On Government Deriving Its Just Powers from the Consent of the Governed

As concerned citizens who have joined together in an effort to speak rationally to our increasingly unaccountable and irresponsible leaders, it’s important for you to become familiar with the goals outlined in our mission statement. Over the next few weeks, I will address our expressed beliefs, point by point, to help explain to others what animates us and to generate a healthy discussion among ourselves. The following are my thoughts alone and are not meant to be interpreted as an official statement from the Chattanooga Tea Party organization.

The best place to start is at the beginning, the first bullet of our mission statement: “We believe that it is ‘We the People’ who have been given the power of our nation by our Forefathers.” As The Declaration of Independence more eloquently puts it,

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (author’s italics)

This gets right at the foundation of the legitimacy of our government – the consent of the governed. It means government exists for the good of the people, not for its own purposes and perpetuation. It means the majority gets the strongest voice at the table when the nation’s priorities are considered. That doesn’t mean a majority gets to abuse the legitimate rights of minorities – despite what you may have learned in school, our nation is not a democracy, but rather a democratic republic – an important distinction. Yet the health of that republic depends on representatives who honestly attempt to represent the whole of their constituency as best as they can – not just the highly politicized factions that are critical to reelection.

It’s fair to say that ideal is not what we are seeing from the current Congress. Instead of helping create conditions more favorable to investment and savings to stimulate the economy, it continues with the unsustainable spend-the-money-faster-than-you-can-print-it policies that contributed to our current downturn and dangerously skyrocketing deficit. Instead of leaving banks, investment firms, insurance companies and car manufacturers to the tender mercies of the market, which is a much more efficient and democratic arbiter of success or failure, it has virtually taken control of entire markets, which will inevitably lead to more political corruption, less efficient use of our limited capital, and a slower recovery. Instead of looking for a bipartisan solution to providing medical coverage to 48 million Americans and pursuing tort and insurance reforms to lower the cost of care and coverage, we get top-down mandates that eliminate many of our current market choices,1 undermine the coverage of 179 million Americans and spending of another trillion dollars that we don’t have.

Do you consent to this cavalier treatment of your hard-earned tax dollars, not to mention your individual rights?

When Congress passes laws for the people to follow, why does it exempt itself from those that are inconvenient to them? For example, the current healthcare “reform” bills being considered exempt members of Congress, federal employees and many unions with gold-plated health coverage from the liberty-robbing plans they have for the rest of us.

In short, there are so many perks and privileges to Congressional offices that our elected representatives are becoming less connected to the people while growing more attached to the Washington media-bureaucracy complex. And both parties are guilty of feeding the beast. Too many members of Congress are easily reelected because of gerrymandering as a result of politically motivated legislative decisions. This “politics as usual” approach makes our representatives less accountable to the people.

Do you consent to this treatment?

Well, in far too many cases, the unfortunate answer is “yes.” The fact is, people generally get the government they deserve because too many people are apathetic or not thoughtful enough about the issues of the day to make informed choices at the voting booth. The thinking goes, “If it doesn’t affect me now, I’m not worried about it,” perhaps due to a culture with a very short attention span. In fairness, we must remember that the way we have been treated by our elected representatives has generally been in direct proportion to people’s ability to do for themselves. Over time, as our nation has grown from the agrarian, rural, self-dependent nation of the 19th Century to the information-based, urban, interdependent nation of the 21st Century, we have been losing the will, if not the ability, to do for ourselves.

We need to take the opportunity to remind our fellow citizens that when people say, “There ought to be a law …” or “Somebody needs to do something,” that they are actually making a choice. They can choose to do something themselves, and take some responsibility, accountability and control of the results. Or they can choose to cede their control to “do something” to an increasingly centralized government grown well beyond the imagination of most of our founding fathers.

For if we the people truly have the power, we must accept the responsibility for more local self government or condemn our children to living with the growing tyranny in our midst.

1 Fortune Magazine Special Report: Fixing Health Care, “5 freedoms you’d lose in health care reform,” by Shawn Tully, July 24, 2009. Accessed at: http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/24/news/economy/health_care_reform_obama.fortune/index.htm

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