So far, I’ve covered the constitutional three branches of government as embodied by Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court. In yesterday’s article, I covered the states and their role in the federal government. Today, I cover the people.
What do I mean by “the people”?
This is a difficult concept to truly understand. We inherently understand that collectively, we are more powerful than any other political force in the world. But what do we mean by “we”?
When the parliament in England began to exert control over the King in the name of “the people”, they too struggled to understand what this meant.
Does it mean the will of the majority? Rule of the majority is simply democracy, and democracy is deficient in many important ways. Rule of the majority is no different than mob rule, which is obviously not what the majority really wants. In fact, rule by any subset of everyone is obviously deficient in one way or the other. You can’t expect to give power to the rich, the poor, the clergy, the businesses, husbands, wives, parents, children, the military, the free, the bond, or any other group, and expect to get anything but corruption, usurpation, and tyranny.
So what does it mean?
I simply interpret it as this. The will of the people is the thing that everyone (with rare exceptions) will agree to when they are in sound mind and body, free from political or mobocratic exertions. That is, the will of the people is simply selfish reasoning, or reasoning that would yield the best result for the people.
This isn’t rule of the majority. Rule of the majority isn’t selfish. The problem with the rule of the majority is that often the majority will act in ways that are injurious to the majority. That is, they will pretend that since they are in the majority they can take advantage of the minority somehow. Well, in reality, everyone is a member of one minority or another, and if they believe that, as a member of the majority, they can act in a way that hurts the minority, they are really injuring themselves. So a wise majority would never abuse their power as the majority to injure the minority.
So far, the best group that has ever represented the people’s will has not been our governments as embodied in the federal, state, county, and local governments. No, so far, the only groups that have ever even come close to representing what the people really want are the Founding Fathers assembled in the Constitutional Convention. Reading the topics they discussed and the fervor they discussed it with, it is clear that almost every individual in that group was concerned solely with how the people would fare under the decisions they made. It was quite an inspirational event.
Perhaps, should we ever need to do something like this again, another constitutional convention will be formed of similarly wise and altruistic people. Perhaps the magnamity of their calling and the very fact that they will live under whatever conditions they create will inspire them to set aside political maneuvers and focus only on what the people really need and want.
In reality, I think we shall never see another group that can represent the will of the people.
Despite the fact that we simply cannot point to a group of people that represent the people, but instead, we have to refer to some vague and disembodied entity called “the people”, we can discuss how the people interact with the government.
The first obvious way that the people act in our federal government is that they are the creator of the government. In much the same way God reigns over the earth because He created it, the people reign over our federal government since they created it. Indeed, each of the states have a similar constitution that declares the people as their creator as well. The people are the God of the governments around us. Either the government worship and serve the people, or they are to be punished as disobedient.
The second way that the people act in our federal government is that they are the source of the rights and powers of the government and retain all of them except for the few that they “loan” to the government. Should the government ever act in such a way as to infringe upon the unlimited and indefinite rights of the people (not necessarily individuals, but the people as a whole), then that would be grounds for canceling the agreement altogether, causing the government to be disbanded. The way this would work is the people would simply stop paying their taxes, obeying the laws, fighting wars for the government, or otherwise supporting the government. If the people decided to do this, the government would be powerless to stop it.
The constitution, as amended with the Bill of Rights, list specific rights that government may not infringe upon. Among these rights are the right to worship, to organize, to speak, to bear arms, and the right to security in their papers and property. Some people have twisted this as a limitation on the rights of the people. The purpose of the authors and ratifiers of these amendments wasn’t to limit the rights of the people at all, but to explicitly call out certain rights that government could never even dream of infringing upon.
Understanding the role of the people in our federal system exposes the fundamental flaw with Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Progressivism, or whatever else you call it.
On the one hand, you have people who think that government should control the people. These are statists. They believe that government isn’t created by the people but the people are created by the government.
On the other hand, you have people who that government is created by the people to serve the people by protecting the rights of the people. These are what we call conservatives, libertarians, or simply Americans. (Yes, I am saying that Socialism and Liberalism and such are anti- and un-American!) They view government as a child of the people. When it is disobedient, it should be punished and corrected. When it is obedient, it is, at best, still a child and never a peer or lord over the people.
Socialists try to pervert reason and logic and try to say that since economic disparity means that some people have more power than other people, and since the powerful people control the government, then any government which doesn’t take power from the powerful and give it to the weak is thus, somehow, not serving its purpose of protecting the rights of the people. (Even I have a hard time stating this without sounding absurd.)
Socialists forget that the powerful are just as much a part of the people as any other group, and thus, to take power away from them means you are taking power away from the people. To infringe on the rights of the rich, or the white, or the property owners, or the business owners, or stock market brokers, is to infringe upon the rights of the people.
The Founding Fathers never intended for the government to take power away from any individual or group except those who abused their power to harm others. They knew that such people gravitated to government to obtain their power and translate that power into a weapon. They knew that such people would argue with the exact same arguments that the Socialists are making today. (After all, Socialism / Communism / Liberalism / etc… are nothing new. It is simply tyranny, the way of all government on th earth.)
Thus, our Founding Fathers devised an ingenious system of limitations on government. It set into place three powerful branches, each set against one another in a Mexican standoff that could never be resolved. The political tyrant, though he control government, could never use it to accomplish his purposes, even with his friends in control of the other branches of government. Once in power, the union would be busted, as we see today. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Barack Obama are now fighting against each other rather than the people. In fact, to gain an advantage over the other, they must first secure the rights of the people. Pelosi and Reid must make sure that any legislation passed with be tolerated by the people and must ensure that the president does not do anything to damage their reputations. President Obama has only a few short years to accomplish his plans, and without the rubber-stamp of congress, he is left to negotiate away every aspect of his designs.
The federal government, in this way, is sort of like a mousetrap for tyrants. It sucks them into a system where they can never accomplish what they hoped to do without first securing the rights of the people.
Brilliant, isn’t it?