Divided, We Stand

Friday, September 30, 2011
By Paul Martin

by Wendy McElroy
Thursday, September 29, 2011

One of the most destructive ideas in American history may be collapsing under its own unsupportable weight. Andrew Jackson stated the idea succinctly: “The people are the government …” In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln expanded, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Of the people means government consists of members drawn from the people, not from an elite or an invader. By the people means they are the ones in authority. For the people means those who govern are acting to benefit the people at large rather than vested interests or themselves. Today, the ruling elite are clearly just that — an elite. The average person knows he has no power over political decisions that are devastating his life and wealth. He knows those in power care nothing about his well-being.

There is a radical disconnect between “the street” and the government, leaving the street rebellious and cynical. If the mood leads Americans to question government rather than obey it, then, it will ultimately be a good thing.

“The people are the government” is a dangerous notion because it leads the people to trust their government and their elected officials. The belief that they are active and valued partners of the state makes people become less likely to question political motives or demand explanations. It also makes them more likely to obey the law however unjust it may be.

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