Life and liberty are precious and precarious things. Easy to lose their balance and topple, this way or that.
We expect government to protect these things, life and liberty, but quite often it does the opposite. And that’s allowed, because taking action is inconvenient. If these injustices continue to grow then there does come a point where more and more people are willing to take greater and greater action. Taken to the extreme this results in the toppling of the government.
For instance, in England in the mid-1600s King Charles I fought the forces of parliament and ended up losing his head. The anarchy and civil wars were a steep price to be paid to correct the wrongs of his rule, but they were paid in full. You might think that what would naturally follow would be greater religious freedom and toleration, and a greater emphasis on individual rights and the power of representation through the parliament. You would be wrong. What followed was Oliver Cromwell and a greater tyranny.
Tyranny, anarchy, tyranny. It’s common in human history. Alexander Hamilton notes that the small republics of Greece and Italy were so prone to revolutions that they vibrated between tyranny and anarchy.
The rallying cry is usually liberty, even though it is rarely the result, and not what is truly being pursued by the creation of the institution of government. In Federalist 51 James Madison states, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” Time and time again liberty is lost in the name of justice, and without liberty there can be no justice, for justice is moral interaction, action guided by commandments that mutually protect individual rights. Neither liberty nor justice can exist in a state of tyranny nor anarchy.
This gets to the foundation of the problem of government. “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” says Madison. Since we find no angels among us we must formulate a different approach, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
The answer to injustice is not to give government the tyrannical power to “fix” whatever may be wrong, especially when the disagreement is with the nature of existence itself. The answer to injustice is not to destroy the government and start over. Neither will result in justice, only greater and greater injustice. The answer is to modify the structure. To put checks upon tyranny, and then to support these parchment barriers with a balance in power.
Work within the system to change the structure of government for the better. This will only work when done strategically and rationally. Federalist 49 reads, “But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.”
This is why you see me pursuing the changes that I am in Dalton Township. Due process at the local level, enumerated rights at the local level. The foundations of liberty and justice must be placed once again into the foundations of government. This is real change. Change that can spread, change that can grow, change that can refound the spirit of American government as exemplified in the founding documents of this great country. Change that can take us into a future that honors and draws lessons from our past, and builds upon it for a new stage in the history of humanity, walking a just and hard path to the promising land of liberty.