July 17, 2019

By Shayne Spence

Much hubbub has been made on the Democratic presidential campaign trail about tech giant Amazon, and their now-infamous ability to pay $0 in federal income taxes some years.  Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have targeted the online retailer for years, charging that their low tax liability is akin to the federal government subsidizing their business model.  Ignoring Amazon’s hundreds of billions paid in taxes to state and local governments, their rising wages, and the fact that Sanders himself gets away with paying a very low tax rate considering his millionaire status

Amazon’s Prime Day was this week, a misnomer, since this year the sales will span two full days.  And while Amazon workers in several cities were busy striking against their employer, Amazon itself was doing a barely-noticed service to the American taxpayer, by essentially paying all of their sales taxes on large transactions, plus some.

Let me explain.  First, it’s important to remember that just a few years ago, Amazon was in a bit of a no-man’s land when it came to sales tax. Some states explicitly required Amazon to collect and remit sales taxes to them, while others had not set policy to deal with this shift in the Internet age.  Because of this, Amazon, for the most part, did not have to charge sales tax for sales made through its website, giving it a massive advantage over brick-and-mortar shops in high tax areas, like, say, Vermont.

However, a recent Supreme Court decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair, made explicit each state’s ability to charge sales tax on all purchases made by citizens within that state.  Since that decision in 2018, 31 states have updated their sales tax statutes to include interstate online sales.  Amazon, as a result, has started to collect and remit sales taxes to those states.

Which brings me to now.  On Prime Day this year, I decided to take advantage of the huge savings on certain big-ticket items.  I’ve needed to buy a new PC for a while, to take my design business to the next level, as well as unlocking some more frames per second when I’m gaming.So this year I decided to splurge and get that new PC, a liquid-cooled CYBERPOWER gaming PC with a top of the line graphics processor.  (For those who know what that means, I was drooling too.)  But these machines do not come cheap. The list price of this new PC is $1,849.  Luckily I’ve been saving my pennies for a while, and held on to most of my tax refund check, so I figured the time was right to bite the bullet and make the purchase.

Some of you are probably wondering, “How did Amazon pay your taxes, silly millennial nerd?”  I’m getting to that. The savings Amazon was offering on this crazy-expensive piece of equipment were $350, for Prime members.  I paid my membership fee forever ago, so that $10 monthly was well out of my mind when I made this purchase. But I was thinking to myself, “Holy cow! $350 is enough for at least 5 Starbucks coffees!”

But the real shock came when I took a look at the final receipt, which you can check out below.

You can see the free shipping, which is one of the fundamental perks of a Prime membership.  You can see “Deal of the Day”, a $350 (or 18%) rebate. But down a little further, you can see “tax to be collected”, at $89.94.

Now, I don’t shop on Amazon often, I much prefer to pay a little bit extra to support a local business and have a face to face conversation with an actual human.  For me, my Prime subscription is made worth it through all of the various add-ons, not necessarily the two day shipping or other sales. But, it would appear to me that on Prime Day, at the very least, Amazon has found a way to not only bring customers like me into the “store” for the day, but they’re also willing to eat the added costs that state governments have been imposing on consumers ever since the Wayfair decision.

All of this may have just sounded like a #paid Amazon advertisement (if any execs are reading this, contact me for my PayPal) but I see it as a firm rebuke of the philosophy of the Sanders/Warren left.  They, and others of their cohort, have made Amazon out to be a greedy, evil corporation, devoid of any sort of human compassion. They’ve ceaselessly attacked Amazon, instigated labor disputes at Amazon facilities, and chased future Amazon development out of their cities.  Amazon, for its part, has increased wages, increased benefit packages, improved working conditions and more.

And now they’re willing to go the extra mile for their customers, by making sure that the first Prime Day since the new sales tax laws went into effect, those customers would not have to pay any additional taxes on Prime Day sales items.  It’s this kind of creativity and, honestly, generosity on the part of private actors that make it so the free market will always be better than government.

Shayne Spence is a former Legislative Coordinator for the Ethan Allen Institute. He now lives in Johnson with his partner Athena and their two cats.


July 15, 2019

By John McClaughry

During May a record 144,000 people crossed into the United States along the Southern Border, seeking asylum in our country. Not surprisingly, this flood of mostly families swamped the modest facilities the Customs and Border Protection Agency has along that border. The result is shockingly crowded conditions for people who entered the United States illegally and want to stay here.

The Democrats are making as much political hay as possible, sponsoring demonstrations across the country to demand the closing of the facilities.. and what? Let the illegal entrants disappear into the united states for months or years, until their case comes up before an asylum law judge? At least half the time, historically, persons so summoned for an asylum adjudication can’t be found or have no interest in showing up.

Here’s my solution. Release every immigrant family into the custody of one of the Americans who are protesting the conditions at the border facilities. That American will take responsibility for and assist the families, and post a ten thousand dollar bond that the family will actually show up when summoned to the immigration court. If the family doesn’t show, the bond is forfeited. If the family does show, the host American can pocket ten thousand dollars for providing assistance to the immigrants in the interim, and can do it again for another family.

We could haggle about the dollar amounts but the idea seems fair to me.


July 12, 2019

By David Flemming

The good news: one of the top major credit agencies applauded Vermont’s legislators for recognizing that Vermont has a population problem.

The bad news: that same credit agency, Fitch Ratings, said that it would still downgrade Vermont’s bond rating from a perfect AAA bond rating to AA+.

Why did Fitch choose to lower Vermont’s rating? Our labor force is “flat to declining” in the past decade. Fitch has a “lowered view of the state’s growth prospects and the state’s ability to raise revenue from its tax base,” according to employee Eric Kim.

Fitch is part of “The Big Three” credit rating agencies. Just 10 months ago, Moody’s also downgraded Vermont from its perfect rating. The other credit agency, Standard & Poor’s, has given Vermont a less than perfect rating for a while now. This means that when Vermont’s government needs to raise money quickly by selling bonds to investors, the investors can demand higher interest rates to offset the slightly higher risk that Vermont will not be able to pay interest on those bonds.

Vermont can no longer blame the 2009 Recession for its problems. Most of the other 50 states has seen at least some population growth in the past decade while Vermont has been stagnant.

That said, Vermont still maintains one of the highest credit rating relative to other states in the region. We can borrow money at the same rate as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and can borrow money more cheaply than Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island.

What does all this mean for Vermonters? More taxpayer money will need to go toward paying down pension debt and the like, rather than towards government services. Governor Scott said on Thursday that it’s uncertain how much taxpayer money will need to be diverted.

In the long run, the only way we can repair our rating is if our workforce can grow substantially with policies that are friendly toward economic growth.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute


Testimony of Prof. John R. Christy, U.S. House Committee on Science, Space & Technology 29 Mar 2017 (excerpt)

John R. Christy is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has served as a Lead Author, Contributing Author and Reviewer of United Nations IPCC assessments, has been awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and in 2002 was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.


This diagram actually appeared in the AR5 [IPCC Assessment Report 5, 2014] and it shows a vertical temperature structure from the surface to the stratosphere, and between 20oN and 20oS. It was only because of my repeated insistence that the report could be open to legal challenge that they did put this chart in the Supplement. To avoid drawing attention to it, they buried it in the Supplement and it wouldn’t be published until long after the big press release.

I enlarge this part of the diagram in the slide above, showing the temperature trend in the tropics. So the troposphere; and this is the trend – it gets hot over here (to the right of the chart), cold the other way. The red – remember this is in the IPCC – the red bands as you go up in height are the trends from the models that were used in the AR5. The white bands show the actual observations. Do you see any crossover there? Maybe one tiny bit right at the bottom, but basically you can see there is almost no congruence, there is no agreement between the observations and the models. The IPCC knew it. They knew something else too. They also ran the models without any additional (anthropogenic) greenhouse forcing – and those results are shown by the blue bands. What do you see about the blue here? The blue bands closely match the observations. So if the models were run without extra greenhouse gases they reproduced the actual temperature of the atmosphere, and that was never ever mentioned anywhere in the text.  You had to dig it out. And so I had to annotate it so you could see the IPCC was clearly aware their models had failed terribly but would not draw attention to it because then the whole scare scenario falls.


July 10, 2019

By Guy Page

July 10, 2019 – Vermont’s energy leaders often warn about the dangers of climate-change related extreme weather. But the solutions they propose won’t keep people or property safer when the next Climate storm, flood or blizzard hits. Most Vermont state government policies, plans, legislation and spending address carbon emission reduction. Comparatively little thought is given to adapting our rivers, roads, power lines, homes and public buildings to extreme weather.

This emphasis is noticeable to any watcher of State House legislation and government reports. Take, for example, recent statements by Vermont Public Utilities (PUC) Chairman Anthony Roisman July 8 on WDEV’s The Dave Gram Show.

Roisman was talking up a July 1 PUC report urging a “wartime footing” approach to getting Vermonters to buy electric vehicles (EVs) to meet Vermont carbon reduction goals. reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Roismann had spent the first 15 minutes of the show calling criticism of EV cost and range a “myth” and “fake news”. Thanks to a $7500 federal rebate many models are cost-competitive, he said. EV’s simpler mechanics and electric ($1.50/gallon equivalent) fuel make them cheaper to operate than internal-combustion cars. Range is now 200 miles and getting longer all the time, he said.

And Roisman has a point, I’ve got to admit. EV technology, to quote the Beatles, “is getting better, a little better, all the time.” Toyota now sells a winter-worthy, all-wheel drive EV. This progress begs the question: if the tech is getting better why not just wait a few years until EVs don’t need rebates to compete? Cellphones don’t need subsidies to “compete” with landlines.

Still, it’s not every day average Vermonters get to ask the chief justice of Vermont’s energy court pointed questions in public about the state’s climate change policy. It’s even more rare for his revealing answers to be broadcast statewide and then preserved in a podcast. Seizing this opportunity, caller “Doug from Underhill” and I posed back-to-back questions. (No, we didn’t coordinate. We were both just trying to “be our own media.” When you do that, good things happen.)

Doug from Underhill questioned whether federal money – derived either from taxpayers or debt – should be spent on a $7500 rebate to make EVs market-affordable. Roisman said in effect that ‘we can’t afford not to spend the money’: “The question is, are we getting value for that money? What happened in this state when we had [Hurricane] Irene? What happens to our electric grid? What happens when we have the flooding with these big storms? The cost of not dealing with the climate change issue is far greater than stopping this problem before it gets to where we have no ability to control it anymore.”

I was the next caller and I asked the obvious follow-up: “then why aren’t we spending our limited amount of time and money on adaptation instead?”

Roisman answered: “Number one, if we only assume that unless Vermont can change the world all by itself that we shouldn’t do anything, then we have failed to recognized the value of setting an example. Vermont often leads by example rather than follows. Right now the US is not a leader.”

Message: This is all about setting an example to the rest of the world. To be fair, Roisman did add:

We shouldn’t be ignoring taking protective measures to deal with the effects of climate change while we are trying to get rid of the worst effects that will happen if we don’t deal with climate change. We have to do both. That’s why I refer to this as being on a wartime footing.  This needs that kind of mentality.”

It’s sort of like World War II when the U.S. prioritized the war in Europe over the war in the Pacific. Except that on this “war footing,” actual war planning (or lack of it) is leaving civilians defenseless against the invader. There’s not a word about infrastructure adaptation in the PUC report, “Promoting the ownership and use of electric vehicles in the State of Vermont.” Instead it puts EV ownership in the fast lane via subsidies, more charging stations, and ratepayer restructuring. It’s all about carbon reduction.

The same could be said about S.173, “The Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act” introduced this year by Sen. Allison Clarkson (D-Windham) and 12 other senators. It’s likely to get legislative attention in the second year of the 2019-20 biennium. Its statement of purpose declares that “It is in the interest of the people, in order to protect the public health, preserve the environment, and promote the general welfare, that the State reduce economy-wide carbon emissions [italics mine] in order to address the problem of climate change.”

S173 would empower state government to makes far-reaching decisions in virtually every arena of life, in order to reduce emissions. It would not explicitly lift a finger to actually protect infrastructure or people from the threat of climate-related disaster.

In fact, only one major piece of environmental legislation now under consideration may address infrastructure protection against extreme weather: the proposed revision of Act 250. This huge rewrite of the state’s environmental planning and development law is at least a year away from passage. No-one knows how the final version will read.

The executive branch of government has done little better. According to the prestigious Georgetown Climate Center, “Vermont has not adopted an official statewide adaptation plan.” Instead there is a 2013 “Adaptation Framework” for forest, fishery and wildlife resources, and a 2014 vulnerability report called the Vermont Climate Assessment. Follow-up and action may be quietly taking place – but if so, it’s not well known in the State House of the Vermont media.

Amid the windstorm of concerted judicial, executive and legislative branch activity to reduce emissions, there’s barely a whisper about helping Vermonters cope with the next Hurricane Irene. A our leaders go to war as a shining Joan of Arc-like example to the nations, many Vermonters just want to survive the next Irene.

Guy Page is the publisher of Statehouse Headliners and Chronicle of the State House. This piece originally appeared in Headliners and is reprinted with permission. 


July 9, 2019

by Rob Roper

Anthony Roisman, chair of Vermont’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is making the media rounds pushing the idea that we need to move to “wartime footing” in an effort to reach the state’s goals for electric vehicles by 2025.

These goals are, of course, insanely absurd. They would require Vermont to have 50,000 to 60,000 electric vehicles on the road in less than six years. That’s means adding roughly 10,000 EVs a year. Now, keep in mind that cumulatively over all the years that EVs and hybrids have been a thing (the first Prius came out in 1997) Vermonters have registered less than 3000 EVs — total.

Why is this? Well, the short answer is Vermonters do not want these cars. At least not in the numbers our politicians would like us to want them.

A report to the legislature on “Promoting the Ownership and Use of Electric Vehicles in Vermont” cites the more detailed reasons, “The barriers identified include, but are not limited to, the price of new electric vehicles, the perceived limited distance that an EV can travel on a single charge, and the limited availability of public charging locations. Though not cited as often as these barriers, lack of vehicle choice….” In other words, they are too expensive, unreliable for long distances, inconvenient to operate, and functionally impractical. All good reasons not to waste your money on them.

Our politicians’ solution: force you to waste your money on them!

The recommendations in the report all come down to taxpayer funded subsidies of one kind or another – a $7500 federal subsidy, a $1500 subsidy through your electric utility, subsidies for charging stations, exemptions from the sales tax for EV buyers, etc. and so on…. So, the pitch from Honest Anthony the electric car salesman is, “How much of your money will it take to put your neighbor in this crappy car?” And he’s willing to go to war on your wallet to make it happen!

This is NOT the proper role of government.

Especially when you consider that this really amounts to a “war” on lower income Vermonters, who can’t afford even a subsidized EV even if they wanted one, to benefit higher income Vermonters who could probably afford and EV without the subsidy, if they wanted one. This is a policy that forces the single mom driving the used minivan to subsidize the money manager driving Tesla.

I guess our government hasn’t reached the outright dictatorial point where they feel comfortable forcing us to buy the kind of car they want us to drive (as opposed to what we’d choose for ourselves). But they have no problem forcing us to buy that car, through higher taxes and fees, for someone else. A distinction without much of a difference.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute


July 8, 2019

By John McClaughry

One striking thing that emerged from the Democratic presidential debate a week ago was the unanimous agreement that illegal aliens should be able to buy health insurance, subsidies and all, from the Obamacare exchanges.

In her 2016 health-care platform, Hillary Clinton would have allowed undocumented immigrants to buy marketplace plans, but she would have still excluded them from getting the Obamacare income-based subsidies.

Two decades before that, Mrs. Clinton was trying to get a major health insurance program passed for her husband. Back then, she expressed concern that extending benefits to the undocumented could encourage more people to enter the country illegally.

Mrs. Clinton told Congress in 1993 “We do not think the comprehensive health-care benefits should be extended to those who are undocumented workers and illegal aliens. We know now that too many people come in for medical care, as it is. We certainly don’t want them having the same benefits that American citizens are entitled to have.”

In the debate, NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie posed this question: “A lot of you have been talking tonight about these government health care plans that you have proposed in one form or another. Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.”

All the Democratic  candidates — including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders — raised their hands in affirmative response.

You could almost hear Donald Trump laughing in the background.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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As we celebrate Independence Day today, EAI has been publishing a series of blog posts from Americans who helped shape the meaning of liberty in the US over the past two and a half centuries. This speech is nominated by David Flemming, policy analyst at EAI.

Calvin Coolidge is one of two presidents to be born in Vermont (Chester Arthur being the other). He is the only president to be born on July 4, and his birthday is celebrated in conjunction with Independence Day every year at his birthplace in Plymouth, Vermont. He delivered “The Destiny of America” on Memorial Day, 96 years ago in one of his last speeches as vice president before becoming president.

July 4, 2019

Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. In no other nation on earth does this principle have such complete application. It comes most naturally from the fundamental doctrine of our land that the people are supreme. Lincoln stated the substance of the whole matter in his famous phrase, “government of the people; by the people, and for the people.”

The authority of law here is not something which is imposed upon the people; it is the will of the people themselves. The decision of the court here is not something which is apart from the people; it is the judgment of the people themselves. The right of the ownership of property here is not something withheld from the people; it is the privilege of the people themselves. Their sovereignty is absolute and complete.

A definition of the relationship between the institutions of our government and the American people entirely justifies the assertion that: “All things were made by them; and without them was not anything made that was made.” It is because the American government is the sole creation and possession of the people that they have always cherished it and defended it, and always will.

There are two fundamental motives which inspire human action. The first and most important, to which all else is subordinate, is that of righteousness. There is that in mankind, stronger than all else, which requires them to do right. When that requirement is satisfied, the next motive is that of gain. These are the moral motive and the material motive.

While in some particular instance they might seem to be antagonistic, yet always, when broadly considered or applied to society as a whole, they are in harmony. American institutions meet the test of these two standards. They are founded on righteousness, they are productive of material prosperity. They compel the loyalty and support of the people because such action is right and because it is profitable.

These are the main reasons for the formation of patriotic societies. Desiring to promote the highest welfare of civilization, their chief purpose is to preserve and extend American ideals. No matter what others may do, they are determined to serve themselves and their fellowmen by thinking America, believing America, and living America. That faith they are proud to proclaim to all the world.

It is no wonder that the people are attached to America when we consider what it has done and what it represents. It has been called the last great hope of the world. Its simple story is a romance of surpassing interest. Its accomplishments rise above the realm of fable. To live under the privileges of its citizenship is the highest position of opportunity and achievement ever reached by a people.

If there be a destiny, it is of no avail for us unless we work with it. The ways of Providence will be of no advantage to us unless we proceed in the same direction. If we perceive a destiny in America, if we believe that Providence has been the guide, our own success, our own salvation require that we should act and serve in harmony and obedience…

Such is America, such is the government and civilization which have grown up around the church, the town meeting, and the schoolhouse. It is not perfect, but it surpasses the accomplishments of any other people. Such is the state of society which has been created in this country, which has brought it from the untrodden wilderness of 300 years ago to its present state of development.

Who can fail to see in it the hand of destiny? Who can doubt that it has been guided by a Divine Providence? What has it not given to its people in material advantages, educational opportunity, and religious consolation? Our country has not failed, our country has been a success. You are here because you believe in it, because you believe that it is right, and because you know that it has paid. You are determined to defend it, to support it, and, if need be, to fight for it. You know that America is worth fighting for.

But if our republic is to be maintained and improved it will be through the efforts and character of the individual. It will be, first of all, because of the influences which exist in the home, for it is the ideals which prevail in the homelife which make up the strength of the nation. The homely virtues must continue to be cultivated. The real dignity, the real nobility of work must be cherished. It is only through industry that there is any hope for individual development. The viciousness of waste and the value of thrift must continue to be learned and understood. Civilization rests on conservation. To these there must be added religion, education, and obedience to law. These are the foundation of all character in the individual and all hope in the nation. . . .

A growing tendency has been observed of late years to think too little of what is really the public interest and too much of what is supposed to be class interest. The two great political parties of the nation have existed for the purpose, each in accordance with its own principles, of undertaking to serve the interests of the whole nation. Their members of the Congress are chosen with that great end in view.

Patriotism does not mean a regard for some special section or an attachment for some special interest, and a narrow prejudice against other sections and other interests; it means a love of the whole country. This does not mean that any section or any interest is to be disproportionately preferred or disproportionately disregarded, but that the welfare of all is equally to be sought. Agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and all the other desirable activities should serve in accordance with their strength and should be served in accordance with the benefits they confer.

A division of the people or their representatives in accordance with any other principle or theory is contrary to the public welfare. An organization for the purpose of serving some special interest is perfectly proper and may be exceedingly helpful, but whenever it undertakes to serve that interest by disregarding the welfare of other interests, it becomes harmful alike to the interest which it proposes to serve and to the public welfare in general. Under the modern organization of society there is such a necessary community of interests that all necessarily experience depression or prosperity together.

They cannot be separated. Our country has resources sufficient to provide in abundance for everybody. But it cannot confer a disproportionate share upon anybody. There is work here to keep amply employed every dollar of capital and every hand of honest toil, but there is no place for profiteering, either in high prices or in low, by the organized greed of money or of men. The most pressing requirement of the present day is that we should learn this lesson and be content with a fair share, whether it be the returns from invested capital or the rewards of toil. On that foundation there is a guarantee of continued prosperity, of stable economic conditions, of harmonious social relationships, and of sound and enduring government. On any other theory or action the only prospect is that of wasteful conflict and suffering in our economic life and factional discord and trifling in our political life. No private enterprise can succeed unless the public welfare be held supreme…

The business of the country, as a whole, is transacted on a small margin of profit. The economic structure is one of great delicacy and sensitiveness. When taxes become too burdensome, either the price of commodities has to be raised to a point at which consumption is so diminished as greatly to curtail production, or so much of the returns from industry is required by the government that production becomes unprofitable and ceases for that reason. In either case there is depression, lack of employment, idleness of investment and of wage earner, with the long line of attendant want and suffering on the part of the people. After order and liberty, economy is one of the highest essentials of a free government. It was in no small degree the unendurable burden of taxation which drove Europe into the Great War. Economy is always a guarantee of peace….

Our country does not want war, it wants peace. It has not decreed this memorial season as an honor to war, with its terrible waste and attendant train of suffering and hardship which reaches onward into the years of peace. Yet war is not the worst of evils, and these days have been set apart to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice. Some fell with the word of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” almost ringing in their ears. Some heard that word across the intervening generations and were still obedient to its call. It is to the spirit of those men, exhibited in all our wars, to the spirit that places the devotion to freedom and truth above the devotion to life, that the nation pays its ever enduring mark of reverence and respect.

It is not that principle that leads to conflict but to tranquility. It is not that principle which is the cause of war but the only foundation for an enduring peace. There can be no peace with the forces of evil. Peace comes only through the establishment of the supremacy of the forces of good. That way lies only through sacrifice. It was that the people of our country might live in a knowledge of the truth that these, our countrymen, are dead. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

This spirit is not dead, it is the most vital thing in America. It did not flow from any act of government. It is the spirit of the people themselves. It justifies faith in them and faith in their institutions. Remembering all that it has accomplished from the day of the Puritan and Cavalier to the day of the last, least immigrant, who lives by it no less than they, who shall dare to doubt it, who shall dare to challenge it, who shall venture to rouse it into action?

Those who have scoffed at it from the day of the Stuarts and the Bourbons to the day of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns have seen it rise and prevail over them. Calm, peaceful, puissant, it remains, conscious of its authority, “slow to anger, plenteous in mercy,” seeking not to injure but to serve, the safeguard of the republic, still the guarantee of a broader freedom, the supreme moral power of the world. It is in that spirit that we place our trust. It is to that spirit again, with this returning year, we solemnly pledge the devotion of all that we have and are.

Ellipses (…) indicate removal of a portion of the speech. To read the entire speech, visit the Coolidge Foundation’s website.



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In any given year the House and Senate will cast scores of roll call votes, some on major issues and some minor.  The roll call votes used in these profiles were chosen because they cover issues of the greatest public interest, have significant potential impact on the lives of Vermonters, and appeal to EAI’s focus on individual liberty, limited government and the founding principles of our great nation.

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As we celebrate Independence Day this week, EAI will be publishing a series of blog posts from Americans who helped shape the meaning of liberty in the US over the past two and half centuries. This speech is nominated by Rob Roper, president of EAI.

Patrick Henry delivered “Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death”  on March 23, 1775, less then a month before the first military conflicts of the Revolutionary War. 

“No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.

The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet.

Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?

No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves.

Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.

Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.

The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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