14 March 2013

What Is A Constitutional Republic, and Why Does It Matter?

Citizens of the United States used to know what a republic is, and they referred to it as one ... until about 90 years ago, when the progressive movement decided that it didn't fit with their agenda. In fact, the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, formed in 1905, had a leader named Harry W. Laidler. According to The 5,000 Year Leap,
"Laidler explained that the ISS was set up to 'throw light on the world-wiude movement of industrial DEMOCRACY known as socialism". (p. 155)
So let's go to the source:
"We may define a republic to be ... a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, nor from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic."
(James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 39, p. 241)

In other words, it is a government which derives its power only from the assent of the governed, with that power flowing from the bottom up. If "the great body of the people" determines that the government is not acting in its (the people's) interest, that government loses its power, and other representatives are selected.

That's the way our Constitution was designed, and it's what the Founders had in their minds when they wrote it. That's the way it's supposed to work.

"Whenever legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience."
John Locke, 1690

So ... since it's not working the way it's supposed to work ... what are we going to do about it?  Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


ProudHillbilly said...

Been thinking about this for some time now. Decision right now is that whenever possible I will simply not obey unjust laws. But those I can simply sidestep are few and far between. And I don't know how to remove the problems (and I consider politicians like John McCain to be virtually as much of a problem as Obama is). I'm just one vote.

PioneerPreppy said...

One of the keys in your post was the bottom up analogy. While there are many academic differences that one at least was pinned as being the more important one by my main professor I studied under in college.

His emphasis was French political systems so I got all kinds of assignments on various French government experiments.

Anyway the main reason we have moved so far away from a Republic is principally size especially in the House. We went from basically 1 Rep per approx 200K to 300K people to one Rep for over a million. This change really hurts minority political regions. Taxation is the second biggest factor as it operates as top to bottom and gives monetary control to the top.

As to what we are going to do about it? Eventually there will be another war over it I believe. But the type of control we are seeing is only possible with massive amounts of cheap energy so as energy declines so may the top to bottom control mechanism.

Rev. Paul said...

PH, to paraphrase an Isaac Asimov quote, it admits of no easy answer. Any change, now at this point, will be painful ... or ugly. Probably both.

PP, I recently read an article which arrived at the same conclusion; their "possible solution" was breaking the country down into "semi-autonomous regions" with legislatures overseeing smaller populations. It would arguably be more responsive to the citizens, with a better legislator-to-citizen ratio.

But I agree with your final paragraph. It's not what I want, but I fear it's inevitable.

Cathy said...

The comments, above - are insightful and troubling. I try to remain hopeful about the future and practice gratitude for all that has been good in my life . . . but the fact that I will probably not live long enough to see this nation safely righted and back on its original course . . . it's painful . . .

Rev. Paul said...

Understood & agreed, Cathy. It's sad.

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

All of this negativity from both the statest and the indivualists...
Here's a Hurricane of fresh air from the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast


You're Welcome
Rich in NC