June 18, 2007

The King of America

As I look at the news in the Middle East I wonder about the state of our own Union. Just a short time ago the citizens of Iraq proudly risked death to vote for their future government. They bore ink-stained fingers as a badge of honor. Not so long ago in our own country we felt the same way about the right to vote -- it was a privilege, an honor. Today, only a minority bother to vote, and some want to make the act of voting a right instead of a privilege by giving franchise to felons, to illegals.

In the history of Man self governance is a rare thing. Some of us dream of life without government interference. Most humans cannot handle the responsibility that comes with freedom. In the course of history the natural form of government has been a type of monarchy or dictatorship. The leaders and kings put themselves in a position of power because they had the vision and most importantly, the strength to take charge. Sometimes this power passed through heredity. Sometimes a new leader took the reigns of governance through his own power. Almost always, in the history of mankind, power is held by a select group of people over the masses.

Scientist tell us the universe is in a state of entropy. Man wants to bring order to the universe. In government we seek order. Is it possible that a state of order is the natural state of government? Does political consideration defy the Laws of Physics. History shows the natural form of government is a dictatorship, a monarchy, strong rules and regulations. Most of world's religions spell out a single ruler, and offer a set of guidelines under which we should live. Even in those religions that offer a pantheon of gods and goddesses, one is the strongest, the ruler of the gods! Even in religion we want to be told how to behave, what to do. It is with little wonder Man is likened to sheep in the Bible. We are a herd waiting God's border collie to move us from point to point. Strong animals live in packs and groups. In each there is an alpha, the leader of the pack, the top lion in the pride. Only meek animals like sheep allow themselves to be herded. Man is the top predator, yet do we have a tendency to revert to a herd mentality?

Lincoln was right when he said Government was by, of ,and for the People. We can only be governed by permission. At least collectively. If enough of us do not like the government formed to rule our lives, we can change that government. That was the whole premise of our Declaration of Independence. Our Revolution was successful only because enough people believed in the concept of limited government, in the precepts of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What makes Americans unique in this regard? In the history of Man democracy is a failed concept. The Greeks of Athens tried it with some success, until a crisis allowed a dictator to take charge. The same concept ruled the Romans for a few centuries during the Republic. Yet even the Greeks and the Romans were not willing to opt for a free republic or total democracy. Only a select group of elites were allowed the franchise. Entire groups were not deemed worthy of voting for the common laws and regulations of society. The Roman Constitution allowed for the plenary powers of the Senate to go to the Consuls during times of crisis. The foremost Republican advocates of the day believed dictatorial rule was all that could support them in time of need. Our own Forefathers believed voting should only be allowed to men of property.

Given the history of the world , why are we surprised when the people of Iraq and Afghanistan revert to the historical habit of monarchy and dictatorship? We are seeing before our eyes man waiting for a strong hand to lead them from crisis, to bring order from chaos. As a collective they are unable to self-govern. Show me a representative republic or democracy that has worked in the long run. The nations of South America were colonized by the Europeans. They fought their own wars of Independence and most modeled their fledgling governments upon that of the United States. Yet few have any form of free elections today. Corruption, strongman dictators or else a general sense of anarchy rules in most cases. A few such as Argentina and Chile are currently run by a freely elected Government, but we all suspect change is just a Junta away. In any case, the nations of South and Central America are far from providing the citizens of their nations with the opportunities for material and economic success found in the United States and Canada today.

France staged her own Revolution shortly after our own battle for freedom from Monarchy. In less than a decade they had chosen an Emperor to rule them. Subsequent attempts at a Republic failed in the same vein. France is on the Fourth attempt now? Political Science majors joke that France changes governments every time the wind blows from a new point on the compass. The same is true for the Italians. One only need to look backward in history 50 years or so to see how easily the Spanish and Germans accepted dictatorship as a form of Government. The governments of the Communist Bloc were classic examples of the elite rule over the masses. Asia, and Africa bear no examples of long-lasting democratic government.

Nearly every republic and democracy in the world was formed in the last one hundred years. Britons will claim they have a Republic, but they are unwilling to give up the Monarchical crutch. Something in the subconscious will not allow them to believe they do not need a single ruling figurehead, even in name only. The same is true for the Dutch, the Danes and the Swedes.

Here we stand, The United States, the great experiment. We are a long way from the limited government envisioned by some of our forefathers. The ideas of freedom for the individual and the relative strength of a central government were controversial even at the birth of our nation. Some men believed a strong central government was the only form of government that would work. Others believed the Government that governs least, governs best.

Today we find ourselves in a similar situation. There are some who believe that for the sake of the collective nation government must protect us all. Government intrudes into every aspect of our lives from rules on how a box of cereal must be marked to telling us we have to wear a seatbelt. Some believe even more rule and control are needed. A majority of us believe the government knows best and do not even vote, wanting to be ruled by those who claim to be smarter, better, more successful, better able to lead and govern. There are some who aspire to govern because they feel they are the elite.

Our nation is but a blip on history's radar. our experiment in democracy is an infant among Governments and Nations. Time will tell if we can successfully hold off the the temptation to let others rule us. In the next crisis will we allow a dictator to take charge? Never, you claim! Really? Who do we revere as our best Presidents? Among others, Lincoln and FDR. Both used wartime as an excuse to take away our freedoms. In the case of FDR we elected him an unprecedented third and fourth term. How close in spirit is that to the Consuls of Republican Rome?

The nanny state is alive and well. We must be diligent. We must be willing to fight for our individual freedoms. We must exercise our rights, lest they atrophy and wither. We must fight the temptation to be herded like sheep, to let the strong rule. We must be strong enough to accept the responsibilities of Democracy and self-rule. I am not sure if we are up to the task.

edit: or just read this, by a real writer who can express his ideas in a coherent manner.

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