"I cannot accept, your canon that we are to judge pope and king unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power....Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." ~ Lord Acton
Return to the Constitution??!
'Return to the Constitution!' is a cry raised frequently by many who are understandably angered by heavy government intervention in their daily affairs at home, in the workplace, traveling - everywhere and at any time. It is the position taken by these rightfully frustrated individuals that if the US had a government pared back to the scope of that envisioned by the Founding Fathers, then all would be well; freedom to act ' short of violating one's neighbors ' would reign and taxes would be inconsequential. But this was exactly the situation that the Founding Fathers created ' so they thought. They wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution with a Bill of Rights that were unequaled in the history of the world to that date. What happened to make those documents written 250 years ago a mockery of their authors' intentions?
Many would argue that the Federalist movement spearheaded by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton was what began the move towards a dominant federal government, since although the US Constitution they helped to create did 'correct' some clear weaknesses in the earlier Articles of Confederation, it also abandoned the many strengths of those Articles. Others would say that the government became intrusive with the birth of many agencies begun in the 1930s to 'boost the economy' out of the Great Depression, which still others would note was caused to begin with by government intervention in the market place in the preceding decades. However, a perceptive reader of US economic history could trace that intervention back further to the creation in 1887 of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the first 'modern' federal agency--or even to the very first federal agencies in 1789 under George Washington.
But what of the governments in each of the 50 states and the counties (parishes, for Louisiana ) which comprise them, and even to the cities, towns, and villages that fill (or sprinkle) these? At each of these levels, getting 'closer to the people,' there are still senates, courts, agencies, boards, councils, etc. that decide all manner of actions that individuals can and cannot take on 'public' and private property, and whether by themselves or with others. Some of the officials are probably honestly trying to do what they think is best for the large number of others who they have been elected (or appointed) to protect, guide, safeguard, etc. Others, no doubt, purely enjoy the power that they possess by being in positions where they have the legal use of force themselves, or of authorization of the actual enforcers.
While I have not examined any of the other state constitutions besides that of Arizona , of which I am a legal resident, I would be quite surprised if any contain language substantially different from that of the last of the 48 contiguous states, admitted to the Union on February 14, 1912 . Its preamble begins with the words 'We the people . . . .', as does that of the United States itself. The earlier USA Declaration of Independence, also was written in the first person plural, and that, I contend, is the crux of the problem.
The use of 'we' (or 'us' or 'our') is collectivist and implies, even claims, that, in regard to such documents, all involved are in agreement. This is highly unlikely, even in the case of modest arrangements between moderate numbers of individuals; but then all parties involved actually sign the document, and in doing so commit themselves to obeying its terms voluntarily, presumably because the overall result is worth it to each of them. This was never the case for the US foundational documents, still highly revered by most today. Moreover, by this use of 'we,' the signers of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution attempted to involuntarily bind not just everyone in the US at the time, but for their posterity, who had no say whatever in the matter, for all time. This act of binding those who had not actually signed ' generations not even born ' to a legal document is such an act of arrogance and even tyranny, that despite the fact that the Founding Fathers probably had all of the best intentions in mind when they did so, they should be roundly condemned even while still being revered.
Thus, it is my contention that a detailed analysis of the Founding documents is needed to discover what among their many words and phrases allowed the beginning cracks in a system that was better than any in recorded times for affording the residents a homeland where their lives and liberty were recognized and they could pursue happiness. Such an in depth examination of The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution ' primarily the Bill of Rights - was carried out recently by Paul Wakfer as a preliminary step before writing a draft of a Declaration of Individual Independence (and an annotated version to explain it) to correct what he and I see as the major flaws within those original documents. I have but briefly mentioned here the pitfall of speaking for the collective ' the 'We,' but there are many more which Paul's analyses uncovered. If a thoughtful reader studies the ideas of these documents both included and excluded, and the full implications of those ideas, then he will see that voting out the current culprits and returning to the original documents (if that were even possible in the world of politics and all that entails) will not assure the life, liberty, and ability to pursue happiness that Paul and I ' and, hopefully, most on earth ' desire.