RSS

Tag Archives: United States

We The 21st Century People: to Ordain and Establish

“We the People”. The first and most important words of the Constitution of the United States of America. Three words, writ larger than all others. Three words that announce the foundational social contract between all the Citizens of the United States.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

At a time of royal dynasties anointed by bishops, state religion, entrenched aristocracy, and corporations with government-like powers, our forefathers sought something better for the general population of our new country.

This was, and is, the “Great Experiment”. The idea that people could govern themselves through elected representatives and rule of law. No Kings, no Popes, no Lords.

The United States Constitution is not just the instrument that defines the framework of our government, it is the basis of  the social contract that we have as citizens. It is the heart of what defines us as a nation. Government ordained and established by the citizens, for their mutual benefit.

Government is our chosen instrument for protecting our lives, our rights, our property, and our liberty. Without our Government, we fall into anarchy and become helpless to oppose the tyranny of others.

There are those who say that the Government is too big, too intrusive, too restrictive, too expensive and wasteful. That it is “in the way”. Some of their arguments are perfectly valid, some are hyperbole, some are pure fallacy, and some are deliberate misinformation. It is the responsibility of the Citizen to sort out the true from the false. If you simply embrace the opinions of others, including me, then you have failed in your civic duty to democracy.

But the labyrinth of ideologies and hidden agendas are subjects for other times. The point of this essay is to inspire the individual voters to hop off the political bandwagon and learn to navigate for yourselves. Question what you think you know. Look for evidence, not opinion.

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation

Next time someone tells you government is “the problem”, keep in mind that the Great Experiment and American Exceptionalism are based on the premise that “societies of men are really capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice” and that “Governments are instituted among {Men}, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Government is officially “the solution”, not “the problem”. If government seems to be “the problem”, then consider that the real problem may lie in who ultimately controls it. Who owns the attention of the elected representatives, and who controls the processes and information used to select them?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Citizen Statesman, We The People

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Quest for American Exceptionalism

Photograph of a sketch of the French author an...

Alexis de Tocqueville

These days, when someone hears “American Exceptionalism“, they think of some form of national superiority. This is a popular but dangerous appeal to pride. An excess of pride leads to arrogance and complacency. This is not, however, the original meaning of the expression.The phrase was taken from comments by a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville, who observed that we enjoyed the advantages of an Old World country without the disadvantages, that we were in the unprecedented position of starting as a modern (at the time) industrial and agricultural country without having to build our way up to it. Without the problems of limited land and well-established neighboring countries. He saw us as having purged ourselves of entrenched aristocracy

In 1831-1833, he traveled through the United States, officially studying the prison system while personally studying American society. He published his observations in his book “[Of] Democracy in America”, part 1 published in 1835 and part 2 published in 1840. Chapter 9 of part 2 is where he made his reference to “American Exceptionalism”. He does not actually say “American Exceptionalism”, he states that:

“At the head of the enlightened nations of the Old World the inhabitants of the United States more particularly distinguished one, to which they were closely united by a common origin and by kindred habits. Amongst this people they found distinguished men of science, artists of skill, writers of eminence, and they were enabled to enjoy the treasures of the intellect without requiring to labor in amassing them. I cannot consent to separate America from Europe, in spite of the ocean which intervenes. I consider the people of the United States as that portion of the English people which is commissioned to explore the wilds of the New World; whilst the rest of the nation, enjoying more leisure and less harassed by the drudgery of life, may devote its energies to thought, and enlarge in all directions the empire of the mind. The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin—their exclusively commercial habits—even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts—the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism—a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important—have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward: his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven.”

He was clearly not referring to the achievements of Americans, but in the uniqueness of their circumstances. I say “their” instead of “our” because, like adolescence, it was a point in our history that we have outgrown.

We began as English colonies. Everyone “knows” this, but how many understand the significance? Unlike other English colonies, we did not exist as a subjugation of an indigenous people. We were a part of England transplanted into virgin wilderness. We were all one People, with a shared culture, technology, and laws.

Tocqueville noted that it is inevitable for a nation to delve into science and the arts, that it was needful for the advancement of a people. He said, in effect, that we were in the unique position of being able to import our advances in science and the arts, what he called “the pleasures of the mind”, without the need to invest a portion of our efforts in such advancement. We could devote all our energies into business and the creation of wealth.

This exceptionalism was the result of a number of factors. Tocqueville noted that their lack of cultural diversity, which concurred with an observation John Jay made in Federalist 2, was one of those factors. We are now, of course, the most culturally diverse nation in the world.

Another was our essentially parasitic approach to science and the arts. How odd it is that those who most vigorously wave the flag of exceptionalism, embracing policies that undermine the advancement of arts and sciences, also take pride in the role of leadership that we enjoy but is incompatible with those policies.

Next time someone talks about American Exceptionalism, ask them what, precisely, they mean by it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 22, 2011 in We The People

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We The People, part 1

We the People

The very first words of our Constitution, writ far larger than all others. And why not, for what is the foundation of a nation if not it’s people?

Governments rise and governments fall. Constitutions are replaced. Businesses form and last for a moment, a generation, a lifetime… but not forever. Partnerships dissolve. Businesses go bankrupt. The people remain.

It is the people who abide and endure when all else fails.

We the People, and the land we claim for our own, ARE the country.

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”

John Jay, Federalist 2

Where there is unlimited liberty, there is inevitable conflict between the competing liberties of multiple individuals. To participate in a human society, some restraint is required. Even animal communities have their rules. Humans are more complex, and need more complex rules. Society exists on the premise that more liberties can be preserved through common cause than can be preserved by the individual alone. The effectiveness of society could be measured by the degree of liberties preserved v.s. the degree of liberties ceded in their defense.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

Declaration of Independence.

The consent of the governed, the consent of We the People. – The fundamental restraint on the powers vested in the government. The power of government can only be Just when nothing comes between the citizens of this country and their right, their unalienable right, to exercise that restraint. To allow others to interfere with that restraint, or to exert their own restraints on our government, is to surrender to them a portion of our sovereignty and the portion of our liberties ceded to government so that it can function on our behalf.

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2011 in We The People

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: