Yesterday’s blog post, Hating Our Heritage, drew a wide range of responses. Some (notably from people who rather obviously read only an introductory comment and not the post itself) were rather reactionary, arguing straw men and the points that they wanted to make rather than the ones I tried to make.

One commenter’s (attempted) retort was:

you are the government it is the people. Do you have a problem with yourself?

Simplistic, superficial, a failed “gotcha.” But, more importantly, wrong. Flat-out, plain-as-day, wrong.

Today is Independence Day, the day we commemorate the Declaration that the American Colonies “totally dissolved” “all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain,” in a document signed by 56 representatives of the people of those Colonies.

The Declaration is 1320 words long. You can find it transcribed here.

Do you have 5-7 minutes to spare today? If you’re reading this blog post, I’d speculate that you do. Take those 5-7 minutes (less if you’re a fast reader) and read the Declaration.

Now.

I’ll wait.

The Declaration is the collective will of a People throwing off the yoke of a government that they felt no longer represented them, they felt mistreated them to the point of tyranny, and they felt no longer deserved their allegiance.

Eleven years later, the People, through representatives they appointed to speak for them, drafted and enacted a Constitution. At 4543 words, plus another 3048 words across 27 Amendments, it’s a bit of a longer read. It’s still substantially shorter than any of the 5 books of the Torah/Pentateuch, or any single book of the Gospel, and only a fraction of the length of the proposed EU Constitution, and its language is quite plain. It’s not much of a challenge or commitment to give it a once-through.

It is also, in my opinion, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, achievements of governance in human history. If you’ve never read it, I’d posit that you should. You don’t need to do so now, but if you want to have serious political discussions, giving the foundational document of our nation at least one read should almost be a mandate.

Here’s the thing about that Constitution: it speaks of a Government of, by, and for The People, but it goes to great pains to distinguish itself as something other than The People. It is to The People that rights belong; government is tasked with protecting and defending those rights. It is to The People that ultimate authority belongs; government is treated suspiciously, with separation of powers and multiple checks and balances to keep it reined in, in its delegated exercise of that authority. It is to The People that wealth belongs; government is given limited authority to take some of that wealth in order to perform its list of enumerated powers and duties. And, it is to The People that all the things the Constitution does not specifically empower the government to do are reserved.

In other words, The Government is not The People. It is of The People, in that representatives are appointed to act on their behalf. It is by The People, in that those appointments are derived from direct elections. It is for The People, in that the government exists to protect and serve them.

But, it cannot be over-stressed. The Government is not The People.

Therefore, it’s wholly consistent to criticize, dislike, or even hate the government and/or some (or all, if you wish) of the individuals that function as representatives and government agents, and still advocate for, like, or even love the country and the ideals upon which it is founded.

Still, there are folks who continue to conflate the government and The People. They are the ones more apt to look to the government first when it comes to addressing problems or things they consider wrong, and they are the ones more apt to bristle at the idea that the Constitution does not permit the government to do some things they want done.

When you find someone like that, someone who wants the Constitution treated as “guideline” rather than iron-clad “thy-government-shall-not-do-thus,” or someone who dismisses the Constitution because it was written by flawed men (aren’t we all?) who owned slaves and didn’t live up to the ideals they espoused, take a second look. I’ll bet you’ve found someone who’s looking to coerce others, to use the force of the State to bend others to his will. I don’t care if his goals are noble, or his aims high, or his morals purportedly pure. He’s the last person to listen to when judging the quality of the nation and its system of government.

Happy Independence Day!!

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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