Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Immorality of Groups--read: Government

"...groups are more immoral than individuals."
Martin Luther King
Letter from Birmingham Jail

Anyone with a modicum of common sense would acknowledge that mob rule is not a good thing. Our Founders understood it. They understood it to their very core. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton). And, because they understood the effect power has on individuals and on large groups, particularly when those groups are in the ruling majority, they sought to limit the power of the government over the rights of the individual.

As early as the Declaration of Independence printed on July 4th, 1776, some 234 years ago, Jefferson wrote: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. The Founders intended for government to gain their authority and legitimacy from the people. The intention was never to impose arbitrary policy onto the people. The purpose of the Declaration which led to the Revolutionary War, was to preserve the rights of the people and create a governmental system grounded in individual liberty and freedom of choice.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 15: Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. Has it been found that bodies of men act with more rectitude or greater disinterestedness than individuals? The contrary of this has been inferred by all accurate observers of the conduct of mankind; and the inference is founded upon obvious reasons.

Stay with me. Just a few more lines of Federalist prose. Hamilton goes on: Regard to reputation has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number, than when it is to fall singly upon one. A spirit of faction, which is apt to mingle its poison in the deliberations of all bodies of men, will often hurry the persons of whom they are composed into improprieties and excesses, for which they would blush in a private capacity.

Thomas Jefferson understood the capriciousness of rulers. The authors of the Constitution understood the nature of man and the nature of man in power. Senator Charles Sumner who championed the 14th Amendment understood the way men of power abused their authority. Despite the protections articulated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he saw the States' unwillingness to grant those very rights to the population of recently emancipated Slaves so he sought an amendment to the Constitution to protect those rights from abuse by the States. Martin Luther King understood the immorality of groups in power as he wrote his defense from the Birmingham jail.

We live in tenuous times. Our rights are being infringed upon; our Constitution ignored at best, flagrantly flaunted at worst by a rogue government intent on increasing its collective power. This immoral group respects us, the people, so little they determine to tell us how much salt to put on our food, how much air to put in our tires, how much gas and electricity we should consume, how to conduct our health care, and how to spend our hard-earned money. This immoral group has set aside the lessons of history, the veracity of the Declaration and the Constitution and seek, rather, to obtain ever more power over an increasingly un-consenting population. They claim the moral high ground in all that they do. And they do not blush over their "improprieties and excesses."

As we reflect on the foundation and history of this great country, let us not forget how Alexander Hamilton referred to us in Federalist 16: they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution.

Get a copy of the Federalist Papers and read them. In these "times that try men's souls" you will find great comfort.

May God Bless America on this Independence Day.

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