Letter to the Editor: A Declaration Of Dependence

Submitted by Dr. Donald J. Marshall

At this time when we celebrate our independence as a nation, perhaps we should also reflect on our dependence as a community of people. Independence Day is a celebration of our independence from Great Britain but not from each other. Indeed, if anything, our dependence on each other increased when that momentous action took place.

A community might be described, broadly, as a social group whose members reside in a specific locality, share resources, government, may have a common cultural and historical heritage, and agree on set rules or laws to live by.

A few of us might be able to live completely off the grid, growing our own food, providing our own heat and power, self-medication – never require a doctor or hospital, or need religious consultation, etc. But the vast majority of us must coexist as close-by neighbors and as citizens of a community. This common need is clearly brought home when regulations are imposed to try to ward off a pandemic such as the one we are now experiencing.

If you want to be a contributing member of a good and stable and non-violent society, you must accept and conform to the rules of the social covenants of this society. You may, of course, work to change these rules, peacefully and honestly.

When we are part of such a community, we recognize that there are several ways in which our actions interact and may be in conflict with one another in some instances. Therefore, we have rules or laws to help to resolve such conflicts. And we require an overseeing government to be sure that these rules and actions are followed by all citizens.


Most of us choose to live in a community where personal safety is assured and individuals do not take the law into their own hands. And to accomplish this, we have laws regarding violent, illegal, and immoral behavior; and we select people from within our community to make these laws and others to enforce such laws and yet others to make judgments on what constitutes illegal or immoral behavior.

Public safety and public courts are a community thing

There are regulations for various matters, posted and in writing elsewhere. We expect everyone to be able to read and understand them. Elections are often conducted with written ballots. Emergency information is often distributed in written form.

We expect that everyone will have sufficient education to be able to read and understand all of this material.

Public education of all individuals is an important community thing.

We share the same roads and public byways and no one has exclusive rights to using them.

The road is clear and no other traffic is in sight. You cannot just step on it. I have the right to assume that I can step out of my driveway without fear of a collision with a speeding vehicle.

You have a reason to expect that my children and pets are not running about on the highway. I have the right to expect that you are driving in a state of control where you can react in time if they do.

Reasonable driving and other traffic regulations, including those against excessive speed and driving while impaired, are a community thing. As technology innovates, these same considerations apply to air and water traffic.

Reasonable regulations about not driving when intoxicated or otherwise impaired are a community thing.

If you own a beautiful new motorcycle with twin exhausts and no mufflers, you may want to try them out when you round the corner near my house. But if my small child is just settled in for a nap, or if my spouse has been working a midnight shift and has just started his/her normal nap at an unusual time, then we are in conflict.

Reasonable regulations about excessive noise are a community thing.

You may choose to smoke and introduce nicotine to the air. You may wish to burn leaves. You want to spray your lawn for mosquitos and ticks. I want to establish an organic garden, without the use of pesticides. And I want to walk my pet in my lawn area without concern that they will be lapping their feet and consuming pesticide poisons. Your spray company produces a mist that may drift heavily over into my yard.

Reasonable regulations about allowable types of smoking and burning and pesticides and the manner of application are a community thing.

Some illnesses and diseases are contagious and do not respect property boundaries. If you and yours do not receive proper health care, and they come into contact with mine, diseases may be transmitted. Community public health groups may be set up to help to resolve these conflicts. If you can spread disease by incorrectly exposing yourself to the public the community has the right to oppose this, even if it requires you to wear a mask or other protective garment or to be vaccinated. If you choose to not be vaccinated and to live in isolation you may do so. Similarly, you have the right to expect expert medical treatment if you are affected.

Public health care and regulations and vaccinations and other aspects of medical care are important community things.

I deposit my hard-earned money in a recognized bank. I have the right to assume that the operation of this large financial entity is being monitored carefully.  We may pay bills and receive income, sometimes in the form of an innocuous small piece of paper. We all agree that unforged pieces of paper may represent a more tangible asset and can be duly exchanged as such.

Honesty and some degree of federal government oversight and control in legal and financial affairs is a community thing.

I choose to live in the country in which I was born. I understand that this country not only is large and variegated but also has far-reaching territories and that some of these are coveted and vulnerable to attacks by others. The armed services that protect against this may be volunteers, but in a major crisis, the responsibility falls upon us all. Selective service registration and even the draft may be necessary.

National defense is a community thing.

The air that we breathe and the vast portion of the rivers and seas and oceans and many other waters is commonly owned, even if they pass through your property. Pollution of any of them affects us all.

Reasonable regulations about pollution are a community thing.

I purchase a residence in an area with the mixture of trees and open space that I like. I presume that no one is going to put up a building on an adjacent lot, which completely blocks my view or shields me from the sun.

Reasonable building laws and regulations are a community thing.

Disasters in many forms, earthquakes, weather events, floods, building collapses, fire, and others may occur. We respond to these as a community, without consideration of the politics or economics, or other demographic factors of those affected.

Disaster response is a community thing.

When we come into conflict with one another, we choose to resolve issues by peaceful means whenever possible. This requires a system of laws and a court and jury system to enforce them.

A system of courts and judges and juries of our peers and respect for their decisions is a community thing.

In a complex society, encompassing many millions of peoples, natural disasters, economic disasters and other circumstances affecting the individual or individuals may change, leading to wealth for some and destitution for others. A reasonable safety net for the destitute is an orderly way to ameliorate destitution.

Social benefits for the needy are a community thing.

Electromagnetic signals respect no boundaries. They are used in one form or another by all of us. New and different ways to use them will arise as technology moves on.

If left unchecked, this may lead to massive interferences and affect our ability to communicate.

Regulation of the use of signal frequencies and strengths in the electromagnetic spectrum is a community necessity.

We share a system of highways and riverways and airways and reservoirs and distribution systems for necessities such as water, gas, and electricity. This infrastructure must be provided and maintained and the costs for doing so must be shared.

An equitable system of taxation and user or other fees is a community thing.

Our rights under the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not include the right to ignore these common interests and to act completely on our own.

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