A recent online Harris Interactive national survey conducted from December 1-3, 2010 on a sampling of adults ages 18 and older, revealed that the majority of those surveyed attributed this quote to the United States Bill of Rights. Forty-two per cent all told incorrectly chose one of America's founding documents as the source of the quote in a poll sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate America's young people about the words and ideas of America's founders, the liberties guaranteed in our founding documents, and how our founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.
As a matter of fact, American adults selected the correct answer to poll questions about the Bill of Rights and the freedoms it protects only 32 per cent on average, revealing alarming gaps in American adults' knowledge of the country's founding documents.
"It is imperative that Americans understand how vital the Bill of Rights is to the future of our country," said Dr. Jason Ross, vice president of education programs at the Bill of Rights Institute. "With a better understanding of our founding documents, Americans can see how much our experiment in self-government depends on the ideas of the founders and why America has been an example of freedom up to this point."
Other noteworthy findings from the poll include the following:
- 60 percent of American adults did not correctly identify the principle that our government's powers are derived from the people as an attribute that makes America unique.
- 55 percent of American adults did not recognize that "education" is not a First Amendment right.
- Nearly 1 in 10 American adults do not realize that the right to petition our government is a freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment
- Only 20 percent of American adults correctly selected the Tenth Amendment as the amendment that reserves powers to the states and the people.
The results of this survey are serving as the impetus for the Bill of Rights Institute's launch of a new initiative to educate Americans about the freedoms embodied in the first 10 Amendments. To refresh your memory regarding the background for the Bill of Rights and its amendments go here.
Editor's note: By the way, the correct answer to the origin of the quote reveals it to be a slogan taken from Karl Marx's exposition of communism in 1875. It summarizes the principles that, in a communist society, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs, a lofty goal to be sure.