PostHeaderIcon Did The Founders Founder?

As anyone who has read my other articles knows, I revere the United States Constitution and the Declaration Of Independence. While neither is perfect (as is true of any artifact), they still are the best framework for human liberty and prosperity that I know of.

Yet, I have always had this shadow of a thought in the back of my mind that there was some error in judgment in those documents and I think I finally found what it is. Please allow me to explain.

The Founders proposed to create “a government of laws, not of men”. I have no doubt that what they meant was a governing structure that would protect the common citizen from arbitrary harm from either a monarch/dictator or an irrational majority of fellow citizens. This is obviously a very noble and desirable thing. The problem – and the Founders possible error in judgment – is that such a thing simply cannot be. The reason it can never be is that all of the laws we humans agree to live under are established, interpreted and enforced by men (as in mankind, not males). Therefore, all governments are governments of men, whether we like it or not (be calm, believers, I will get to you presently).

You may well be thinking, “So what? Everything you have said is obvious.” And it is (at least to me). So, what is my point? Simply this…

As a people we, and our so-called education systems, have tended to treat our founding documents as if they were a sort of talisman possessing some mystical ability to protect us from our own folly. The more rational among us know that no such thing exists. Our founding documents are nothing more or less than a framework – an outline of a functional republican form of government.

Throughout known history, men have come together to establish rules intended to enhance human coexistence. Perhaps the best known in the Western world are the so-called “Ten Commandments” from the Judeo-Christian tradition. True believers in that tradition take these to be the infallible utterances of a god. However, if you omit the few “commandments” that address that god’s egomania problems, what are left are some common sense guidelines for civilized behavior, guidelines that are common to diverse people around the world.

In like manner, our Founding documents are common sense guidelines for self governance. (Before you protest the use of the term “common sense”, please remember that there is nothing “common” about such sense. Instead, it is a rare commodity.) In both cases, the rules are no better than each society’s insistence that they be followed.

So, yet again, I seem to have made a great circle of thought that has brought me back to where it always does. Our Founding documents did not fail us, we failed them. We took them for granted rather than accepting the responsibility that always comes with liberty – the responsibility to guard and protect it as if our very lives depended on it.

And, no, our Founders did not founder. One might say that they simply put more faith in us than we deserve but even that is not the case. In fact, several of them tried to tell us how and why it would eventually end, and, so far, we seem to be following the script pretty much as they envisioned.

It is not yet too late to accept our responsibility if we but would. We can accept that we will always be subject to governments of men, and that the onus is on us to choose the right men to govern. In a word, we can accept the challenge to become informed, rational, critical thinkers and to let that guide our choices. Or, we can continue to take it all for granted knowing there is always some manner of “shepherd” willing to herd us to wherever he/she wants us to go.

Far too many of us do not like making choices. Yet, isn’t that all life really is… and endless series of choices? And, doesn’t the way we choose determine the way we live?

That is certainly true for me. Each of you must choose your own truth – then live with it. I hope you choose wisely.

Troy L Robinson

2 Responses to “Did The Founders Founder?”

  • ◄Dave► says:

    The Founders proposed to create “a government of laws, not of men”. I have no doubt that what they meant was a governing structure that would protect the common citizen from arbitrary harm from either a monarch/dictator or an irrational majority of fellow citizens. This is obviously a very noble and desirable thing. The problem – and the Founders possible error in judgment – is that such a thing simply cannot be. The reason it can never be is that all of the laws we humans agree to live under are established, interpreted and enforced by men (as in mankind, not males). Therefore, all governments are governments of men, whether we like it or not…

    I don’t know if you ever read my old essay entitled, “What Rule of Law?” posted here under the title, Civil Disobedience, which begins:

    There is no such thing as “the rule of law.” There never has been, and fortunately there never will be; for then we would have to pay a lot closer attention to those making the laws, and who was enforcing them. As long as the laws are selectively enforced, and the penalty for breaching them is inconsistent, it is the men making those decisions who are ruling, not the laws themselves.

    I always choke on the term, “rule of law,” because it conjures up the notion of rule by lawyers. As a contumacious sovereign individual, I have no need of a “leader,” much less a “ruler,” and if I ever decided to acquire either, the last thing I would choose would be a lawyer. F.A. Hayek opined on “Rule of Law”:

    Stripped of all technicalities this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand – rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances, and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge.

    Fair enough. Thus, I think one should think of it as “rules for government functionaries,” not as a substitute for a “ruler” over the people. Significantly, there is not a single word in the Constitution regulating the behavior of the people. It only purports to severely limit the power and prerogatives of their employees in government. Too bad we no longer hold them to it. ◄Dave►

    • Troy says:

      You said “Too bad we no longer hold them to it.”, thus summing up everything that is wrong in America.

      Why we don’t hold them to it is another matter, one requiring a lot of thought to unravel. The simplest apparent reason is a combination of far too many who simply don’t seem to care coupled with far too many who mistakenly think they are acting in their own self interest in allowing the expansion of government.

      To both these problems, I offer true education as the only long-term solution. How then do we get the masses to educate themselves? Simple. We use the lever that has worked throughout human history. It is called Necessity.

      How do we institute such necessity? Simple. By ending the welfare/entitlement state along with implementing some equitable qualification for voting.

      How do we end the welfare/entitlement state and change voter qualification? I see three possibilities:

      First, sit by and let the system collapse from its own rot, corruption and the ultimate inability to keep its promises. I dislike this option because it will take too long, too many will suffer, and we have no idea what would replace the present system.

      Second, we can openly revolt, much as is happening in Egypt. I dislike this option because too many will suffer, and we have no idea what would replace the present system. However, it does have the positive attribute of being more immediate.

      Third, we can work to persuade our local and state governments to stand up for their/our constitutional rights through nullification, assertion of 10th amendment rights and, if all else fails, through a constitutional convention. I much prefer this option because it seems to involve the least suffering and it has the advantage of being totally legal and within our present laws. The most often touted downside is that, with a constitutional convention, we do not know what mischief might be done to the constitution. I find this a minor worry compared to the certainty of what will result if we do nothing.

      The remaining, and to me most troubling question, is whether the present ruling powers would acknowledge any constitutional push-back from the states and the people, or whether their dictatorial powers are already entrenched enough to allow them to refuse to yield. Already, the administration is simply ignoring several court decisions and are technically in contempt of court, the latest example being the continued deployment of Obamacare after it has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal courts. If this continues, option 2 (above) becomes the only viable approach, however much we might wish it otherwise.

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