The United States Constitution and governance. Every nation’s Constitution is unique, but ours is truly extraordinary. It’s extraordinary in so many ways: it expressly identifies the mission, powers and functions of the national Government; limits what that government can – and cannot – do; recognizes that We, the People, are sovereign, and that, as such, our representatives are beholden to us, not the other way around; follows the Declaration of Independence regarding property rights, not only allowing but encouraging and rewarding private property rights and ownership; and focuses on self-governance. But self-governance does not mean that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, and to whomever we want.
Self-governance means, at a minimum, that we live up to John Adams’ words: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Americans of the time understood exactly what Adams meant; but too many of today’s citizens don’t. A moral people treats and deals with one another according to the Golden Rule – a concept so fundamental to a truly civilized society that it needs no explanation. A religious people is not one where people spend all their time in church; rather, it refers to, as does the Declaration, that we recognize a supernatural higher Power, a Creator – God, if you will — Whose Will and Law supersede ours.
Both the Founders and the Framers knew, understood and accepted this truth – as did American society, rooted as it was itself in being (if imperfectly) a moral people/society. Human nature being what it is, there have been and remain those who choose not to accept the concept of God, His Will, His Laws, and all that that entails. Instead – and in contrast to the wisdom of the Framers — they would rather proclaim Man as supreme, destined and empowered to rule, even own, others and all that they have. Rather than work to improve an imperfect structure, they prefer to destroy it and install their own, to criticize and destroy than work to improve a system’s shortcomings. The Founders and the Framers recognized this and addressed it in the Declaration of Independence then codified into our Constitution.
Not only did John Adams’ observation validate the sentiments of the Founders and the Framers, it pretty much reflected the public norm, even in trade and commerce in America at the time (“Greed is good” had not yet taken over these areas). At almost the same time, Adam Smith was publishing his “The Wealth of Nations,” which essentially explained and codified what was coming to be known as Capitalism. As anyone who has ever actually read his book knows, Smith was both a Scot and a Christian, so it isn’t surprising that his treatise didn’t include any “Greed is good” concepts. Needless to say, Smith’s work played a huge role in America becoming the world’s foremost economic power – creating many fortunes in the process.
As we are all well aware, the political/economic concept of Socialism has become very popular in America in recent years. Formalized in Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” Socialism (in its many versions, including today’s Communist China and North Korea, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Hitler’s National Socialist Party, Benito Mussolini’s Italian Fascist Party, and Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Venezuela, among others) requires government ownership and/or control of a nation’s goods, means of production and resources; total control of its economy, trade, and exchange of goods and services; total control of its people and their education; the total elimination of religion and of property rights; and more.
Given this, it’s logical to ask why anyone would prefer any Socialist construct over self-governance and Capitalism. Let’s connect some fundamental dots: 1. John Dewey, hailed as the Father of Modern American Education, was a self-proclaimed Socialist. His goal lay not in furthering the existing model of training students to be self-reliant, capable of true critical thinking, and capable of self-governance, but of creating a system whose “products” were obedient, unquestioning, and docile. If one takes an honest look at today’s education systems, he succeeded. 2. Government remains government. At its core, government means to govern – in every aspect off its citizens’ lives. Every teacher’s college and university is required by the State government under whose auspices it operates to hew to its curriculum, training and teacher preparation demands. It’s difficult to envision government at any level that won’t put its desires and interests above those of its employees, maybe even its citizens. 3. Not very long ago, ordinary citizens who aspired to a better life recognized advancement opportunities as exactly that, not major too-expensive hurdles that they couldn’t afford, both because their after-tax and cost of living expenses wouldn’t permit it, and because the grind of making a living discouraged them from making the effort. These are only a few of the dots; there are many.
The good news is that, while it took Dewey and his followers an entire century to run our once-great education system into the ground, we can turn it around in one generation – if we have the will. As well, we can also reclaim the news/information/entertainment culture segment, by both refusing to purchase what they’re peddling, and telling them why. Nothing kills (or improves) a business faster than a serious lack of customers. This is true of politics, as well. When we start measuring exactly what our elected leaders are doing, and are prepared to say “Next!” when it needs saying, we’ll start getting better government.
Self-governance isn’t easy – but it’s necessary. And it’s our legacy from the Founders and Framers. Let’s also make it our legacy to those who follow us.
I welcome comments and suggestions; if you have a specific question or area of the Constitution you’d like addressed, please send your idea to me.