Do you belong to the government?

Victor Joecks

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI’s week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them. Just enter your email in the box on the top right.

For today’s week-in-review email, Andy asks, “Do you belong to the government?”.

I shudder to think that anyone in this country would answer yes to that question, but at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, the party played this video. It’s a short video, so I encourage you to watch it and listen, and to take particular note of the statement that “government is the only thing we all belong to.”

Yes, you heard that right.

Astonishingly, when Revealing Politics asked some convention goers about this statement, they didn’t repudiate it or redefine it. Indeed, they accepted it, and offered some further comments on how it made them feel.

I urge you to watch their video, but I wanted to offer a sampling of the comments:

Democrat: Regardless of where you live, you’re going to be owned by someone at some point.

Democrat: We all do belong to the government, if you’re a U.S. citizen.

Democrat: Who knows? I haven’t never had another feeling. So I can’t tell you how it feels not to belong to the government.

Interviewer: So how do you feel about the community message that we all belong to the government? Democrat: Well, I believe that, but unfortunately, the Republicans don’t.

These comments certainly provide additional context to President Obama’s “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” line. After all, how can you really build anything if you belong to the government?

What we have here, my friend, is a complete perversion of the American social contract. As the Declaration of Independence states so eloquently, people don’t belong to the government. Rather, people create governments to protect their God-given rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Or, as Frédéric Bastiat, the 19th Century political economist and philosopher, wrote in The Law:

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. …

If every person has the right to defend – even by force – his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right – its reason for existing, its lawfulness – is based on individual right.

While this fall’s elections are very important, the need to confront our nation’s fundamental philosophical divide is even greater, and transcends any single election. We must – at appropriate times within our circles of influence – help our friends, family members, co-workers and other associates understand the history and meaning of our nation’s founding documents, as well as the proper role of government those documents so brilliantly articulate.

One tool I’d like to recommend is a series of classes on the U.S. Constitution offered by Hillsdale College. The courses, including an Introduction to the Constitution, Constitution 101 and Constitution 201, are college-level classes (available online) that offer a convenient way for citizens of all ages to learn the true history of our nation’s paramount governing document. Even better, the classes are free. (Learn more at

If you take one of the classes (or if you have already), I’d love to know what you think. If we’re going to effectively counter the mindset of those who think that “government is the only thing we all belong to,” learning about the ideals that inspired our nation’s founding is a great place to start.

Take care, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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