On Independence Day, Americans celebrate their founders, visionaries who were centuries ahead of their time.
Thomas Jefferson, for instance, foresaw the threat of climate change long before Al Gore and recommended surveys of temperature and rainfall at 50-year intervals to assess the impact of human settlement on the wilderness. Benjamin Franklin and James Madison were equally concerned with population pressures and the long term carrying capacity of the planet.
But the founders were even more prescient in their political views. When George Washington was elected president, there was still a king in France, a czar in
The concept of popular sovereignty caught on. Now, kings are a vanishing breed, while even the most brutal despots must hold sham elections and at least pay lip service to the people's will.
Our founders, moreover, invented the notion of human rights. In an age of slavery, it was an ideal they practiced imperfectly, and their complicity in the trade was their greatest moral failure. But even the worst offenders, like
Most important, our founders embraced the principle of religious pluralism. Violent wars had engulfed
Today, thanks to their wisdom, the
It's a legacy that people of all persuasions can commemorate on this Fourth of July.