01/22/2013 02:29 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Critical Government Role Also in Declaration of Independence: The Next Sentence

"A necessitous man is not a free man". (FDR, 1936).

In his second inaugural address President Obama rooted his visions of America in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The president then observed that "history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing."

Indeed, as I have previously written, the Founders themselves recognized that truth. The "Ignored Next Sentence" in the Declaration is: "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men."


How can that be? Are not government and liberty, government and life, government and the pursuit of happiness each polar opposites? That is what the right-wing would have you believe.

But, in fact, as the president said, government can be liberating: providing the infrastructure to move goods and convey services; providing education so individuals can fulfill their own dreams; counteracting the boot uninhibited private power can place on individuals' necks; ensuring markets work fairly for both the business and the consumer; building an economy from the middle-out so that it has a broad-based foundation.

And, as I have also previously written, and the president said, providing old-age security enables young people to take entrepreneurial risks. The age of entrepreneurship began with the passage of Medicare.

The ignored next sentence actually provides the "Founders' endorsement" for the president's explanations for the role of government in society. When they wrote the Constitution, after experimenting with a very weak central government under the Articles of Confederation, they recognized the practical powers fulfilling that truth required.

One does not know why President Obama did not take the opportunity to locate the importance of government in securing those rights by referring to the next sentence in the Declaration.

The critical role of government in securing our inalienable rights is as rooted in the Declaration of Independence as is the assertion of those rights themselves.