Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The Political Debate We Need to Have"

Bruce Thornton discusses how the Constitution was drafted with the acknowledgement that people are flawed, and you can't keep the corrupt out of government.

The framing of the Constitution itself was predicated on one answer, best expressed by Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli: “It is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity.” Throughout the debates during the Constitutional convention, the state ratifying conventions, and the essays in the Federalist, the basis of the Constitution was the view that human nature is flawed.
Thus, the various balances found in the original Constitution not only between the various branches of national government, but also between the national government and the states. That all changed with the progressives, who wanted power centralized and managed by experts:

In his last State of the Union speech [Theodore] Roosevelt said, “The danger to American democracy lies not in the least in the concentration of administrative power in responsible and accountable hands. It lies in having the power insufficiently concentrated” to serve the unified interests of the collective people. Woodrow Wilson concurred. Imagining in The New Freedom the progressive utopia that would come into being once the existing politico-social order had been rebuilt by what Wilson calls political “architects” and “engineers,” he describes it as a structure “where men can live as a single community, co-operative as in a perfected, coordinated beehive.”

To achieve these aims, the federal government had to grow, with agencies and bureaus created to administer the laws and regulations presumably made necessary by new economic and social conditions. “There is scarcely a single duty of government which was once simple which is not now complex,” Woodrow Wilson wrote in his essay “The Study of Administration.” He went on to write: “The functions of government are every day becoming more complex and difficult, they are also vastly multiplying in number. Administration is everywhere putting its hands to new undertakings . . . Whatever holds of authority state or federal governments are to take upon corporations, there must follow cares and responsibilities which will require not a little wisdom, knowledge, and experience.”

This wisdom, knowledge, and experience will be the purview of those schooled in the new sciences, not the traditional wisdom and practical experience of the people pursuing their various and conflicting interests.

... The Progressives, then, discarded the Founders’ vision of an eternally flawed human nature, and the Constitutional architecture that balanced and checked the tendency for people and factions to pursue their interests and maximize their power at the expense of others. Now a more powerful federal government––currently comprising over 500 agencies and offices, with 2.3 million employees costing $200 billion annually–– armed with new knowledge and backed by coercive federal power, will organize, regulate, and manage social and economic conditions to improve life and create a more just and equitable society.

But the Founders’ main motive in crafting the government they did was not to create utopia, but to protect the freedom of all from the dangers of concentrated power, whether this power was embodied in the majority or in a minority. ...
 Thornton argues that the debate we need is not between Republican and Democrat, but on whether to protect individual liberty through a limited government, or choose the collective and large government.

Read the whole thing.

(H/t Instapundit).

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