Daniel J. Mitchell

Since we’re enjoying a long holiday weekend to celebrate the 4th of July, let’s take a moment to ponder patriotism.

I’ve always been inspired (in more ways than one) by this t-shirt. My patriotism is for American principles, not the federal government.

Indeed, I’m very proud that a Clinton Administration official once accused me of being unpatriotic for helping foreign jurisdiction oppose some bad policies from Washington.

But I’m a libertarian, and we’re different than most people (some would even say needlessly ornery).

So what about the average American? How do regular people define patriotism?

Well, we have a new poll that asks people whether they think various behaviors are patriotic. Let’s ponder some of the answers.

The latest Fox News national poll finds 83 percent of voters consider serving on a jury an “act of patriotism.”

I don’t agree. I would say jury duty is at most a civic obligation. Though even that doesn’t capture my thoughts since my gut instinct is that we would be best served by having professional jurors.

Though I am willing to say that individual jurors can demonstrate patriotism by engaging in nullification and refusing to convict people of breaking unjust laws.

But that’s a separate issue. Let’s look at more of the findings from the poll.

…other actions rank even higher: 94 percent say flying an American flag shows patriotism, 93 percent say voting in elections counts, and 90 percent consider joining the military an act of patriotism.

I’ll agree on the flag and joining the military, but voting hardly seems patriotic – particularly if you’re looking for handouts and voting for candidates who have nothing but disdain for America’s founding principles (as illustrated by this Glenn McCoy cartoon).

And don’t forget that voting is inherently illogical.

Let’s look at other results.

About eight voters in 10 believe staying informed on the news (79 percent) and paying taxes (78 percent) are ways to show national loyalty. …there is agreement across party lines on the patriotic merits of paying taxes: 80 percent of Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers say paying taxes shows patriotism.

I disagree. I have no objection to staying informed, but is it really patriotic to watch the news instead of a game show? What about the people who are so disgusted by Washington that they’ve tuned out? I suspect they’re very patriotic.

I also don’t think paying taxes is patriotic. Heck, our Founding Fathers rebelled against paying taxes.

This doesn’t mean we necessarily should evade taxes. Context is very important. If you live in a jurisdiction with tolerable taxation and reasonably honest and effective government (Singapore or Switzerland are reasonable examples), then I think tax evasion is wrong.

But if you live in an oppressive totalitarian nation (think Venezuela) or a nation with confiscatory taxation (such as France), then paying taxes is a sign of stupidity rather than patriotism.

Let’s look at one final set of results.

…the most significant differences are on the act of owning a gun. Some 79 percent of Tea Party activists consider owning a gun an act of patriotism, as do 69 percent of Republicans. Democrats (35 percent) and independents (40 percent) are much less likely to feel that way. Men (60 percent) say being a gun owner shows patriotism, while over half of women feel it does not (56 percent).

Needless to say, I’m very sympathetic to gun ownership. Though I think someone can be a strong patriot (in the proper sense) without owning a gun.

Now let’s review some new data from the Pew Research Center, as reported by Byron York of the Washington Examiner. Pew found that ideology affects patriotism.

They divided the electorate into seven groups and found that six of the groups were at least somewhat patriotic.

Pew asked all whether they “often feel proud to be American.” The conservatives are most proud — 81 percent of the business conservatives and 72 percent of the steadfast conservatives say they often feel U.S. pride. There’s a dropoff after that, but still, majorities of other groups express pride. Fifty-nine percent of the faith and family left say they often feel pride; 56 percent of both the next generation left and young outsiders feel pride; and 51 percent of the hard-pressed skeptics, despite their skepticism, still often feel proud to be Americans.

So who isn’t patriotic?

Only among the solid liberals does the number fall below a majority, with just 40 percent saying they often feel proud. Why do they feel the way they do? …They are the most loyal Democrats of all groups and “unflagging supporters of Barack Obama.” Solid liberals are more urban than other groups, more likely to use public transportation, more likely to recycle. They’re the most likely to say they want to live close to museums and theaters, and the least likely to hunt or fish. …Today they give the president a job approval rating of 84 percent — 40 points higher than the public at large. They identify with the Democratic Party more than any of the conservative groups identify with the GOP. …Solid liberals are more likely to say that compassion and helping others are their core values.

And based on some previous research, you can safely assume that you won’t find these “solid liberals” at any July 4th parades.

Let’s close with a very good video released last year by Reason TV.

And here are a couple of cartoons with a 4th-of-July theme, staring with this gem from Glenn McCoy.

Reminds me of this Sandra Fluke cartoon.

And here’s one from Henry Payne.

Excellent job. Captures the humor of this Chip Bok cartoon and this Michael Ramirez cartoon.


Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
TOWNHALL FINANCE DAILY

Get the best of Townhall Finance Daily delivered straight to your inbox

Follow Townhall Finance!