Monday, January 4, 2010
A Time for Definition
We live in a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy. The difference between the two is something I believe needs to be more clearly taught in our educational system.
We are currently feeling the effects of the masses' belief that we are a Democracy. Too many too many people today, particularly the young, do not understand that we have a Constitution that was created with the specific intent of restricting our federal government's reach into our everyday lives.
To quote James Madison, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former [federal powers] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state. (Federalist Papers, No. 45, pp. 292-93.)
In modern words, what Madison was saying is that the federal government is responsible for our national security and our business dealings with other nations. All affairs having to do with the citizens of America not related to any outside nation were intended to be handled by the government at a State and local level. We are a nation designed to govern ourselves at a local level.
Thomas Jefferson also spoke of the need for a small federal government, "The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by few servants. (Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 14:421.)
Madison and Jefferson would not recognize today's United States of America. Our federal government has been meddling in the affairs of the states for at least a full century now. We are no longer served by our representatives, and our Congress and Executive branches have seized for themselves much more than "A few plain duties." Few of us are lucky enough to trust those we send to Washington.
It is astounding how many people today do not even know the name of the Vice-President, yet he is the man with a lifetime of experience in Washington, while our President today has less experience than I as a business owner or executive.
American philosopher and historian John Fiske once wrote, "If the day should ever arrive (which God forbid!) when the people of the different parts of our country shall allow their local affairs to be administered by prefects sent from Washington, and when the self-government of the States shall have been so far lost as that of the departments of France, or even so closely limited as that of the counties of England - on that day the political career of the American people will have been robbed of its most interesting and valuable features, and the usefulness of this nation will be lamentably impaired."(The Historical Writings of John Fiske, vol. 12, pp. 282-83.)
We shall soon face the most important election in most our lifetime. We must understand how our founders defined this greatest of nations so that we may protect her for future generations, lest we risk allowing lamentable impairment, possibly beyond repair.