Friday, March 6, 2009

We the People

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Recognize the above paragraph? It's the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. What it does, at the outset, is to establish both the symbolic and the practical identity of the people of our nation with their elected representatives. This document was not written by "we the people" ourselves, obviously. It was written, voted on and approved, on their behalf, by their representatives -- aka "Big Government." In other words, according to the precedent established by our own constitution, "We the people" and "Big Government" are for all practical purposes one and the same. This is the basis for the whole idea of representative democracy, the great idea that has made our country a beacon of liberty and hope throughout the world for well over 200 years.

I remember a conversation many years ago with an avid Rush Limbaugh fan, in which I jokingly accused the government of "trying to take over the country." Not completely to my surprise, he took the bait, and enthusiastically agreed: "yes, this is exactly the problem, the government wants to take over." Well excuse me, but the government doesn't need to take over the country -- because the country is already in the hands of the government. That is what the government is for -- to govern. Duh!

So how on Earth did we get the idea that rule by "big government," i.e., "we the people," aka "government of the people, by the people and for the people," is something to be avoided at all costs? Well, clearly there are those in this country who don't really believe in representative democracy. They would prefer to run things themselves, their own way, to suit themselves and for their own profit. They have money to burn and so they spend millions to support lobbyists and politicians, run deceptive television ads, promote media personalities such as Limbaugh, and anything else they can think of to manipulate public opinion and, above all, control the flow of money and power -- to them.

And, over the last 30 years or so this strategy has worked remarkably well, to the point that the word "conservative," which used to mean someone with traditional democratic values, now means an advocate of unfettered self-interest and to Hell with everyone else -- summarized by the notorious motto: "Greed is Good." The word "libertarian," which, very ironically, was once associated with the most radical of communist factions -- anarchism -- now applies to anyone who wants to do business his way, free from taxes, free from civic responsibility and control, regardless of the damage his selfish actions might do to the nation as a whole and its people.

While the Democrats triumphantly point to that “clown” Rush Limbaugh as the pathetic spokesman for the Republican party, they still quake whenever he utters the same tired epithet: “Big Government.” That could prove to be a tragic mistake, because if there is anything we need at the moment, it is most certainly big government. The bigger the better. All failing institutions should be nationalized – as soon as possible. Once the government is in full control of all those failing mortgages, families could be put back in their homes where they belong. They could then be given the choice of either renegotiating their mortgages at terms they can afford, or giving their houses to the government, which could then charge them an affordable rental. Failing businesses such as the auto industry could be retooled to produce, for example, badly needed public transportation vehicles. What is needed is a return to the fundamental principle of government of, by and for we the people, through our duly elected representatives, rather than government of, by and for the financial industry, aka the "libertarian" Oligarchs who've been ruling from behind the scenes for far too long. And if the word “nationalization” is something the people are not ready to hear, then someone needs to step up to the rostrum and explain it to them. That’s what leadership means. And as a potentially great leader, this is exactly the sort of thing Obama could do. Whether he has the courage for this type of leadership is another matter. I hope he does.

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