17 March 2010

Proper Role of Government: The US Constitution

The Proper Role of Government, by Ezra Taft Benson
-- read the full text.
My commentary as I study his article:
Part I (Foundational Principles, Origin of Rights)
Part II (Separation of Church and State)
Part III (Source of Governmental Power)
Part IV (Powers of a Proper Government)
Part V (Government = Force)
Part VI (The US Constitution)
Part VII (Local Government)
Part VIII (Legalized Plunder)



THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
Another standard I use in deterring what law is good and what is bad is the Constitution of the United States. I regard this inspired document as a solemn agreement between the citizens of this nation which every officer of government is under a sacred duty to obey. As Washington stated so clearly in his immortal Farewell Address:


“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. – But the constitution which at any time exists, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” (P.P.N.S., p. 542)


I am especially mindful that the Constitution provides that the great bulk of the legitimate activities of government are to be carried out at the state or local level. This is the only way in which the principle of “self-government” can be made effective. As James Madison said before the adoption of the Constitution, “ (We) rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” (Federalist, No.39; P.P.N.S., p. 128) Thomas Jefferson made this interesting observation: “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” (Works 8:3; P.P.N.S., p. 128)


I agree with President Benson, the Constitution of the United States is an inspired document! It is my observation that any time the Lord gives us rules - commandments - He does so in order to protect us from something that will diminish our freedom and happiness. It makes perfect sense to me that He would approve of a document, a governmental template, that secures such broad freedoms as our Constitution does. In addition, many other church leaders besides President Benson have spoken about the Divine origin and approval for the Constitution. I've recently been reading David McCollough's book, 1776, and it's clear both sides acknowledged the Americans were the recipients of Divine aid - and that it was a decisive factor in their favor. One example of this is the night the Rebels set up their cannon on Dorchester Heights in order to bombard the British in Boston:


The night was unseasonably mild - indeed, perfectly beautiful with a full moon - ideal conditions for the work, as if the hand of the Almighty were directing things, which the Reverent William Gordon, like many others, felt certain it was. "A finer [night] for working could not have been taken out of the whole 365," he wrote. "It was hazy below [the Heights] so that our people could not be seen, though it was a bright moonlight night above on the hills." (1776, page 92)


Why would the Lord assist the colonists if He did not approve of what they were doing? He would have known from the outset that the Constitution would be among the crowning accomplishments to come.

Having adopted the Constitution, and never having abolished it, we as a people, and our elected officials with us are bound by it. It is, as Washington said, sacredly obligatory upon us all. We are bound to abide by it, and that requires knowing something about it. Sadly, we have allowed the teaching of Constitutional principle and how it shaped American history to be removed from our schools. It's "too political," and "too controversial." It's the highest law of our land! It's purpose, stated in the Preamble, is to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"! Patriotism, once a noble expression of commitment to the nation and its liberties, has been reduced to nothing more than wearing red, white, and blue a few times a year.

George Washington said, "A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty can be more pressing ... than ... communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?" Before we can pass this knowledge to our children - increasing their chances to "secure the blessings of liberty" for themselves and for our grandchildren - we must know something about it ourselves. We must study the document, and the extensive writings our Founders left, explaining themselves, and explaining the Constitution. This is hard work. But like all work, it gets easier with practice. And then when looking at the issues of the day, we must ask ourselves, "How does this bill measure up? Is it Constitutional?" If the answer is, "I don't know," we have more work to do.

2 comments:

Andrea said...

I just found your blog through Cellista's site and I love this series you have posted! The Proper Role of Government should be required reading for every American. Do you mind if I link to your blog?

Ritsumei said...

Welcome, welcome! And thank you for your kind words! Please feel free to link up; I put these posts up because I feel like it's important enough to talk about, so it pleases me when others think that what I've been babbling about here in my little corner of the web is worth their time!

I agree - The Proper Role of Government is an amazing essay! I learned so much reading it, and continue to do so as I go back and re-read and ponder it more. It's become a foundation to the way that I approach politics, and I'm so glad that he wrote it and that I stumbled across it one afternoon browsing around the web!

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