing the petition. I studied the issue and decided that, in my opinion, we really didn’t need the additional services the tax increase would cover. I signed the petition.
So did a lot of people, and the taxes were postponed—at least for a while.
Then came the annual 4th of July celebration. Of course, one of the great traditions of Independence Day is watching the fireworks. This was suggested by founding father John Adams, and it has been a ritual of growing up for most Americans ever since.
But fireworks were one of the things cut by postponing the tax increase. As the 4th approached, this became a topic of discussion across back fences, near mailboxes, and anywhere else neighbors met. “I voted against raising taxes,” one neighbor told me, “but I’ll sure miss the fireworks.” He shook his head sadly.
I found myself agreeing with him. I repeated his sentiment several times during the last half of June.
Time passed, as it always does, and the holiday arrived. There was a parade, snow cones, barbecues and races. When evening came, my kids asked if I wanted to drive to the neighboring town and watch the fireworks. I told them to go ahead. On the one hand I felt a bit like a hypocrite for voting against the taxes and then driving to the next town for their tax-funded fireworks. But mostly I was just worn out from the day and wanted to stay home. “If only we could just sit in our yard and watch the fireworks like every year,” I heard my voice saying in spite of myself.
The kids left, and Rachel and I sat in the yard and watched dusk turn into darkness.
Then an amazing thing happened. Our neighbors just down the road begin shooting off amazing fireworks. Because the city wasn’t providing fireworks, policies were relaxed and people were allowed to fire up the kind of fireworks usually only done by the local government.
We watched in awe. Because our home is on a hill, the bursts seemed close enough to reach out and touch.
But that was just the beginning. Right after the neighbors began their display, another one started just down the road. Then another, and another. We walked the stairs to our balcony and looked out over the valley. Every neighborhood seemed to have the kind of fireworks that in past years have only been done by the city. We counted seventeen distinct places that shot off huge firework displays.
We watched them simultaneously. This went on for over two hours. The city’s usual annual display seemed to last about a half hour or so—I have no idea the actual timing, just my recollection. This one went on and on. An hour into this, three more neighborhoods started. Some ended, and new ones began.
We watched in awe.
It was by far the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever witnessed. All provided by private citizens. As far as I know, all paid for without tax funds.
As we watched, and as it continued well into the night, I turned to Rachel and said, “I can’t believe it! The city government never did anything close to this! Look at what the people are doing, all by themselves.”
She nodded. “Government tries to do too much,” she said, “and ends up doing less than if they’d just let people exercise their freedom.”
“Can you imagine what would happen to our economy if the government would get out of the way and let free enterprise work?” I asked.
“Instead of standing on a balcony watching the best fireworks ever,” she replied, “we could stand back and watch the nation’s economy boom and blossom. There would be jobs, progress and more prosperity everywhere!”
The One Thing That Works
We sat and watched in silence for a long time. The explosions boomed against each other and echoed through the valley. Sometime close to midnight things died down, and shortly after that our kids came home. They piled out of the van laughing and talking.
“Did you see all that?” our twenty-year-old asked enthusiastically. “That was the best fireworks display ever!”
“We didn’t even leave town!” our seventeen-year-old said. “We started to go, but then all these places started shooting up fireworks. They were everywhere! In every direction…”
“So we just pulled over at the park and got out to watch them!” our fourteen-year-old interrupted. “It was so amazing!”
I looked at Rachel. “Someday the government will get out of the economy and tell the people they’re on their own…and then we’ll see what freedom can really do in America.”
“That’s what you’re here talking about?” asked our twenty-two-year-old daughter with a big smile, baby in arms.
We laughed. “Well, it is the 4th of July” I said. “Isn’t this is exactly what every American should be talking about today?”
Long after the 5th of July arrived I rested on my bed, eyes open, unable to sleep. One thought just kept coming back to me, over and over.
Today’s America should give it more of a try. Deregulate and let free enterprise shine and flourish. Most people today probably can’t even imagine it, but I bet it’s amazing what the people of this nation would rise up and do if given the chance.
America should try it…
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah