As you might expect, that makes me cheer! But the reported reasons for it... 'budget savings', leaves me somewhere between a 'meh' and a sigh.
As I commented to my friend, IMHO, the budget should not even enter into the question, and if it does, then they either don't understand the question, don't understand the budgets, or are weakly using budgetary reasons as excuses to cut what they feel some vague ideological compulsion to do.
But I'll take it!
But if it was me that had the power to swing the ax, the very first ones that I'd cut, would be the National Endowments for the Arts, and for the Humanities. They'd be the first to go, because they are the most extreme examples of why they all should go (with the possible exception of the 'Community Oriented Policing Services', and 'Civil Rights Division (though I strongly suspect a cursory examination would show them to be worthy in name only)), which is because the Federal Govt has no justifiable purpose or power for involving itself, and us, in them.
And also because, above almost any other institutions in society, I care about the Arts and Humanities the most. The inevitable result of political powers involving themselves in the arts, is the contamination, degradationand corruption of them that has to follow from the politicization of artists and their art.
As to all of the other agencies, I'd gleefully sever them from the public teat, because they are ideological perversions of the public trust, justice and the rule of law, which operate under the barest pretexts of furthering 'the greater good'. These 'Federal Agencies' are blights upon the land.
So, to sum up, this is unfortunate:
"Some of President Donald Trump's planned budget cuts appear to be targeted more at undercutting Democratic priorities than at shrinking the national debt."
, but this sure as hell isn't!
"the following 17 ... federal agencies reportedly on the chopping block..."
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
Minority Business Development Agency
Economic Development Administration
International Trade Administration
Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Office of Violence Against Women
Legal Services Corporation
Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department
Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability
Ok, so, a few quick comments about Trump's inaugural speech. It was simple, direct, unpretentious, even pithy in its restatement of those themes he campaigned upon, which, given his reputation, is all the more striking, as he apparently waved off the speech writers who customarily put words into our president's mouths, and wrote his speech himself. Personally, I thought it was a good speech; I have some concerns about parts, but in comparison to the soaring rhetorical pap and constitutional horror shows of Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush...?, this inaugural speech was a tonic.
That being the case, of course, the Left hated it, hated it in pretty much every way it could be hated, and not surprisingly, some of the more interesting things about his speech, from an event perspective, are what Leftist's have been saying about it. I won't waste space here going over their reactions, but I urge everyone to read NPR's attempted fisking of it - an exercise in tag team biased editorial commentary, arrogantly dressed up in 'annotated' drag. What's amusing though, is how much they manage to reveal about themselves through the lines they comment upon, what they say about them, and even more so through what they skip right on by without comment. It gives us a fine illustration of why the left lost so badly in the last election, at every level, across the nation.
It's easy to find the theme of his speech reflected in multiple passages (which, BTW, is what good speech writers strive for, yet often fail to do), and they indicate both why he was elected, and why the media's go-to buzzward of the day on Friday was "Dystopian". :-)
This one passage sums up both why the Left is so upset by it, and why the Right was so not:
"Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another.
But we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people."
The Pro-Regressive Left, conceived as it was upon the intent to centralize power away from the people, and under the watchful eyes of agency experts in Washington, absolutely hates that! Yet as much as I enjoy the imagery which that evokes, it is also conveys the 'partial good/potential bad', that most things Trump do. See if you can see what I mean, as he continues:
"What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
Right on the face of it, those are very satisfying, even reassuring sentiments. Also welcome, was his reference to the 'Forgotten Man' (which NPR completely whiffed). The Forgotten Man was a term from an essay at the opening of the 20th century, describing how one group of men in society are made to bear the brunt of that society's demand that they struggle and pay for the benefit of another portion of society, are made to follow the orders of yet another, smaller, self aggrandizing portion of society who take the credit for those efforts, while that first group of men who made all of their plans possible, are taken advantage of, abused and forgotten by society. Amity Shlaes, in her book "The Forgotten Man", detailed how FDR twisted that term to the purpose of expanding govt power, making the true 'Forgotten Man', even more forgotten (maybe NPR left it out because they remembered).
Of course, if Trump even partially succeeds in righting that (and his movements out of the box on the ACA, the EPA, TPP, and pledges to drastically cut regulatory controls, are extremely encouraging), that'll be a very good thing.
But righting society in that way isn't exactly what he said, is it? That's not what 'returning power' and '...become rulers once again' mean, or could be played out as. What he did say... well, not quite 'say' exactly, but what he evoked, was the idea of government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, and that they will not be ignored, and will regain their power - an admirable sentiment to be sure - but... that's also where the slope begins to get slippery, and a host of potentially bad things begin to loom before us.
For instance, how do you 'return' power to the people?
You can't, of course - if you were to try, which people would you return it to? Sure, most common sense people, and perhaps even Trump, would assume that meant stopping the government from usurping the powers which rightly belong to the people, but however it was meant, I assure you that politicians and bureaucrats mean something very different. A phrase like that evokes in them numerous committees, studies, oversight boards and commissions, because their livelihood, their very political futures, are rooted in power, and that is derived from extending favors or fears. At best, they'd set about picking some few to be empowered to 'return' powers to this neighborhood committee, or that economic forum, etc, all at the expense of everyone else, which is unlikely to be an improvement for them, and will surely put a burden upon still others, who will in turn become a new crop of forgotten men.
Of course, if Trump does cause the federal govt to cease and desist in usurping those powers which the Constitution doesn't give it the power to claim, that would be a very definite good - but the fact is that that isn't what he said, and what concerns me, despite the very middle class tenor of the passage, is that he spoke of 'Rulers', with the people becoming '...rulers once again'.
That's something that may be benign, but it could be much worse. Political power is a dangerous thing, it is why we do not have rulers in the United States of America, and keeping a vigilant and wary eye on those 'could's', is extremely important to keeping rulers out of the United States of America. Instead of 'rulers', we have a representative system, which, when adhered to, is very much about not giving We The People such power; rather, it is designed to separate the Sovereign, which is 'We The People', from the reigns of power, and it is also intended to separate their hired management team (our elected officials), from having full control of the reigns of power as well. Our Constitution is all about mediating political power, between powers, by means of laws derived from our Constitution, and in concert with it (Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has an excellent, and extraordinarily brief book explaining this aspect of our system, called 'The Founder's Key'. Highly recommended).
It is an ingenious feature of our Constitution that it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, but even more ingeniously, it does not give either they, or their representatives, direct power. Any opening that enables the bureaucracy to do end-runs around it, even with the pleasing sound of 'returning power' to the people, however that might be accomplished, will inevitably further short circuit the Constitution's structure, balance and purpose, and lead to the further powerlessness of We The People.
The next section is problematic as well,
"...For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left. And the factories closed."
The first line there, is of course true, and detestable, as is the last, but the second line opens up the rhetorical gates. How could 'the people' be made to "share" in the nation's wealth, without redistributing it? Now relax Trump supporters, I'm not saying that Trump is proposing to pull an Obama by seeking to 'spread the wealth around'. But the nearness to an open door that this edges towards, is concerning to me; it is concerning to me that he apparently doesn't notice that the good intentions he feels over the wrongs he sees, just might intensify those same wrongs, through an unanticipated angle - and that won't be a good either.
That double edged sense flows and stirs throughout the rest of the speech, as in the next section,
"...At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction -- that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.
These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public."
Again, there is a positive sense evoked, a very welcome sentiment, that the citizens are the reason why the nation exists - and issues of family, good jobs and educations are reasonable expectations, but if they are made into demands, they will soon transform their reasonability into something a great deal less reasonable. Does the nation exist to serve 'them'? No, in a very important sense, it most emphatically does not exist to serve them. Our constitutional government exists to uphold and defend the individual rights of its citizens from all enemies, foreign and domestic, but there is a sense where casting its purpose to be 'serving' its citizens, can, has, and will easily continue to abuse their rights in the name of providing them that 'service'. BTW, this is not simply speculation on my part, the fact is that the first solid fractures in our Constitutional government, the first instance of the federal government intruding upon the states with carrot and stick mandates (soon followed by laws and regulations) came upon us through exactly what he is focusing upon here: the notion that great schools and good jobs, are something that Govt should have an active hand in.
That particular good intention, which I've often gone into before, such as in this post, was originally proposed by Republicans, back in the 1860's, and it spawned both the Dept of Education (yes, in the 1860's, not 1960's) and the Dept of Agriculture, and all of the 'brooding monstrosity of American educationism' that we battle today, sprang from those very fertile weeds. It has helped to destroy the concept of Education in this nation, transforming it from the community efforts to provide the exemplars and information which best aid in becoming a moral, self-governing person capable of making intelligent decisions... into becoming economic chits in the workforce, something for businesses to order up by the bushel with these or those skills.
These are not good things, but they are easily and very understandably taken to be as such, by those who are too quick to reach for the apparent good, without further reflection, and a sense of direction that is rooted in a framework of our laws, and the concepts behind them.
And this, finally,
"...At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice...."
This is as it should be, America should be the first concern of Americans, and with a patriotic commitment to individual rights defended by the rule of law, there is noroom for the hateful and stunted notions of prejudice. And of course our politics should devote total loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America, but that is only possible, through an understanding of, and adherence to, the Constitution and the concepts it was derived from. If we understand those, and their purpose, and we strive for those, we will reawaken and reanimate the greatness that is inherent in America... but without that... like unskilled miners, we are more likely to chase the fools gold of populism and nationalism, than the real thing of constitutionalism.
I am not a Trump supporter (though I certainly used his name on my ballot to help defeat the greater threat facing us in Hillary Clinton), but I am also, most definitely not a NeverTrump'r, or an anti-Trump'r. I do not buy into the easy lies and delusions that have been served up by all the various forms of media, as well as by other more well intentioned observers who are nevertheless so eager to find failures and offenses in Trump, that they will sully their perceptions of reality with pleasing bits of half chewed principles, petty illusions and sad to say, outright lies. If your argument hinges upon portraying President Trump as a dullard, a narcissist, a puppet of Russia, then your argument lacks an argument, it substitutes self delusion, credulous reporting spun from 'sources say', and flagrant propaganda, where its premises should have been. And frankly, both the Trump supporters, and the NeverTrumpr's, are speculating on his coming actions, for good or ill, on the basis of their own emotional evaluations, based largely upon the hearsay that resonates most with their own preferred enthusiasms/fears. I have no use for such 'arguments', or the peddling of them.
Of course I'd have preferred to have had someone with a track record of commentary on constitutional ideas and positions so that I could have something to base my evaluations and expectations on, but just because we don't have that, doesn't mean that I'm now going to conclude that I should buy into all of the ginned up fears about him that come along - but.. yes, I'm also very conscious that that too is based upon my hopes and off the cuff evaluations of him. The die is cast and we will have to see what we see, and respond accordingly.
But leaving the hysterics aside, there is much to be wary of in a Trump administration, but not because I think that he's a fool, a crook, or a Russian puppet, but precisely because I do not think he is a fool, a crook, or a Russian puppet. I do believe that President Trump loves America and wants to improve it... but I'm also painfully aware that such good intentions, without a solid respect and understanding for what is essential and primary to what truly does make America great, can, especially in the hands of a skilled manager and showman, easily, unintentionally, become every bit as dangerous as the actions of those who do mean to do us harm, and his supporters should not ignore that.
Still though, despite the best efforts of the masked thugs of the fascistic pro-regressive Left, his inauguration is past, and we have yet again been able to thank God for the peaceful transfer of power, from one worldview, to another - and that is damned near miraculous!
Now let's keep an eye on that power, and let's be especially on the lookout for any well, or ill-intentioned moves that might tarnish America's luster even further, and let us all hope and pray that President Trump is able to help de-grime, de-clutter, and pollish up America's greatness once again.
On Friday, the 20th of January, 2017, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, a man I did not support in the recent election (though I opposed his final opponent, with him), will be sworn into office, and with that oath of office, he will become my, and every other American's, President.
‘On each national day of inauguration since 1789, the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States.’
We're told on the eve of his inauguration that somewhere in the area of 70 Democrat members of Congress are declaring that they will not be attending the inauguration, as a means of protesting the man who will occupy the office of the President of the United States.
These are elected representatives of the government of the United States of America. They were, and are, elected to represent their constituents in the upholding and crafting of the laws of the land, under that very government, whose laws, and governance of them, impacts every one of our individual rights and lives.
To explicitly attempt to delegitimize the peaceful and complete transfer of power, to the person duly elected by We The People, in accordance with our laws, to the office of the President of the United States of America, for partisan political purposes (whether from the Left or the NeverTrump'r Right), is, at best, extreme political negligence, and it is undermining to not only the peaceful transfer of political power, but to the preservation of every value which these 'lawmakers' supposedly believe in, and were elected to represent.
That, in my book, is despicable, it is disgusting, and they, and those who blithely see that as somehow being worthy behavior, should be ashamed of themselves.
Yet people are converging upon Washington D.C. to protest, they are churning out gimmick after gimmick to shout down those they differ with, even calling them 'nazis!' , in order to 'protest' ... what?
[Note to SJW Snowflakes: The real Nazi's spent years taking it to the streets, marching and verbally and physically abusing people, intimidating the populace until they feared holding any 'politically incorrect' positions, forcibly paving the way for them to come to political power - it is you who are following in their footsteps!]
Whatever distractions they might flood social media with, what they are actually protesting, is the lawful, peaceful, election of the 45th President of the United States of America. What they are protesting in the name of 'Democracy!', is the democratic election of their fellow Americans in accordance with the laws of the land, in a peaceful political contest which is understood upon entering into, that one side is guaranteed to lose, and so by their own actions they show themselves to be immature, dishonest and uncivilized wretches, who are made all the more repulsive by attempting to drape themselves in the spirit of 'Democracy!', while deliberately undermining the democratic process.
Who needs Russians, when you've got Pro-Regressive Leftists?! They lost the electoral argument, and yet they feel entitled to protest, deride, and even to refuse to abide by the decision of their fellow Americans, with these cheap, juvenile, theatrics. Some of them, friends of mine and even relatives of mine, I'm ashamed to say, have even characterized these protests and pledges of 'not my President!' as, and I quote: Beautiful.
There is nothing beautiful in people treating the solemn and peaceful transfer of political power, as if it were some sort of cheap piece of roadside performance art.
A Presidential Inauguration is the ritualized transfer of the reigns of power - that pure, dangerous, deadly, political power to penalize, punish, put to death and mandate actions and make war - this immense power is not being wrested away by violent slaughter, but is simply, boringly, being signed over across a sea of vastly differing and turbulent political viewpoints, peacefully, according to law, in a ceremony that has been solemnized by 228 years of tradition, under our Constitution which has been proven more successful and enduring than any other system in all of human history.
These protesters see nothing remarkable in that. They see nothing disturbing or dangerous in delegitimizing that. They see nothing admirable in this incredible and historic track record which we in America have, of binding down the powers of violence and ambition, by nothing more than the cords of law. They seem unaware that our laws don't gain the strength to do that by the paper they are printed upon, but by being written upon the hearts of We The People of this nation, as they were for We The Peoples and any who show the 'wrong' beliefs and allegiances.
at least least two centuries. What these 'beautiful protests' ominously trumpet to the world now, is that that writing is fading from the hearts and minds of We The People; a people who are foolish enough to think that those laws can be made to fade away, and yet somehow imagine that those ever lurking beasts of ambition and brutality which they've made to stir with temptations of escape, will simply remain docile, tame, and quiet as they are unleashed, rather than break free and do violence to
Good Lord People, our Government, IS US - it isn't in our buildings, or in our courts, in our military or even in our written laws, but is in our understanding and respect for them. Our Government lays in our self-government, our willing agreement to set aside the resort to use of force, or the encouragement of it, for peaceful and reasonable dispute and agreement and our willingness to abide by reasonable judgments, even and especially when we 'lose' the dispute. If we lose that IN US, then it all falls apart, and cannot do otherwise.
For those hysterical supporters of 'Democracy!' who are out to overturn or undermine the results of a democratic election, and the Rule of Law, in order to force the rest of us to comply with their desires, you should keep in mind, that for all of your claims of caring about this or that disadvantaged minority such and such - if our respect for our laws, and our expectations of being able to rely upon those law to subdue the violent passions of ourselves and our fellows - if We The People are made to feel that a just government can no longer be counted upon to provide justice and order, then it's not the powerful who are going to suffer - no, that only happens under a system of laws - it is the weak, the weird, and the non-conformist, who will be made to feel the brunt of the powers unleashed by your discarded and forgotten respect for individual rights under the Rule of Law.
No one who is weak or in need of assistance, will survive that - and especially not any snowflakes.
Ok, sure, it might be a total Captain Obvious move to point out that the term 'Representative Government', is one that contains two very different words, but what's less obvious, is the fact that before you can understand why the first of those two word's meaning is so important, it's necessary to have a fair understanding of what the second word of the term means, and just how dangerous it is to the meaning and purpose of its first word. As noted in my previous post, the trite heads or tails dilemmas that most of our attempts at discussing such matters are so easily diverted into ('A Democracy! No, a Republic!', 'Electoral College vs. Popular Vote', or 'He Is/Isn't my President!'), do nothing to deepen our understanding of either term, and serve mostly to divert our attention away from the questions we're supposedly considering. But not even the questions can be compacted into the space of calling heads or tails, and the more you puff up one preferred answer over the other, the further away we are all drawn from a useful discussion of them.
So, with that in mind, it's worth reminding ourselves of the basics of what it is that government is, how it derives its power, and how and why it is so important to limit its ability to use that power. As the old saying says,
'Government, like fire, is a troublesome servant and a terrible master'.
You want to use the Power... don't you...?
We don't need to try and attribute that phrase to one or more Founding Fathers, as it often has been, in order to make the truth of it more important and relevant, especially when we're so often tempted to turn to govt to impose our very best intentions upon the rest of us. The greatest dangers to our liberty, come from our best intentions to improve upon it. It is precisely when we're caught up in such
enthusiasms for 'doing good!' unto others, that we're most in need of being tempered by an understanding from history - that is what it is was that made our form of government possible, it is what made, and makes, it exceptional, and without which, neither it, nor we, can be exceptional - at least not in a good way.
So what is Government? Stripped of the finery and fanfare:
Government is the means of harnessing the collective power of a community towards... ends.
What those ends are, who determines them and authorizes the pursuit of them, and most importantly, what it, and they, will not be allowed to do, depends upon how well your society delimits the powers of those holding the reigns of power. Where Government gains its power 'to do' what it will, is by enforcing claims, in whole or in part, upon the possessions, time and lives of its people, and if there are no limits to its claims or ends, then it will turn the collective power of your society, towards accomplishing whatever those in government (or those with their ear) desire to do, and with all of their very best intentions urging them on to do whatever 'it' might be.
Despite the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence, government does not need your consent - it can gain legitimacy from that, sure - but that's a later development, a 'nice to have' (in the eyes of those in positions of power within it), which is in no way necessary for it to wield its power over you.
At this point it might be useful to take note of a rather shocking point, especially shocking for those of us, like myself, who look to government as the means of establishing justice and defending our rights, and that point is this: those are not the most basic requirement that a society demands from their government! And with a very grudging nod towards Hobbes, what people do demand, first and foremost, is: Order. As Hobbes put it,
"...For before constitution of Soveraign Power (as hath already been shewn) all men had right to all things; which necessarily causeth Warre: and therefore this Proprietie, being necessary to Peace, and depending on Soveraign Power, is the Act of that Power, in order to the publique peace...."
I disagree with him, that that provides either a definition or justification for government, but it is, and should be, a frightening and sobering realization that that is the tipping point of political gravity that is always tugging at our perceptions, eagerly awaiting for us to forget our balance and fall back down to its baseline. That point is extremely dangerous to ignore, or to evade the realization that the government that does not effectively provide that fundamental service, will not stand for long; as a society sufficiently shaken up, will sink to any level, in order to enforce that basic compliance upon its own people, if they think it'll mean escaping from chaos - real or perceived (and if you think that doesn't apply to modern man, it's you who are being primitive in your thinking). That ground floor of order forms what I've called the 'Societal Baseline', and is what I was pointing out in an earlier post that looked into the Yanomamö Indians in the Amazon, it is what makes the brutality of a tribal thug, preferable to having no order at all, and it is that point which all real progress, is measured through the horizontal (legislative, via Govt) and vertical (ethical, through the people) distance a society manages to put between itself and that baseline.
The first step of real progress, up and away from that baseline, comes when a society's begins forming rules for its governance, rather than following exclusively upon the wishes of its rulers, and in making them known for all to see and understand, they give a sign that they are developing what can loosely be called 'laws'. As societies' begin doing so, they begin forming political structures that move beyond the moment to moment exercise of brute force, by brutes, and take on the various forms of all of the familiar ___cracys' and ___archy's (you remember, democracy, oligarchy, etc), which takes them further up the winding path of Chieftains, Tyrants & Kings, until they finally arrive at the Prime Ministers and Presidents that typically head up what we like to think of as legitimate, Representative Governments.
If you examine the laws of a society as they progress along that path - if they manage to continue along it - there's an essential characteristic that you'll see becoming more and more pronounced, which is what makes it possible for their laws to be able to be regarded as capital 'L' "Laws" with a straight face, rather than just an assortment of rules written down by thugs, and it's a development of an idea that I went into some depth upon in previous posts (two in particular, pt 2:Why a Govt of Laws, and not of men? & pt 3:Who Benefits from transforming Rules into Laws), which, sparing you a few thousand of those post's words, can be summed up in what's best captured in two translations of one potent phrase from Aristotle's Politics,
'The law is reason unaffected by desire',
'The Law is reason free from passion.'
The more that a people's laws adhere to and exhibit that sensibility, the more legitimate they and their Laws, are likely to become - it is the means of putting the point upon the arrow of political progress; pointing their society in the right direction, onwards, upwards, and away from that societal baseline of barbaric order. And while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, that characteristic, in the raw, is also what is being crudely expressed in that primal desire for the societal baseline of Order; seeking relief from the chaos brought on by violent passions and desires that've run rampant. Surprisingly, at least a little bit, it is in seeking that order that they also find that the seeking itself, demands an exercise of methodical reasoning in order to bring even that baseline condition about, and continuing with that, developing and reflecting upon that, refining that, that is the natural means of eventually implementing Laws that one day will tower above the mere scribblings of one or another tyrant's demands of the moment.
Following closely on Aristotle's essential ideal, are two from the Roman jurist, Cicero, with his,
"No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side"
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature"
These are also logical developments of Aristotle's advice to separate your passions and desires from your attempts to realize justice; in pursuing that it soon follows that a fair and impartial hearing should be given to both sides of an issue, it is a result of seriously taking that advice to heart, and as a result, your laws, and the application of them, become more reasonable, and those applying and enduring them also begin seeking conclusions derived from factual evidence, rather than reacting to impassioned desires.
These are not inventions of The West, they are discoveries about what is common to all of mankind, but they were first fully realized in The West. Following these dictums, and ridding the writing and administering of a society's laws of personal passions and biased desires, is, in the real sense of making progress away from the baseline, Progressive, and it will be accompanied by a visible increase in the methodical, reasonable nature, of their laws. On the other hand, shedding that quality, seeking to appeal to the passions and desires of the many, is Regressive, and deliberately seeking to do so, while justifying those actions and stirring up the passions of the people in order to satisfy the ambitions of their rulers (whether they be one, or the many), is what I refer to as being Pro-Regressive. If you want to know whether your society's laws are truly Progressive, or Pro-Regressive, look at how those who propose them, urge you to embrace them.
The direction that our laws move in can be objectively measured as progress over what came before, moving from chaos, to order, to recorded and predictable rules, to rules which make sense together and integrate with each other, developing a progressively less contradictory nature - reasonable, understandable, and flexible enough to be applied in a variety of circumstances, yet rigid enough to be familiar to, and understood by 'the common man'; that is the path of progress. As these advanced ideas, and the attitudes which accompany them become the norm, such laws as that people govern themselves through, begin to lose their erratic nature, as both the people and their laws become more ordered, more reasonable, more respectful of their fellows lives.
The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times
But as wonderful and profound as such progress is, a society has to be on their guard against their own hubris, for while they may have become convinced of the soundness of their good intentions, the nature of government has not changed - not one bit - and the raw force and power which it is, will seep through such blind spots, like groundwater through an old foundation, progressively saturating and weakening it. Government is power, it is force, it can fine, punish, stifle, intimidate, imprison and persecute, it can kill and it can destroy, it is like fire, a troublesome servant and a terrible master, and if you dare presume that you can fully domesticate such primal forces through law, that you can safely use that primal power best suited to preventing or punishing actions, to initiate and do good unto others for what you consider to be for their own good, then you fail the test of Tolkien's Ring of Power, and turn towards darkness with all of the urgency and false light of your very best of intentions.
It is at this point, that the question arises as to who it is that will, and should, write a society's laws. How are they to be chosen? The means of binding both laws and its officers, from engaging in erratic or passionate actions, is best made by means of those laws themselves being ordered by objectively higher laws (see Cicero's “True law is right reason in agreement with nature"), so that society becomes compatible with what all can see as being true and right.
But how will they be written, and how will those charged with writing and attending to them, be chosen? This is where 'The consent of the governed' begins to come into play, but how so? Is their consent to be gathered and given in any way shape, manner or form? Are there good and bad ways to gain that consent? Is it possible to curry that consent in such a way as to subvert the consent of the governed, for the benefit of those who would govern them?
There's more to the matter than simply encouraging individual choices and preferences; giving political power to the administration of our laws, if those laws are to be Laws, rather than rules in drag, they must be written and applied in a manner as free from personal passions and desires as is possible. Simply having all of the people of that society participating in that process, appealing to them to 'express their choice!', means putting people into power over the laws, by means of inciting passionate desires for wide approval and calls for collective action, which means turning against the very thing that the Laws, and the administration of them, are designed to bar from issues of Law!
And yet, the consent of the governed is vital to a 'Representative Government' - that's the puzzle at the heart of the first of our terms, 'Representative'.
What the 'Representative' portion of 'Representative Government' must never forget, is that the 2nd word in its term is representative of a fearsome and dangerous power, one that feeds upon your own confidence in your own ability to master it, and especially through your belief that you can 'do good' by imposing your own best judgment upon the choices that other people are trying to make for their own lives. The 1st word in that term must keep in mind, that it can, at best, tame the beast inherent in the 2nd word, but only as a trainer tames a tiger, and that if you turn your back upon it, thinking that your laws alone will keep it in its place (as if they somehow had the power of judgment outside of your own ability to govern yourself), then you can rest assured that your own government will use them as the means of devouring you, from the inside out.
Despite all of the fear mongering, the real threats to a 'Representative Government' rarely come in the form of thuggery and violence from external 'others!', instead they come upon a society from within themselves, through there own good intentions (and thinly disguised desires), by the means of which Frédéric Bastiat's understood all too well:
“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
As a people begin to give in to that con, then soon enough they will discover how the expectations of achieving unworthy ends, through high minded laws, is a most perilous matter. If We The People fail to require that our Representatives be, and be selected by means as free of passionate desires as the laws they are to be in charge of, then the troublesome servant will have become the master of them, once again. Unless they and their laws are bound down by recognizably external, and constitutional fixtures, their representatives will become every bit as representative of the most tyrannical of individual tyrants - and especially as they do so in the name of "We The People!".
Progress is made when the people support taking substantial steps towards turning their power towards the service of judgment, rather than passionate desires. The Representative portion of our term 'Representative Government', is the means open to us for doing that, at least in part, it is the means of seeking and using good judgment, cool, reasonable deliberation and disinterested action, in service to those interests. But before getting into the best means found for electing the Executive of such a system of laws - the Electoral College - we need to dig a bit more into what we mean by the 'Representative' portion, of Representative Government - next post.