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The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the first ten amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) reflect the United States founders' desire for individual freedom and their opposition to the centralization of power. The Declaration contains the founders' belief that there are certain truths: that we are all created equal, that we have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that the right to govern comes from the consent of the governed. The Constitution spells out the separation of power among the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of government and provides a system of checks and balances among these branches. Specific civil liberties and rights not mentioned in the Constitution are spelled out in the Bill of Rights. The ninth amendment in the Bill emphasizes that rights not mentioned in the Constitution shall be retained by the people. Finally, the tenth amendment specifies that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people. With provisions already enumerated in the Constitution, the tenth amendment establishes a system of federalism, the separation of power between the state and national governments. These documents reflect the founders' fear of centralized power and their desire to preserve individual political freedoms. Among these freedoms are the freedom to worship, a free press, free elections, the right to organize, and the general notion that government must protect the basic freedoms of individuals. We also enjoy substantial economic freedom: the freedom to choose one's occupation and change that occupation, the freedom to join labor unions, the freedom to spend our resources, the freedom to divide one's time between work and leisure, and so on. The dimensions of political and economic freedom go far beyond what is enumerated here. It is important to note that the United States is relatively unique in promoting these freedoms. They have served us well and have certainly contributed to the economic prosperity we have enjoyed throughout our history. It is also important to note that throughout the world today, many countries are moving from central control to economies that allow much more economic freedom. Their hope is that they will also enjoy the benefits that market economies seem to bestow upon their citizens.
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