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May 17, 2006

The Peace Of Freedom--The Positive Peace Principle Part II

Why has the Constitution of the United States, which sets up a political system with horizontal and vertical divisions of power, failed to prevent a growth in government that undoubtedly now exceeds in size, power, and intervention in social and economic matters, the greatest fears of Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton?

The answer lies along three dimensions. One is the involvement of the United States in war, especially the two World Wars, but also in the Korean and Vietnam wars. In time of war, governments centralize, extend and introduce controls, and mobilize resources and people. Massive intervention, coercion, and regulation are justified, and indeed accepted, in order to defeat the enemy, as we see now in the War On Terror. Unfortunately, such power once accumulated at the center is never completely dismantled when war ends. Through wars and threats to national security, governmental power has gone two steps upward, one step down. Indeed, the state historically is the child of war.

The second dimension involves the source of governmental power. Power that rests mainly on voting majorities has its source only in those majorities. Thus, what is a division of power institutionally becomes a unified power in direction. That is, since the legislators and executive win office by appealing to the same voters and judges appointed by the executive are confirmed by the legislature, Democratic Will becomes paramount. This tends to submerge the interests of minorities. The problem here is that the democratic trend towards one man-one vote tends to override the constitutional protection of minorities and individual freedom.

There is no consensus on what should have been or can now be done about this problem of limiting the source of government power. Perhaps the best solution is to tie each branch of government to major social interests--such as religion, business, and labor, which would jealously guard their own power and check the growth in that of others. To be sure, this is now done in the American government through, for example, regulatory boards that really represent the interest of those they regulate, such as the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture that act in favor of and represent their special interests. This produces a quilt work, plurality of checks and balances. Nonetheless, overall it is still the final power of voting majorities that can and have enabled certain special interests to dominate, as do those supporting and benefiting from environmentalism, welfare, and corporate subsidies.

This brings me to the third dimension for limiting government. Most important in doing so is the dominant ideology of the people. If the people believe in freedom from government, in human rights, in individualism, in limited government, above particular interests, then by and large their ballots will keep governmental power limited. If they believe in government power, then government will enlarge.

The growth in governmental power today is correlated with a growth in an ideology of governmental power. The public has come to see government as a means for applying reason and science to solving social problems and improving society. They view government as responsible for society and for rectifying all that goes wrong with it. They see law as only government made; and believe that societies are designed and made by man. Especially, they view equality and social justice as higher ends than freedom, and government as the major tool for bringing both about.

Of course, publics develop their ideology through opinion leaders. These are mainly intellectuals who teach, write, and, in this age of television news and commentaries, speak about social and political affairs and interpret them for others. Today, government generally captivates intellectuals. They are rationalists who believe knowledge and science can improve society and that governmental power is the means towards this end. Government planning, controls, and intervention in society are seen as the implements to create a better society.

This is socialism, of course. And in this first quarter of the 21st Century, intellectuals by and large have accepted some kind of socialist framework, and which may be Marxist, neo-Marxist, anti-Marxist statist; or totalitarian Islamofascist, or even democratic as in democratic socialism. Following their teaching and endowed with their orientation, the public expects government to provide diverse services and solve social problems, and to be a basic means for achieving their particular interests through special laws in their favor, regulations helping their business or occupation, rules giving them particular privileges, loans at low interest, grants in the form of welfare or subsidies, or tax exemptions.

(Continued here)

Posted by Rudy at May 17, 2006 10:33 PM

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