Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Yale vs Hard Knocks: Founders As Devisors Of Limited Government
A slight disagreement between me and my friend who went to Yale:
....The Founding fathers were worried about factionalism and the people. Thus the Senate and the electoral college and the division of powers. In other words, afraid of parliamentary government. They were members of an elite and elitist. They were "Romans" not democrats. Or so I learned in school. Never explored it for myself...
Me—The School of Hard Knocks:
....They were also worried, axiomatically worried, about majority tyranny. Rights, they said, come first, then comes Government. Every citizen is sovereign unto himself, endowed by his Deistic creator with inalienable rights constituting their individual liberty, not to be trenched on, not to be unreasonably infringed. For the founders govt exists to protect these rights, which are susceptible to both overweening govt and majority tyranny:
....That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....
And so the founders’ conception is of limited government, limited because unnnecssary due to self governing individuals, which makes education fundamental to an informed citizenry, which itself makes individual self government possible....
....I think they were concerned with tyranny, however it came into being (democracy did not preclude tyranny, indeed tyrants got into power via the people) and were concerned that the people might be swayed in the moment, so they interposed a deliberative elite between the people and the final outcome. I think limited government is a more recent notion that follows on the great extension of the federal power over the years...
Hard Knocks (goat a little gotten):
....You’re dead wrong.
If the founders weren’t concerned with limiting govt right from the jump, they wouldn’t have limited the federal govt to a few *enumerated* heads of jurisdiction, and wouldn’t have made it the opposite of our (Canadian) constitution, which gives the federal govt all residual power under POGG—Peace, Order and Good Government.
The animating theory of the founding documents derived from Locke who argued that we’re by nature free and equal and argued against claims that God made all people *naturally* subject to a monarch or a civil authority....
....This is from a conservative website:
"Many believe that the tenth amendment reserved to the states all power not enumerated in the Constitution for the national government. This is an over-simplification. The Tenth Amendment reads: 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. The people ratified the Constitution which gave the national government enumerated powers. The people also delegated differing levels of power to the various state governments. All power not delegated to a component of this federal system, is reserved to the people."
The Bill of Rights limits the powers of those governments. I think you are thinking of federal over-reach, when talk of "limited government" with great passion. It is not that government as such over-reaches, but the US federal government, and state governments have done so too. No-one thinks government power is absolute. I don't see why that is an issue.
Elite was the wrong word. They wanted to ensure deliberation and not have direct democracy, which they thought could be dangerous, given to quick shifts of opinion.
Hard Knocks, (coup de grace, maybe):
...I don’t know if we’re quarreling over semantics.
The states that formed the United States had their powers set before that formation. They convened to define how they would come together under a central authority. Broadly, their concern was to limit the power of that central authority, the federal government. England, not so much now, was a unitary state with its form of parliamentary democracy marked by the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, which itself is rooted in the unlimited power of the king, in whose name the government acts.
So when I speak of limited government, I mean precisely that, a government with a limited, enumerated, set of jurisdictional powers and no residual power.
So of course there was a concern with central govt overreach but that notion isn’t exclusive of limiting the powers of the federal government. Overreach, then, goes to the government trenching, or legislating, or reaching outside it competence, beyond its enumerated powers. That is a “division of powers” issue. And overreaching goes to the government overreaching even when purporting to legislate within its proper sphere of power.
....The reasons why the authors of the Constitution saw fit to limit the power of the government are set forth in the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. Here, Jefferson outlines three basic assumptions widely held in the American colonies that supporters of the Declaration believed were not held by the English monarchy. These assumptions are that all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and governments are instituted in order to preserve these rights. It was the fact that the English government was not adhering to these premises that the colonies saw fit to establish their own government in which all three would be respected...
The literature on the founders as devisors of limited government is big. You must have taken a Civics course in your wayward youth....
....P.S. Limited government of course also inheres in the founders’ devising of a separation of coequal powers among the executive, the legislature and the judiciary and of checks and balances...