On Thanksgiving Day, we have plenty to be thankful for, including two things we bring together for the day: food and family. But did you know that there’s a limited-government angle to the holiday, too?


George Washington issued a proclamation calling for the observance of a day of thanksgiving (Lincoln made it a national holiday). Washington’s words had a distinctly religious tint, calling on Americans to devote the day “to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be ….”


Washington included many different reasons for “the people of these states” to “unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks,” including “the conclusion of the last war” and “the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted.”


In other words, Washington said “let us give thanks for the U.S. Constitution.”


Indeed. Not only did it help establish a culture of peaceful transition of power–no small thing in the history of the world–it also established and recognized limits on the power of government–again, no small thing. The limits established by the Constitution, and emulated in various state constitutions, contributed towards the rise of the United States from a poor struggling nation to become the largest economy on the face of the earth.


That’s something worth being thankful for.


We’d also like to point you to an essay by Lawrence W. Reed, now of the Foundation for Economic Education: “There’d Be No Thanksgiving without the Profit Motive.” It’s a short illustration of the value of property rights and freedom of exchange. It starts out with a quote from Samuel Gompers: “The worst crime against working people, is a company which fails to operate at a profit.”


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Minnesota Free Market Institute!