Revolutions are not unique. Some countries have revolutions all the time until revolution becomes their national sport. In banana republics the overthrow of one dictator to make way for another gives everyone a day off from work.
What made the American Revolution unique was that its cause was not the mere transfer of power from one ruler to another or one system to another, but a fundamental transformation of the nature of rule.
Every revolution claims to be carried out in the name of the people, but it’s never the people who end up running things.
The Declaration of Independence did more than talk about the rights of the people. It placed the people at the center of the nation and its government, not as an undifferentiated mass to be harnessed for whatever propaganda purposes they might be good for, but as individuals with hopes and dreams.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
That is not merely some bland reference to a mass of people. There is no collective here, only the individual. The greater good of independence is not some system that will meet with the approval of the mass, but that will make it possible for the individual, each individual, to live a free life, not a life lived purely for the good of the mass, but for his own sake.
In a time when government mandates what you can eat and how much of it, only one of the ways it seeks to regulate every aspect of daily life for the greater good– the declaration that started it all declares that the purpose of government is not social justice, a minimally obese population, universal tolerance or even equality. Equality is acknowledged as a fact, not as a goal.
Instead the goal of government is to allow people to be happy.
That seems like a silly goal. What kind of great nation gets started by asserting that government exists to allow people to be happy? But look at the common condition of any tyranny. Take in that sense of 1984ness and its most obvious characteristic is unhappiness. People are persistently unhappy under a tyranny, whether they are rich or poor, because they are robbed of the necessary freedom to pursue individual happiness.
They are not allowed to be individuals.
We live in an age of collective tyrannies under systems that seek to maximize the ideal welfare of the group. They care nothing for the happiness of the individual. And they care even less for the notion that the individual has a right to achieve that happiness by pursuing it on its own terms, rather than through their socially-approved and market-tested form of happiness.
The Declaration of Independence lays out the conundrum that governments exist to allow individuals to pursue their own forms of happiness.