Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Young Black Man’s Treatise on Government

It is my personal belief that my nation is on a precipice. We lie on a knife’s edge of losing ourselves. The previous two elections have cast doubt in my mind about the practicality of the government of the United States of America. However, I believe that although there are flaws within the republic, we must attempt to maintain it. I fear what the alternatives may bring. No government on earth is perfect. I have lost hope that utopia will ever exist, however I believe that if my countrymen do not demand more from their government, it will fall as the republic of Rome has, long before my nation was even a thought.

But this leads me to a series of questions. What should the citizens demand of their government? What is its purpose? Why do governments exist in the first place? What gives them their authority? Why would several million people choose to follow the laws of a few hundred or in some forms of government one person? The answers to these questions that I choose to believe has and will continue to form my political ideology.

I believe that an excellent way to understand the function of an object is to understand its nature. This is the base that all of my other ideas of government will stem. The problem however is that there are multiple forms of government. What I am about to say does not apply to all or even most of them. However, I would like to believe that the reasons why republics as well as democracies are formed have to do with the nature of man. Human beings are social creatures; however at the same time we are egoists. We will take advantage of each other given the proper opportunity. In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche says, “It so happens, said a moralistic pedant and pettifogger, that I respect and honor a selfless man, not because he is selfless but because he seems to me to have a right to be of use to another man at his own expense.” (Nietzsche) I believe that most human beings do not like to be taken advantage of. How are individuals protected from other individuals. I believe that the answer lies in society and government. Society and by extension government consists of a group of individuals who band together imposing rules, punishments, and rewards upon one another for the sake of protecting each other against the vice of the individual as well as advancing goals that the individual could not.. It is due to the self-interest of man that governments are formed.

If republics and democracies are formed by the needs of the collective of individuals to protect and provide for themselves, then the government is formed by these individuals, or “by the people”. Even if it is not the people who run the government if they are the ones who created it, the government must be held accountable to them. I believe that there is an unspoken agreement between a government and the people who follow it. As long as the government functions, keeps its duties, and does not abuse the power that the people have invested in it that the people will provide for the government (in the form of taxes) as well as keep the law of the government. It is the people that hold the government in place; for if they refused to do these things the government would not operate and in a way cease to meet the criteria I have previously raised.

Many philosophers have tried to explain the relationship between people and the government. There are many philosophers whose ideals I have tried to integrate into my political ideology upon the relationship of the people and their government. John Locke, Thomas Pain, Henry David Thoreau, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, have in my mind provided excellent ideas on the duties of the citizen to his government and the government to their citizens. The relationship between people and government has been previously called the social contract. In Jean-Jacques Rousseau Social Contract he states,

But, as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive, and cause to act in concert.

He is in general saying that for self-preservation human beings band together and form societies. Rousseau goes on in the document, disusing how leaders arrive in these societies. In order for them to work, there must be a higher power. Someone or something, which he calls the sovereign, must be able to make decisions for the group. He later states that,
“I hold then that Sovereignty, being nothing less than the exercise of the general will, can never be alienated, and that the Sovereign, who is no less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by himself: the power indeed may be transmitted, but not the will.”(Rousseau)

He is here stating that although the decision making power of rule may be put in the hands of a single person, the rule of government is the general will of the people, and that the will of the people will always remain with the people. I believe that the mechanism that allows governments to function is the people’s submission to them.

A counter argument to this is that it is God who imbues power onto the heads of government. Many monarchs throughout history have traced their lineages to the divine or were put into power by the heads of the church. Even now pastors will actively seek to sway the votes of their parishioners. This however seems contradictory when a monarch, such as King James II of England, seems to do something that goes against the will of the divine.

Government and law are abstract concepts that are formed by our perceptions of what they are. A physical object will not cease to exist if it fails to fit into the description of it. If I decide that, my boot looks more like a gym shoe than a boot the physical object still exists however, an abstract idea may not. If I am feeling angry but my emotion changes, the anger no longer exists. Governments are formed by the people. If a government is to operate or even to exist it requires some sacrifices by the people. A king without subjects cannot call himself a king. A government without people cannot call itself a government. A rule or a law that is not followed is not a rule. If a ruler is someone who rules, and he does not he is not a ruler. I consider these things true due to my concept of what they are. I have previously put forth a definition of government. If the power of the government is imbued with power by the people and if it is put into existence by the people, then if the people refuse to give power to the government the government will cease to exist. If government is nothing more than the exercise of the will of the people than it cannot exist with out that will.

Therefore, in order for government to exist power must be transferred from individual to the larger entity of society. We do this in a number of ways. We recognize the authority of the larger entity by following laws. If I choose, I could break the law, but it’s the law that makes a government a government. Is it possible for a government to exist without law? Part of the reasons why governments exist is to impose law upon the governed. If a government is formed because the people have deemed it necessary to create one the people have a duty to follow the will of the collective. It is the duty of the individual to keep to the will of the collective because in doing so the individual is contributing to the continued existence of the government. People should support and acknowledge their government. If the government was ignored it would cease to exist. There is no legal reason for the United States to exist instead of the British Colonies. The only reason it does is because the collective of individuals make a choice to ignore the laws of the United Kingdom and acknowledge the laws of the United States. Why does England exist instead of British Rome? Why did Rome exist instead of Etruscan civilization? The people stopped supporting these governments.

John Lock in his Two Treatise on Government has stated

The first power—viz., of doing whatsoever he thought fit for the preservation of himself and the rest of mankind, he gives up to be regulated by laws made by the society, so far forth as the preservation of himself and the rest of that society shall require; which laws of the society in many things confine the liberty he had by the law of Nature. (Locke)

In order for government to be sustained, the individual gives up certain rights. The right which John Locke is saying the individual gives up is the right to make and follow wholly his own rules. We choose to follow the laws prescribed by our Government, by the collective will.

The people support the government by doing more than following its laws. We also provide for it. We pay taxes to ensure that it can carryout its duties. When there is a need we protect it through military conscription. It still surprises me that the draft has not been raised in my generation. With these acts, the people do two things. They ensure the continued existence and provide a means for the government to carry out its duties.

If the government is the collective will of individuals it is also the duty of those individuals to remain informed of the circumstances and decisions of the collective and if they must change it, in order for a government to operate,

It is unreasonable to expect the individual to voluntarily give up his freedom, money, and possibly his life for his government and not expect something in return. If the individual is to keep his duties to government, the government must keep its duties to the individual. The reason why the individual sacrifices his freedom is because he knows others are doing the same. The government must set laws in place and enforce them providing, a justice system where citizens can peacefully settle grievances between each other and society. I believe law is one of the primary benefits of government. It prevents the individual from being robbed, murdered or raped. If law is set by the government, and the government is the collective will of the people then law is set by the collective will of the people. (Locke)

I believe it is also the duty of the government to protect the lives of it citizens. The government is instilled to protect the interests of the people. Survival is a primary interest of human beings. The government is put into place partially to ensure the survival of the governed.

I am a socialist. When people are not in a clear and present danger of extermination, and when the population is sufficiently large they tend to expect society to provide basic services. These include education of the youth, a decent road system, as well as safe drinking water. If government is composed of the will of the people, it should advance their interests. The collective of individuals can do far more than a single individual could. Therefore, government should do for the individual what the individual cannot do for himself. I feel that individuals are capable of quite a bit but its unreasonable to expect one man to build an entire highway or an aqueduct. However if communal monies and resources are used, the things the government chooses to do should have a communal affect (maybe I shouldn’t use the word communal sounds to much like that quirky economic system) The problem with this argument is determining what the individual cannot do for himself. I do not believe in communism. However, I am in favor of a more moderate welfare state. This welfare state should provide for the people’s general welfare through public works, as well as provide a safety net in times of natural disaster or economic depression.

I believe that the government, at least in part, is responsible to seeing to the people’s general welfare. In a typical society, it is inevitable that some people will be impoverished but if the vast majority of the people are in this state the government is at fault due its inactivity in seeing to the peoples best interests. As I previously stated the reason why the people allow the government to exist is so that it will protect their interests

If part of the reasons why governments exist is to limit the freedom of the individual to harm other individuals, and the government is given the power to enforce the laws that enable it to limit individuals the government by its nature will limit the individual. This is necessary in order for government to function. However if the prime directive of government is to protect the individual’s interests it should not be able to go against them. Time and time again governments do this however. They censor, kill, and steal from the people. They advance the interests of one group of individuals at the expense of others. While some of an individual’s freedoms are taken away from the government the rest should be ensured by it.

The ideas of limiting the powers of government are relatively new. Up until this point, I have spoken of the government, as an extension of the people’s will. However most governments, for practical purposes, put the decision making power of government in the hands of a sovereign, a power above the people. I have also spoken of the duty of the people to remain informed of the operations of the government. However if the people become indifferent to the state of their government they give the sovereign, who they have, invested their freedom and money, free reign over them. To protect the people from the sovereign, who may abuse the power invested in it as well as to allow the people some power over the sovereign several mechanisms should be put into place.

The first is the direct election of the sovereign. In the United States there is the direct election of senators as well as representatives. This makes them accountable to the people. If they make decisions for their own benefit rather than for the peoples there is a fair chance that they will be replaced after the next election. I believe that the Electoral College is a mistake that needs to be rectified by the American people. In the year 2000 AD in an election, the head of state was put into office against the will of the majority of the people. This shows one of the flaws in the Government of the United States. That should not have happened.

The next limit of government is a constitution. The sovereign should not be able to change the government on whim. There should be a legal document stating the processes for enacting and altering the law. This document should be made public so the people may examine it. It should also, on paper, list the powers that the people have given their government. It should also list powers, which the government under no circumstances should assume.

The third mechanism is one that I believe is failing the American people. In order for the people to protected from the sovereign they must understand what decisions the sovereign is making. If the people are to oversee and watch the sovereign they must be informed. Journalism is a pillar of the republic. The people must be trained to ask questions and demand answers. The government is accountable to them only if they hold it so.

Despite these safe guards a republic ruled by the people has several flaws. If the individual is fallible, then to must a collective of them. Though it is entirely possible and morally wrong, I might add, for the for a majority of the collective to act towards the disadvantage of minority of it the minority must not have the ability to work towards the disadvantage of the majority. America is divided by several races, religions, and creeds. This is neither good nor bad. This is simply the way of things due to the nature of the nation’s history. However these divisions allow for factions to arise. In the “Federalists Papers” #10 and #9 Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discuss factions. Special interests of factions can cause a government to act contrary to the peoples will. At the same time the majority of people may wrongly persecute the members of a minority of the group. The government should some how secure the rights of a minority, while at the same time insuring the rule of the majority.( Madison) ( Hamilton)

Governments must not stay the same. The will of the people is fickle. It changes not only from generation to generation but also from year to year. Five years ago I would have said terrorism is a military problem now I and several people believe it to be a policing problem. Governmental policy must not remain static or eventual it will fail to serve the will of the people. The government must constantly evolve.

These changes must come gradually or abruptly but they must come. If the sovereign does not change with the will of the people, a time may come where the people no longer accepts its rule. When the change comes suddenly, it normally comes violently. Sudden change is also often followed by a time of anarchy. The absence of government goes against the interests of the people. Because of this, it is better for the changes to come slowly.

A good government must have mechanisms for changing not only the law, but the processes under which the law is created. The people must be able to freely express that change is needed, and the sovereign must be able to freely enact change. If either fails in these things government will become stagnate and the change will be sudden.

The Government is to be held accountable to the people at all times. It is the people’s power that allows government to exist. As a result, the government is responsible for the people’s general welfare and common defense. However, the people must at times be protected from the government they created. The government must be flexible.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.