Debate, vigorous and healthy in the United States, occasionallygets hot because the representatives ofthe people are persistently pressed from five directions: 1) The needs of thenation; 2) The demands of constituents; 3) The demands of political parties: 4)The demands of those who fund campaigns and 5) Their own appetites for securityand power.
Hot rhetoric can be briefly disturbing, but it is soonforgotten for so long as the subject matter remains impersonal - for so long asthe issues in play are congruent with the form of the government within whichthey would normally arise, for example, how best to maximize freedom..
And there's the rub. Too often, supporters of an expanded central government, usingheart-tugging rhetoric, have raised issues that actually were (and are) challengesto the relevance of the form of government that was created by the Founders - theywere often little more than a smoke screen for the desire of some to eliminatethe power of the nation's primary documents: The Declaration of Independenceand the U.S. Constitution.
Now the form chosen for the United States government was not hastilydecided. The thought process that led toit probably began in the minds of some when the Boston Tea Party (1773)un-mistakenly demonstrated to all that the appetite of many colonists forfreedom from Britainwas bubbling to the surface. Thecontinental congresses began a year later and brought forth the Declaration ofIndependence (1776) -- the war began in the previous year and ended in 1782.
Then the Founding Fathers (perhaps the most brilliant groupof patriots ever assembled to form a new government) took five more years toconstruct the U.S. Constitution and to get it ratified (1787), and it was anothertwo years before George Washington became the first president. The Bill of Rights (1791) became the finalparagraphs of the most unique politicaldocument ever created, the U.S. Constitution.
Forming the Constitution took so long because those who didthe work were serious students of governmental forms; they realized that thefinal constitution would have to reflect man's natural appetite for freedom toa degree never seen before. They wantednothing to do with monarchy or dictatorship because they had seen and readabout the lack of freedom under such rulers; they had no appetite for agovernment that denied God -- freedom of religious expression was of paramountimportance to them because many of their ancestors had come to the colonies insearch of it; they were fiercely independent and they wanted a government that wouldhonor their right to live and strive as best they could, with little or nointerference.
Commonsense tells us that such a document should not beweakened in any way without prolonged and serious debate; just as one should thinklong and hard before attempting to correct the logical conclusions of, say,Thomas Aquinas.
The Founders succeeded. The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that the rights ofcitizens of the United Statescome from God, not from government. TheConstitution in Article I, Section 8 enumerates the limited powers that were allocatedto the central government by the people, and Amendments IX and X make iteminently clear that all other powers are to be retained by the states and bythe people.
Clearly, it was the intent of the Founders to limit thepower of central government and to protect to the greatest possible extent thefreedom of the states and of the people. They put their trust in freedom and its inherent risks; they turnedtheir backs on government control and its illusory comforts.
Many arguments about government policy - especially domesticpolicy - begin with dissatisfaction by some about the limited role ofgovernment. The topic may be abortion,religion, food choices, smoking, welfare, aid to corporations, etc., but thereal topic can be summed up with one question:
If the form of the U.S. Government as defined by theConstitution should not be what it was intended to be, then what form should itbe: Communism/ socialism/ monarchy/ dictatorship/a mixture?
Most who insist on a more intrusive federal governmentseldom directly damn the Constitution. Insteadthey take isolated clauses from it and make a case for the theory that it is a"living document," which is to be interpreted by modern judges faced withmodern circumstances. By this circuitousroute, they accomplish their purpose (strip the Constitution of its power)without suffering the political pain that a more direct attack would bring, inflictedby those who cherish the controlled form of government that was originallyformed, and which led to America's pre-eminence and greatness.
America'smodern welfare state, begun by President Roosevelt, was expanded and protectedby President Johnson and his followers, and it is being expanded again byPresident Obama. Unhappy withrestrictions imposed on the powers of the central government by theConstitution, each one of them found clauses, or court rulings of liberaljudges, to justify unaffordable social programs, the cost of which may yet makeAmerica afiscal cripple.
The original form of the United States government was createdin the light of day, after long debate; the above-mentioned presidentsdisagreed with the Founders; they moved the nation into a totally differentdirection using the power of a veto-proof majority in Congress to force theirwill upon the people.
This new form of government has not been defined by itsadvocates - too dangerous. . Do you have any idea what it might be? Where it is headed?
Robert Kelly, author of several books on baseball and history/politics,is also a freelance, award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many Massachusetts newspapers. His latest book, Neck and Neck to the White House, is available atAmazon and the better bookstores. His e-mail address is [email protected]