American Politics: On Principle and Pragmatism Vd: We The People, "In Order To Form a More Perfect Union ..." [261*4]
IN A COMMENT IN ANOTHER HUB I LAID OUT, in a few words, an idea I have spent thousands of other words trying to get across, and I rather liked it. But, before I get to it, there needs to be a preamble, a raison d'etre as to why this idea is important in the first place. To do that, I'm going to start with the real preamble, as in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
For those of you who follow my hubs that concern themselves with either economics or politics, I think you find that they often devolve, when those on the Right care to comment, into a discussion regarding individual liberty. It generally ends up something like "What right does the government (normally we are talking about the Federal government) have to tell a business owner they can or can't do such and such ... and they ponder what ever happened to the Liberty our Constitution guarantees?" Another topic that is often brought up in these discussions is the balance between federal and state authority where those on the Right generally take the position that "the Federal government [that] thinks of itself as superior to all state governments in all matters.", to quote one comment (the bold is mine).
What I try to do, generally unsuccessfully, in these discussions is try to fit the People into the picture, where do they stand in this battle between Big Business, States Rights, and Federal Overreach? It was in answering one of these opposing points where I came up with what I think is a rather pithy rebuttal (it was ignored by the way and sidestepped with an unrelated anecdote).
So, how does our Constitution's Preamble start? It says "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, ...". Other than taking the first three words and misapplying (in my opinion) to points of view that talk about business interests and State's Rights, its meaning has been lost on the American public. So has the rest of the phrase.
First, where did our Constitution come from? It was created out of the necessity to do a better job of governing than the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union provided. The Articles created a "confederation" and was a contract between the 13 States to organize a Continental Congress and give it certain powers in order to legislate over common concerns. Of note:
- Article 3 states the United States of America is not a nation or a government
- Article 4 is the only place where the People are considered, and that is in the context of their ability to move freely from State to State
- Article 13 establishes the Union as perpetual.
The Constitutional Convention, convened in 1787, was "supposed" to modify and improve the Articles only. If fact, the intent of most of those gathered was to replace the Articles. Those that were not in on the secret left the Convention. And what was the Purpose of this Convention? It was to create a document that "formed a more perfect Union". And who was it to be formed by? The "People!" The people of where? The "United States of America"; which was reconstrued to be a nation consisting of a central government and 13 constituent states.
The Preamble could have stopped there and it would have been good; but, it didn't. Instead it went much, much further. It presented in clear terms the Purpose of this new, more perfect; and to reemphasize, a Union which created by the "People of the United States". It was (is) to:
- Establish Justice
- Insure domestic Tranquility
- Provide for the common defense
- Promote the general Welfare
- Secure the Blessings of Liberty.
President Abraham Lincoln
And who is this new nation supposed to do all of this for? The People currently alive which make up the United States and their Posterity (meaning all future descendents, an idea that derived from the Articles of Confederation's "perpetual" theme). Also, who was expected to carry out these functions? No, not just the Federal government, but the Federal and State governments. Why? Because the Constitution is a framework for both the State and Federal level, consequently the Purpose of the Constitution applies to each level as well.
(note: conservative Supreme Courts chose not to interpret the Constitution this way until it is made clear with the 14th Amendment)
For me, this is a very easy concept to grasp. The Constitution, our federal government in concert with all of the states, is about the People, our Liberty, and our Welfare (of which Justice, Tranquility, and defense are important parts which deserved special mention because of what had just transpired the previous 50 years. They are not, however, the only ideas included in the concept of general Welfare).
Now, unlike "Business", the Constitution, as has been noted, does concern itself with the status of States relative to the Central government. While the Constitution is of the People, it is understood that the People have two allegiances, one to the State they live in and the other to the Nation they live in; I think that point is missed by a lot of people in political debate. Similarly, the States have two allegiances, one to the People of their state and one to the Nation (don't misconstrue that with the federal government) of which they are joined at the hip with via the Constitution. And finally, the central government has two allegiances as well, one to the People of the Nation and one to the States with whom they share responsibility for governance needed to fulfill the Purpose demanded by the Preamble..
To me, this is so obvious, a blind man could see it and therefore I have a very hard time understanding why this is such a hard concept to accept by many Americans. It has always been about what is best for the People and never about what is best for the States or the Nation because if you do what is best for the People, the other two get taken care of as a result. From this, I come to the following conclusion (and my pithy statement):
President Lincoln never said, in his Gettysburg address "government of business, by business, for business, ..." nor did he say "government of the State, by the State, for the State, ...". Instead, Lincoln said "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
By 'Viewpoint", I mean my pithy statement above.
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