Paul Jacob

It takes all kinds.

When I write that, alone and naked like that, without context, the old saw seems kind of sneering. That’s a pity. I mean it in earnest. It takes all kinds not merely to make up the world as it is, but to improve the world, re-make it for the better.

Sometimes we should try to sneer less and revel in the differences more.

Even where principles are involved.

I remember in the days of my youth, when environmentalists began really ramping up their advocacy. More than one person cooked up a “Declaration of Inter-dependence.” These were politically earnest people, too, who thought they’d seen what was wrong in traditional American politics. And echoes of these manifestoes can be heard in the ways and byways of politics. “What we need is co-operation, not competition!” and “We’re all in this together!”

And we are all in this together. And we do need co-operation.

But we are also all in this separately. And we do need competition.

Truth is, as Ludwig von Mises and many an august social philosopher has made clear, co-operation —voluntaryco-operation — is the main gig in a free society. And even (dare I say it?) the free market.

Interdependence is inevitable. It’s how society works. No one dissents from this. So the crying need for declarations of inter-dependence was about up there with declarations that water is wet.

Declarations of independence are necessary, on the other hand, because voluntary co-operation faces a real danger in governmental mission creep.

In 1776, resisting “mission creep” (and much worse) became the principal issue. Could we be approaching something similar, today?

It takes all kinds.

Independence Day came and went, and it’s worth looking back at the very different men who made the day. And the era.

Could any two men be more different than John Adams and Thomas Jefferson? And yet, I doubt if the United States would exist were it not for both. Somehow, they worked together when it counted. And worked against each other, when it seemed necessary.

They were friends and colleagues, bitter opponents, and friends again: after a long estrangement, they re-established their friendship.

The end of the story is well known: on his deathbed on July 4, 1826, Adams whispered, “Thomas Jefferson survives!” He was wrong. Jefferson had died earlier that day, on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.