Distrust of Power

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
James Madison

For those unaware James Madison was the man who wrote our constitution. Back in the late 18th century the idea of writing a constitution down (England had an unwritten constitution) was novel. It is ironic, the way we look at our founding fathers, these peaceful men in white wigs who used words to conjure up a nation all in agreement of what was needed and how each of their words were to be immortalized. Alas I wish it were so, but even in 1787 our nation was hardly unified.

I won’t give you a full history lesson of the constitution today, though I may sprinkle in in bits and pieces throughout my blog, suffice it to say James Madison and the constitutional convention was a hotbed of merging political ideals. From James Madison, a follower of Jefferson’s Democratic ideals, to Alexander Hamilton a man who worked to give the federal government as much power as possible. Certainly there is a degree of unity in these men, having fought the revolution, and even Madison and Hamilton co-authored the federalist papers. In the end our Government was formed, a Democratic-Republic. You may here of the United States spreading democracy like young men with a brilliant idea that everyone should share, the irony is that The United States isn’t a pure democracy, nor was it meant to be.

Our constitution was written to both give, and restrict the power of the federal government. We know many of the basic powers given in the bill of rights, daily we hear freedom of speech, freedom of religion, we here about the right to own firearms. These are only a few of the abilities prescribed to the people within the constitution, of course many forget the tenth amendment: : The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Likewise in amendment nine it says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” James Madison hadn’t thought it all necessary to include a bill of rights, after all isn’t the constitution itself a bill of rights?

But the anti-federalists (soon to be Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans) won out, and Madison wrote down those first ten amendments. So here we have passed the history lesson, and those of you still reading are wondering why I’m writing this, and why it’s been so long since I have even written a post. Here goes:

Our government was meant to protect us from the powers of parliament, and the rule of a king. James Madison thought it was pointless to say that we had rights not because they were not there, but instead because there are so many. Were it not for those first eight amendments, America would have surely become an autocratic power led not by a single man, but by a congress whose corruption would have given the vote only to their own body of government (see the Roman Republic). Sadly the next two amendments (9 and 10) are thoroughly ignored by our government. Certainly those in power can cite later amendments which are used to give the federal government the ability to do this thing or that thing.

So here’s the deal, here is my point; The Constitution was meant as a protection for the people from the States. Read that again, and understand. We needed protection from foreign powers, and that’s why a confederation failed, but our Democratic-Republic was given specific powers which were intended not for the legislature to restrict our ability (whether it is our ability to do drugs, to drink, or to read the communist manifesto) The federal government was meant as a watch dog to make sure the states didn’t infringe upon our rights. And when taken in that context, one can understand why the Bill of Rights was unnecessary. Likewise we can understand why Lincoln stopped the secession of the Southern Confederacy. If the Confederate States were allowed to secede, then the Federal government could not protect the citizens. (Slavery was a cause, but not the reason we fought the civil war)

I want you to think on our government, and what rights it has stripped from you, it may be able to cite standing cases or amendments which might be read to give the federal government more power but that was certainly not the intent. What would our society look like if the federal government followed its role of only ensuring that citizens’ rights are vouchsafed? And if the federal government is meant as protection against the states, what are states governments meant to do? (I believe protect our rights from encroachments upon each other)

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Well Informed People

“…wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government…” Thomas Jefferson, 8 January, 1789

Thomas Jefferson has been called, “The first Libertarian” also, Theodore Roosevelt called him a “slippery demagogue.” Ironic isn’t it? Two granite faces next to each other for the rest of time, and yet so opposite in thinking? I do, however, think that if there were one thing Thomas, and Theodore would agree upon it is education.

Today we talk about education reform almost as soon as education is mentioned. It’s as if nearly every American knows something needs to be done. I recently asked friends of mine what they would do if they were tasked with reforming education, and most people agreed: more money! Pay the teachers a higher salary, get the children more supplies, and make sure that funding is equal amongst all of the schools. I would have agreed with them six months ago, but you know, it’s not class sizes, and lack of tools that holds the U.S.A. down at number 16 on the list of education systems.

We have failed to realize that education only meets a specific number of students’ abilities to learn, now, before you light your torches, and sharpen your pitchforks I ask you to wait just a moment. I am not saying that our children can’t learn what we try to teach them, I am saying it is the method.  We need to find out what method each student learns best with, and teach them using those styles.

I am not promoting pigeon holing students to one method or another, I am not saying our teachers don’t need an increase in pay, what I am saying is that I would have learned so much better had my teachers given me my lesson’s in alternative ways. I feel I would have done astoundingly better had I been given a single real world problem, then asked to find a solution using whatever materials I had available. I would have combined reading, practicality, testing, scientific method, and logic into my own lessons.

That would not have worked for my foster brother, I won’t give you his name, but I see how my brother learns, and I think that if, given a set of schematics he could have figured out any mechanical issue much faster than myself. Now certainly there are things each student should know, and I am not an educator so I have only cursory experience. I am just saying that our education system has some fundamental issues, and I hope that those can be explored long before we decide that the best solution is simply money.

Alternate Domination

  1. First President George Washington“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” — George Washington, September 19, 1796

    It has now been 215 years since George Washington said this in his farewell address.  It is ironic, the warnings, and encouragements our first president spoke of that still hold true. I was asked about my political thoughts the other night, and the people who know me, know that they are complex. I was at a loss to answer for a moment.

    When the average American asks where you stand politically, their question, or at least their desired answer is “Democrat, or Republican.” Certainly this makes sense, after-all, who votes for a third party? Washington never really considered himself a part of either party (at the time it was the Democratic-Republicans, and the Federalists) Our constitution never condoned the creation of a political party, but of course it was inevitable.

    If You and I want to ensure that Dogs become the standard service animal, and our opponent has a group of people firmly entrenched in his, or her, point of view, then why wouldn’t we build a political party? If it were inevitable, then why would our first President warn us that they are despotic?

    The truth is, if I tell someone that I am a Republican, they immediately assume I want to: tax the poor, end legal abortion, keep homosexual marriages illegal. They think that my goal is to cater to the rich at the expense of the poor, evangelize the White House, and a host of other positions they think are variously moralistic, or prejudiced.

    Likewise, if I say that I am a Democrat, well then I must be socialist, I should give the poor tax payer assistance, pay for National healthcare because I think it is their right. I should be enforcing a wall of separation between church and state, legalizing immigration because I think that there are masses of jobs Americans simply won’t do, and so, a work force from outside our country is required.

    I can’t blame them, people want to listen to the by-lines the media and alternating political parties give them, and assume they are correct. The truth of it all is I love the country we have for it’s freedoms, I love that we have a government, and I truly believe that both sides (for the majority) want to help make America better. I also think that America has a long ways to go to become the perfect country, that making America better requires the pain of forging it into steel. We can’t get where we want to be the easy way, and I wish more people could understand that. And that is why I am starting this blog. I want to get my belief’s out there, I don’t expect everyone to agree with them, and would love to hear more about other standpoints, but please, don’t attack someone else for the way they think, or assume that their political party is a manifesto of their beliefs.