August 03, 2011

Common Sense - 2011 [Historical Perspective]

It is expected that people who enter into political discourse have at least a working knowledge of the political history of this nation.  Unfortunately, failure to have this adequate understanding can lead to false assumptions and blatant misunderstandings.  I would like to make an attempt to right this wrong by attempting to bring some common sense ideas back into the domain of political discourse.  In order to do this, it is necessary to begin with a historical perspective.  After discussing and MODIFYING this historical perspective based upon inputs and suggestions from others [I am no history teacher!], this perspective will be used as the basis for a common sense discussion of modern political ideas.  Your contribution/comments are expressly requested.


The ideas upon which our great country were founded are simple; so simple as to be summed and expressed in the ideas inscribed upon a few pieces of parchment.  The first of these was delivered to the oppressive government of England.

In the Declaration of Independence, the rebels and founders of our nation declared that governments are meant to serve the needs of the people, not the reverse.  As all people are equal and all people are granted natural rights by virtue of their birth, when the governments (although these people may have designed them) usurp the safety and security of those whom they govern it is the right and responsibility of those same people to throw off that government and create a new governance.  This paper then goes on to list the oppressive behavior of the government of the time and its behavior found abhorrent to the people of the colonies.  At the end of this long list, they declare that they are exercising that right and responsibility to throw off the current governance in order to create their own.

Important Concepts here:

  • People have natural rights by virtue of their existence.
  • People create the government to ensure their own safety and security.
  • People have the right to change their government when they're not happy with it.
  • The United States was FOUNDED upon these principles and is key to what our nation is.

And then, my friends, was established the government that America forgot.  Well, most of America.  You see, George Washington was not the first President of the United States.  He was the first President of the nation that was created under the Constitution, a restructuring of our government that took place in 1787, 11 years after we had shrugged off the bonds of English rule.  John Hanson, unanimously elected to the role of President under the Articles of Confederation, was our first President in 1781.  The Articles were proposed in 1776, but was not ratified until 5 years hence (and you thought the debt ceiling debate took too long...).  You see, the Articles of Confederation created a government that didn't work for the United States.  Too much power was granted to the states, and there wasn't enough unity to hold the country together.  Modern America seems to forget that the creation of a perfect government is impossible, and that it is necessary to upset the apple cart to pick a new crop every now and again.

Important Concepts here:

  • There is much more to the historical perspective of our government than most people realize or remember.
  • The United States began with a government that didn't work, and it was discarded.
  • The United States exercised the same right to rediscovery on its OWN government soon after its creation.

For the past 225 years, the Constitution of the United States has served us well.  The structure of this document allows for a flexibility that has enabled us to keep up with modern philosophical thought and to extend the government to encapsulate our spiritual and intellectual knowledge.  'All men' has grown to mean 'all adults' of all races and creed and the practice of slavery was abolished.  Voting rights were extended to the entire populace rather than the wealthy land-owners, and we had a grand experiment and failure in trying to impose a restriction on alcohol.  These are amendments that we all remember, but there are more that we do not keep in mind.  Indeed, the very Constitution itself has some very exciting clauses that are also lost to time.  For example, while many people understand that interstate commerce is not taxable, they may not realize that this is a constitutional construct (Article I, Section 10).  Also lost to time is that the state legislatures may request amendment of the Constitution, without the need for involvement of the Congress itself (Article V).

Important Concepts here:

  • The structure of the Constitution is such that it permits and welcomes change.
  • The writers of the Constitution included language that allow for the collective state governments to change it.
  • The realization that governmental change is needed is core to the formation of this government and is KEY to its survival over the years, as demonstrated through the change we've undergone.
  • The state governments have a say in how the federal government is constructed and run.
In addition to understanding the historical perspective and role of the overall federal government, it is also important that those involved in the discourse of Common Sense actually share in some 'common sense' beliefs.  In my next post, "Common Sense - 2011 [Spiritual and Intellectual Requirements]" I hope to examine a common ground upon which most centrist thinkers should be able to stand.

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