Home > Politics > A Ruling Class in America

A Ruling Class in America

At its most basic level, government is a willing agreement entered into by a group of people to give up some individual liberty for the preservation of the group in general. Cicero called it a “partnership in justice.”

When we, as fellow humans, are in our most natural state, outside of societies and the reach of governments, no one person has rights or power over another. There are natural – or unalienable – rights that people have simply by being human. Some of these are the right to protect oneself, protection of property, right to life, right to liberty (not be enslaved), etc.

William Blackstone, British judge and author from the 1700’s said that the main purpose of human laws – the laws we create – is to maintain and protect these natural born rights. He called them “absolute rights.”

When people create a community or society, they enter into an agreement where certain liberties are willingly given up in exchange for things like safety, security, and order. For example, I have consented to be governed by the laws of my city, state and nation, even though that means I can’t do everything I may want to do whenever I want to. I may not agree with every law, but by not rebelling, it proves my consent to be governed.

The laws that we create to maintain order are secondary to our absolute rights. One of these absolute rights is the right of self-government. No one individual has the right to govern another person unless this person has willingly consented.

The United States of America has a republican form of government, not a democracy. Republican government means that we choose representatives from among ourselves to represent our desires and wishes within the government structure. As James Burgh, a British contemporary of the American founders wrote, we the people are the political body that retains the power to rule. Choosing representatives does not mean we have chosen rulers over us. He states,

“We have not so delegated the power to you, as to make you the governors of us and our estates. You are in truth but our procurators to speak for us in the great council. That of right we ought to have access to those, whom we have thus chosen, and to the house, as there shall be cause to impart our desires to you, and you ought not to refuse us. That by involving our votes in yours, we had no purpose to make you perpetual dictators.”

I am surprised that the United States of America has a constitution without term limits for its congressional representatives. This needs to change. The ability to be a lifetime legislator has led to the creation of a ruling class separate from other citizens. Members of this class have their own elite healthcare system as well as guaranteed salaries for the rest of their lives, paid for by public taxes. Being a legislator term after term opens the door to numerous opportunities to grant political favors in return for financial benefits that have enriched our congressional reps well beyond the norms of society.

Since before the ink was dry on the original Constitution, we have been warned of the necessity of term limits.  Why? Keep reading and find out.

The Duke of Buckingham gets credit for this famous quote stating the need for elected representatives to return to private life:

“They do not now think they are an assembly of men, that are to return to their own homes, and become private men again (as by the laws of the land and constitution…they ought to be) but look upon themselves as a standing senate, as men picked out to be legislators for the rest of their lives.”

Thomas Jefferson also spoke out as an advocate for representatives to be involved for a short time in the government, and then to return to private life. Jefferson said it would help representatives sympathize with the people. Without limits on the representatives’ time in government, they would lose this sensibility and their behavior would be quite different owing to their perceived independence. He stated:

“My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years rather than for life, was that they might have in idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget.”

Aristotle, who studied many forms of government, warned against perpetual legislators in this manner:

“It is not easy for a person to do any great harm when his tenure of office is short, whereas long possession begets tyranny … for the aspirants to tyranny are either the principal men of the state…or those who hold great offices, and have a long tenure of them.

Regarding our elected representatives, and their duty to conduct themselves according to the desires of their constituency, James Burgh wrote that:

“When we elect persons to represent us we must not be supposed to depart from the smallest right which we have deposited with them. We make a lodgment, not a gift; we entrust, but part with nothing. We have, therefore, a right to know what they are saying and doing. And should they contradict our sense, or swerve from our interests, we have a right to remonstrate, inform, and direct them. By which means, we become regulators of our own conduct, and the institutors of our own laws, and nothing material can be done but by our authority and consent.”

If representatives were to serve in the government for a term or two, and then return to be among the governed rather than a governor, they would be more inclined to pass laws that they are willing to live with as part of the citizenry.

Compare this with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and her recent behavior regarding the healthcare bill before congress. Not only does the American public not know what is in this bill, according to her own publications she is deliberately trying to keep it this way. She is involved in hidden deals and spending millions of taxpayer monies to purchase votes in favor of the bill. This hidden legislation, back-room briberies, and strong-arm tactics are exactly the opposite of how the representative system of government is supposed to work.

The key is to understand and remember that we the people have an absolute right to self-government. We only give that right away when we do not remember it, or fail to use it. Our elected officials representing us in congress have a duty to vote our votes, inform us of the goings-on, and truly act as proxies of the American people they represent.

One way to do away with this ruling class is to pass term limits for congressional representatives. In addition, we need to be as vocal and vigilant as ever against politicians like Nancy Pelosi. The right to govern ourselves is an absolute and unalienable right that we have. When our elected representatives take power unto themselves like Pelosi is doing – hiding the contents of a bill from the public and doing back-room deals to pass legislation before publishing its contents – we need to exercise our rights and replace her. She and politicians like her are working toward the decline of the American way of representative government.

But we can fight back. We can get educated. We can familiarize ourselves with the documents regarding the founding of our great nation. We can attend any discussions on the Constitution or correct use of government in areas where we live. If there aren’t any, start one. Join social networking groups that discuss these topics online. When the grassroots ground swell is large enough, we need people to be educated on these topics and ready to make a difference in our country’s future.

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  1. Jeff
    April 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

    The Great American Experiment has been used to refer to many things. It is not a democracy (as you pointed out), it is not the world’s first republic, as Benjamin Franklin and others pointed out. The Great American Experiment is, at its core, the concept that self-government is an “absolute right”. Lincoln was aware of this when he said that “… government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The battle was (is) on, and the literal application of the concept has only ever become reality here.

    Whereas many Americans feel it is their birthright to be so treated and involved, there are many who can’t be bothered. Dostoevsky said, “…man has no greater anxiety in life than to find some one to whom he can make over that gift of freedom with which the unfortunate creature is born.” No doubt that freedom and liberty engender responsibility (cart/horse?), but the massive welfare class – and those state and federal employees whose budgets have swelled in step with their ranks – are pleased to be taken care of. And then they vote to keep the ride going. Which is why Franklin so famously said, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it”, and why Jefferson said, “…it can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits…”.

    I don’t see the governmental change coming at the ballot box until there is such a massive failure that the entire country is looking for a drastic change. Problem is that the new ‘savior’ could be a worse fraud than the current one.

    • April 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

      I believe that’s exactly what happened with Obama. He “promised” the most benefits, and so he won the election. He promised the world, but now has a long list of broken campaign promises. And yet people are still waiting for the hope and change that he promised. When will we learn?

      I agree that there may not be much change in the current government due to the ballot box in the next few years, but I believe the exercise of a.) becoming better educated on the issues, and b.) fighting for something thru our actions rather than just pointing out what is wrong will bring with it invaluable lessons that we will be able to put to good use when it’s time to rebuild.

  2. George
    April 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    But we’re still the best. No place like america

  3. Sandra
    April 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    My comment was so dismissive I decided to opt for living in a civil society and take it down. Best wishes to you, you should consider moving.

  4. Erik D
    April 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Ya Eric, how awful of you to think critically of our system of government. It seems that questioning the government was considered patriotic by the left until Barry became president. Now you must shut your trap and accept mediocrity because liberals can’t take it.

  5. Sandra
    April 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Or you could just vote.

  6. Erik D
    April 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Did you chastise the leftist celebrities that threatened to move out of the US if GWB got elected, then didn’t leave? What about the vitriolic rhetoric that has dominated the main stream media during the two presidential terms before The Chosen One? Since when did questioning the government become the sole property of the left? The 1st Amendment covers both sides of the political aisle, not just yours.

  7. Sandra
    April 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Actually the First Amendment covers all individuals, not just political parties. Temper temper. Don’t bother arguing with an attorney who really doesn’t care. It’s a waste of your energy. So is vitriol, imho. Questioning the government is both necessary and our duty as citizens.

  8. Erik D
    April 12, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    1. I could care less if you’re an attorney. Congratulations for you! If that was meant to impress or intimidate, you’ll have to try a lot harder.

    2. It’s pretty funny to try and tell me I should quit arguing and that you don’t care, then you continue to argue yourself.

    3. Even you admit questioning the government is crucial, but had quite the flippant response for Eric’s blog. Which is it? Oh, that’s right, you’re an attorney, it’s not about truth, it’s about the argument.

  9. Erik D
    April 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    BTW, I’m not mad so there’s no need to try and discredit my arguments with your “temper temper” comment. If you can’t debate the points, stay out of it.

  10. Wesley W
    April 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I love you so much, Eric/k.

  11. April 12, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    HEY — I love America. It’s IS the best place like George said. We need to continue to debate it, however, and improve where we see problems arising, dontcha think?

  12. Jeff
    April 13, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Sandra :
    My comment was so dismissive I decided to opt for living in a civil society and take it down. Best wishes to you, you should consider moving.

    Oooohhh. Thanks for not hurting everyone with your superior “dismissiveness”. Evidently you didn’t realize that a) no one is as impressed as you are that you are an attorney, and b) “you should consider moving” is as stupid coming out of your mouth as it is when Rush Limbaugh threatens to do the same if Health Care Reform passes.

    And if you don’t care, counselor, why are you posting three times that you don’t care?

    Finally, way to be excellent at one thing: stock in trade for attorney = writing three posts and saying nothing material to the topic. You probably bill for that, too, huh?

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  13. Jeff
    April 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    George –

    You are right, and everyone here agrees. I think the greatness came from the manner in which this country was created. Principles, learned in reflection on, and study of, many systems of government informed the creation of a superior system of government. A culture grew up at the same time: self-reliant, God-fearing, debt-shunning, neighbor-helping, justice-loving, charitable people made this nation great – both militarily and morally. If anyone were to doubt it, I would send them to two places; de Tocqueville (he said, “America is great because America is good…”), and to all over Central Europe, where cemeteries full of American soldiers’ graves stand as a reminder to all that Americans came and fought tyranny twice in 30 years’ time.

    We have the responsibility to fight the destruction of principles and cultural mores that are the foundation of so much success.

    • April 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm

      A culture grew up at the same time: self-reliant, God-fearing, debt-shunning, neighbor-helping, justice-loving, charitable people made this nation great – both militarily and morally.

      Amen to that.

  14. Sam B
    April 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I do take exception with a minor point of what you have written. I don’t really agree that some individual liberty has to be surrendered when the people create a government. It all comes back to the fact that there is no liberty without law. We don’t give up freedom to make law, because there is no freedom in the absence of law. When people join society and form governments, their intention is to secure and maximize their freedom. Freedom is the ability to exercise our rights. Merely being endowed with rights is not necessarily freedom. Even though one might have the right to play soccer, he is not free to do so until there are some people who agree to the rules of the game. Of course, government CAN take/require freedom from the people, but that is not a requirement for government. Our constitution limits the government to the enumerated powers that were determined would protect and maximize individual liberty. Obviously that has not stopped government from taking more power.

    The point is that we NEED NOT concede that sacrifice of freedom is necessary for the creation or maintenance of government. We DO NEED to understand that our freedom never did include doing whatever we want. We never did have the right to infringe the rights of others. I believe that some who advocate for bigger government use this idea that government requires sacrifice of freedom as an oft-repeated-lie-come-truth to frame the debate about programs that would extend the growth of government. I know this was not your intention.

    • April 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      I didn’t say we give up freedom, but I said individual liberty…and I should have made it clearer. I mean that we give up some of our “license” to do whatever we want. You can call it free will, you can call it license…but what I mean is that when we join a society, we (hope!) to find a place where we can choose what to do with our own life, property, possessions, actions, etc… *within the allowance of the laws under which we live.* That’s the give-and-take that we have. Without government – in our natural state – we have individual “license.” We can pee where we want. We can shoot guns when and where we want. We can drive as fast as we want, etc. Too many examples.

      But within a society, we give up some of our individual license to act as we please – e.g. driving fast – and we do it in exchange for reasons like safety, security, community, etc.

      But I certainly don’t mean that we give up any of our absolute rights or freedoms in order to be part of a society. Far from it. Thanks for your comment!

  15. April 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Two other ways we give up something individually when we join a society: we consent to be ruled by the majority (or whatever has been decided) even if it is infuriatingly against our will….

    And when we join a society, our property also becomes bound to the laws, and most often can be taken from us by force. I should have thought of this one earlier since April 15th just happened. 🙂

    I agree with you that these aren’t by rule a REQUIREMENT of government..and this example of taxation (sacrifice of freedom) may not be absolutely necessary for the creation and maintenance of government…but they almost always come as part and parcel of the package deal.

    It’s important to note that people join societies willingly – it’s part of the consensual trade-off – the partnership of justice. I’ll make these trade-offs in order to be governed by laws, in order to have protection, safety, security — to know that I’m protected by the “rules of the game” as you say.

  1. May 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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