Remembering the Importance of Independence Day

Remembering the Importance of Independence Day

The celebrations have come and gone, and Americans are back to work after a nice break. Yet, this week we’ve found ourselves reflecting on the sustained importance of this past holiday. Along with raising a flag at our homes and sharing in patriotic camaraderie, July 4 offered a reminder of another message—one that’s foundational and underlies our freedom.

The Fourth of July gives us a chance to reflect on the beginning of our nation in 1776. It represents the symbolic meaning of the Declaration of Independence, an affirmation of the principles and values of liberty and equality among our citizens. It’s a good time to recall the importance of two founding ideas: self-government and the pursuit of liberty. As Ronald Reagan famously said, the government has no power except that voluntarily granted by the people. The Declaration reflects the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, with the inclusion of God as creator and provider of mankind’s unalienable human rights.

iStock_000003397789_LargeNotably, of the 56 signers of the declaration, 18 were businessmen. This brings to mind the natural progression of capitalism and free enterprise in the USA. These two vital pieces of democracy have allowed economic success for many generations of Americans. Those who signed the Declaration risked all, putting their businesses, their livelihood and their freedom on the line as stakeholders in the founding of this country.

Two hundred years ago, when capitalism first took root in many places, 85 to 90 percent of the world lived in poverty. Today, the number is closer to 16 percent. Consider this as proof of the significant progress made toward building a better society through capitalism. The storied history of American capitalism signals that it can ensure the progress continues in our country—and that business leaders benefit by looking beyond profit. Finding a higher purpose within the framework of capitalism and achieving our highest potential is what we are all about. We make. We innovate. We care about making things better. We are Americans.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, has called for businesses to seek a higher purpose. This philosophy engages stakeholders, employees and customers to achieve much more than just a profit. While profit is an essential and sustaining force of any business, there is a further goal: to create value. Mackey’s concept of capitalism asks us to rethink the connotation the word has earned through the years: “We think of capitalism in simple and benign terms: it is simply the co-existence of free markets and free people, or economic and political freedom.” His idea of conscious capitalism challenges business owners to not only better understand why their business exists, but also to become “true value creators” themselves in order to make a positive impact on the world.

In a similar approach, respected author, philosopher and theologian Michael Novak has long provided insight into the foundations of capitalism, as well as foresight on the importance of free markets. As a major proponent of liberty and social justice, Novak has often and eloquently made the case for the importance of capitalism to a growing democracy. In his book Business as a Calling, he explains the need for an entrepreneur to engage in all endeavors with an ethical and moral approach.

Work connects us all in a very important and meaningful way—it can be a source of fulfillment and creative inspiration. In these ways, business is good, and business creates value. Consider that America still has the best form of government elected by the people, even with its flaws. This past weekend, we all gathered for parades, picnics and fireworks to celebrate our freedom, but let’s remember the values on which that freedom was built. And remember that through it all, Old Glory still proudly flies.