"People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." - Alan More in V for Vendetta
"I dedicate this peace to all of my fellow Political Theory junkies!" - Kent Allen Halliburton
The above photograph was taken during the Detroit Race Riots in 1967. There are plenty more where that came from, but I felt that this one was particularly revealing. This is so because it makes an interesting point. In my last post, I brought up a concept that I call 'The Fourth Branch of Government.' Here is an example of that branch of the government at work. How so? First, if you read the US Constitution, literally, there is no such thing, but I have also stated that I believe that our constitution is a living document that is designed to evolve over time, despite our Found Fathers' inability to listen to their consciences. This means that it is not supposed to be taken as unchangeable and infallible law. In the document, it constantly refers to the fact that the document was written for and by the American people. I see that as an implication that the American people are the Fourth Branch of Government. In this document, we are given the 'Sovereign Right' to replace our government if it no longer meets the needs of the majority of the people in this country. The main three branches of government that it enumerates are the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary, and it empowers each branch to check the other's power. It does in the hope that corruption and injustice can be avoided. Further, it implies that it is the job of the people to put them in check, when corruption inevitably rears its ugly head. Thus, the people in this photo are exercising their right to reject the authority of a government that has chosen to oppress them rather than govern them.
'We the people of the United States, in order to form a perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." This is the exact text of the Preamble to the Constitution. This is where the 'Fourth Branch of the Government,' is implied. I would like to travel back into history a little to provide some support for my claim. Now, if you please, let us open our hymnals to the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. "Of the Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right," should be considered his greatest work. Especially, given the fact that his work had a major influence on the Framers of the Constitution. I am of the opinion that this work solidified his role as the Godfather of modern Social Contract Theory. If you do not agree, consider that some of his readers are among the most important minds of the modern era, for example, Carl Marx, Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just to name a few.
The aim of the text was to determine if there could actually be something such as, 'Legitimate Political Authority.' Rousseau sought an answer to this particular question because of all of the poverty, war, and oppression that he witnessed in the Europe of his day. He argued that people living in a state of nature, essentially, with no rules but their own, had lived better and more productive lives than most of the people were able to do in his lifetime. The biggest argument that he made in his exploration of the Social Contract that the people agreed to for the common defense was that 'Force does not create right, and that the people are only obligated by the terms of the 'Social Contract,' which they agreed to when they gave their leaders power over them, to obey a legitimate power. He further argues that force does not create legitimacy, and the people are only obligated to obey those laws which are just and proper. They are obligated, in fact, to resist any authority that attempts to oppress them because that authority's power is only in effect because the people gave it to them.
In this desired social contract, Rousseau argued, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same amount of rights and impose the same duties on all. Rousseau argued that it is absurd for a man to surrender his freedom for slavery; thus, the participants must have a right to choose the laws under which they live. Although the contract imposes new laws, including those safeguarding and regulating property, there are restrictions on how that property can be legitimately claimed. His example with land includes three conditions; that the land be uninhabited, that the owner claims only what is needed for subsistence, and that labor and cultivation give the possession legitimacy.
He also argued that that the political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, women included, that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus, government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is, then, the mission of the people to abolish such government and begin anew.
Rousseau further argued that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government. Since a government is only as strong as the people, and this strength is absolute, the larger the territory, the more strength the government must be able to exert over the populace. In his view, a monarchical government is able to wield the most power over the people since it has to devote less power to itself, while a democracy the least. In general, the larger the bureaucracy, the more power required for government discipline. Normally, this relationship requires the state to be an aristocracy or monarchy. He also argued that aristocracy and monarchy are not necessarily un-democratic as the term is used in the present day. The aristocracy or monarch could be elected. When Rousseau used the word democracy, he referred to a direct democracy, rather than a representative democracy. In light of the relation between population size and governmental structure, Rousseau further argued that, like his native Geneva, small city-states are the form of nation in which freedom can be most secure. For states of this size, an elected aristocracy is preferable, and in very large states a benevolent monarch; but even monarchical rule, to be legitimate, must be subordinate to the sovereign rule of law.
Now, let us return to the present day and the situation where we find ourselves under the boot of the United States Government. Rousseau's, Sovereign, is the people, indicating that they are the supreme authority, from which all other authority is derived. Combine that with the implications written in the Preamble of the US Constitution; 'We the People,' and 'Do Ordain and Establish,' and boom, there you have it, the Fourth Branch of the Government. Now, what is the responsibility of this body? It has already been shown what Rousseau says, abolish the government and start over, and it has also been shown that the US Constitution grants the American people sovereign authority over the government. Are there any other documents in the United States that support that assertion, though? Well, of course, there is! This document is known as the Declaration of Independence. What does it have to say on the subject? A great deal.....
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." This is immediately followed by..... "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. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."
This gives the American people, who's government is legally subordinate to their will, the express right to terminate their government's tenure if they determine that government to be out touch with their needs. In fact, it implies that it is their sacred and, practically, divine duty to do so. Now, this begs the question, if the American people are endowed with this authority, by law, how should they go about changing their government? Well, of course, the Constitution outlines a program for that. Every four years, a President can be voted out of office. Every six years, a senator can be voted out of office, and every two years, a member of the House of Representatives can be voted out of office. Each state has similar avenues to remove state level officials. This, however, has proven less than sufficient. So, is there anything else that might support the alternative that has been posited in this text, the right to dissolve the government and start again? In his text, "Revolution and Reformation," Thomas Jefferson can be quoted as saying, "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." Here is some more support. He wrote this text in response to the French Revolution, before that conflagration, essentially, went off the deep end, giving way to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. He is essentially saying that rebellion is necessary to keep democracy honest, insinuating that it is the duty of the people to rebel when they feel that their government is no longer meeting their needs.
Let us review for a moment. It has been determined that conceptually, at least, the American people are the Fourth Branch of the government. It has also been determined that any people governed by others, at some point in their past, willingly submitted themselves to that authority in exchange for certain physical protections and social guarantees. This relationship has been labeled the Social Contract. In this contract, the people of a nation are determined to be the true sovereign of the nation, and any ruling body, no matter their disposition, is subject to this contract and subordinate to its people. Which means that if the people are no longer satisfied with their government, they have a right to replace with a government with another institution that they believe more suits their present needs. It has also been determined that the founding documents of the United States of America recognize this relationship, and actually, consider it the people's sacred duty to act in their best interest when the government is no longer bending to their will. The founding leaders of this country go so far as to say that we have the legal right to physically rebel against and abolish the government if it becomes oppressive and destructive.
Having established the authority and position of the American people as the sovereign authority, from which, all other authority is derived, what should their course of action be in the present political and social climate? Is it appropriate for the people of this country to commence a violent and armed rebellion against their government? There are many people in the left that would say that it is, but I am not one of them. If I argue that the American people have the sovereign and sacred duty to replace their government, why would I, then, turn around and argue against the Revolution? I posit this question because this is exactly what I will be accused of by my fellow leftists. I know this because I have already been accused of this on multiple occasions. Well, just like I told them, I am not arguing against the Revolution. I am arguing against a violent rebellion. A Revolution does not have to be violent. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King proved that. Yes, I do argue that the American people have an obligatory duty to throw off the chains of the present government and replace it with a government that will better represent our needs, both at home and abroad. However, I will not support the loss of innocent lives in a rebellion that will, most assuredly, see hundreds of thousands of people die and two hundred years plus of hard work and progress crumble into ashes. I will not allow that outcome to stain my hands with the blood of the citizenry, whom I have made it my moral obligation and duty to protect.
How, then, should the American people go about abolishing their present government and establishing a new one? The American people have to call for a Constitutional Convention, not to amend the Constitution, though I do revere it so, but to replace it entirely. The present Constitution has become outdated and overly restrictive, and the government that it outlines is no longer capable of adequately representing the real make-up of the American citizenry. Further, all present elected officials, to include state officials, and those that support or work for them, must not be allowed access to the Convention. They have already proven the lengths they will go to keep us from exercising the sovereign power that we legally posses. Therefore, it has to be a Convention elected from the present population. This does not mean that present political boundaries should be abolished. It can be done in stages. It can begin with city assemblies, move up to state conferences, and then, from there, members of these bodies can elect delegates to a National Constitutional Convention. Here is where the concept of Refuse to Cooperate comes around in another big way. I have mentioned this concept before in a previous post, "What Does it Mean to Refuse to Cooperate?"
The American people, as the true and only sovereign power in this nation, have the right to call these assemblies without the permission of the present government. They have the right to meet, as is guaranteed by the present constitution to meat peaceably and choose their own future for themselves, rather than have that future dictated to them by a government that has lost touch with its people and frankly, with itself. Though, the intent is to write a new constitution, it is still prudent for the people to make full use of the protections that are guaranteed to them in the present constitution. The people then have to elect and defend new leaders of every single government entity that they can, so that when the time comes, they will be able to just step into the void left by a government that has lost the support of the people, whose power they are borrowing. Will the government attempt to break such a venture apart? Yes, it will. Will it resort to tactics unbefitting an honorable statesman, in their effort to discredit such a movement? They most definitely will! Will the present government attempt to goad the delegates into engaging in pitched battles in the streets in their effort to protect their own interests? Without a doubt, and they will do so with a fervent passion that has not been seen from this government in a very long time. This, however, is precisely what the American people need them to do.
This government has already done a great deal to lose the respect and support of the rest of the world. The American people, after they have held these meetings, and after they have drafted a new constitution, and further, have elected new leaders, have to show the world what this government is really willing to do to secure its position. Once the constitution is written, it must be submitted to every branch of government, and they have to be given an appropriate time table to respond to this usurpation of the power that we gave them. They will, of course, reject it, outright, and they will probably do so without even properly examining the document. It will then be the job of the American people to shut them down. How is this to be done? First, massive and peaceful protests, declaring to our government that they have been deemed to be illegitimate and must peaceably step down. It can be guaranteed that they will not do that. That is when the American people simply refuse to recognize their authority. Refuse to Cooperate with the police. Refuse to pay fines, fees, and taxes. If they want to defund our programs, it is time that we defunded theirs.
Of course, keep up the protests and never let up, not for anything. The biggest thing that needs to be remembered about this plan is that in no way, whatsoever, should the people resort to violence with their resistance and protests. I say this because we posses something that the generations before us did not, technology that can give us the ability to expose this government to the world without having to shed blood. The government has to be the first one to commit violence against the people. It is the only way that we will be able to garner the recognition and respect of the international community. They have to be able to see that the present government has lost its ability to govern, and this government has to debase itself so severely that when the people do finally rise up and place them in criminal custody, which as has been noted multiple times, is their sovereign right by both the constitution and, to add another avenue, the Natural Law that people like Rousseau and the founders of this nation held so dear, the rest of the world will see their actions as justified.
They will then be able to support the American people, and give their new constitution and elected officials formal diplomatic recognition, allowing the United States to interact with the world on a genuinely equal basis, and to provide the people with a government that is more responsive to their needs and less likely to ask them to put their lives on the line for something that they know to be wrong. It is, then, at this point that that they new government must exercise a moderate form of leniency with their former government, Why? Its simple, the new government has to show to the rest of the world that it has more integrity and honor than the government that it replaced, so that they will be able to trust our judgment in the future. As for the form that that new government should take, that is up to the people. We must trust ourselves to make such decisions, or the effort will fail before it ever beings, and we have to stop the present government before they get us all killed.