During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin painted a great picture of the type of relationship that elected officials should have with the people of this country [emphasis in original]:
“It seems to have been imagined by some that the returning to the mass of the people was degrading [our representatives.] This he thought was the contrary to the republican principles. In free governments the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors & sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to degrade but to promote them - and it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a State of servitude, and not allow them to become again one of the Masters.”
What he’s saying here is, in this country, when you take an elected office you are not taking a step up to start ruling people. You are taking a step down to start serving them.
Unfortunately, most of our politicians believe that the exact opposite is true. The people running Washington, D.C. are convinced that they are in charge and the rest of us should just do what we’re told without asking any questions.
AFP Photo/Jewel Samad
President Barack Obama perfectly illustrated this government-as-our-superiors mindset recently when he was commenting on the prisoner swap involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. While defending his decision to make the swap he said:
“It was a unanimous decision among my principals in my government…”
Whoa… hold up there, chief. Your government?!
With all due respect Mr. President, you don’t have a government. We, as citizens, have a government. We have given you the privilege and the honor of administering that government on our behalf.
This is yet another point where Obama’s mindset is in direct conflict with the principles that our nation was founded on. In his worldview, everything starts with the government at the center and works outward from there. By contrast, our nation was created with the individual at the center and everything else works outward from that.
This is an absolutely essential point when it comes to protecting a free society. In the United States, we are a people who created a government. Not the other way around. Because of that, our government - that includes you Mr. President - only has the powers that we have granted to it and absolutely nothing more.
I explained how that works in my Constitution Revolution segment last week (which you can hear live during The Chris Salcedo Show every Saturday on TheBlaze Radio):
In other words, the there aren’t any powers that our federal government has just because of the fact that it’s a government. Again, the Constitution is essentially a permission slip from the citizens of this country to the federal government. If something isn’t listed in the Constitution, our politicians do not have our permission to use that power.
[sharequote align="center"]The Constitution is a permission slip from the citizens of this country to the federal government.[/sharequote]
During the North Carolina Ratifying Convention Richard Dobbs Spaight made the same point:
“The powers of Congress are limited and enumerated. We say we have given them those powers, but we do not say we have given them more. We retain all those rights which we have not given away to the general government... It is as plain a thing as possibly can be, that Congress can have no power but what we expressly give them.”
So this idea that any president would make reference to “my government” is absurd. It demonstrates that Obama has a flawed worldview that is incompatible with the principles that our Constitution was based on. Perhaps that’s why he has no problem with trashing our Constitution in order to get his way: the law is not the law. He is the law. After all, it’s his government.
This is more than just semantics. Our Constitution was designed to secure the rights of citizens and protect them from government oppression. But because President Obama believes that it is “his” government, he sees nothing wrong with expanding the size and power of the government; and in doing so, endangering the the rights of every American. But that’s not how it works in this country. Here, the politicians don’t get to decide how big the government will be; the people do.
That’s why it’s so important for all Americans to understand this concept of the Constitution as a permission slip. It clearly establishes that in this country the relationship between the people and the government is exactly what Benjamin Franklin described. We have representatives who are servants of the people. And as such, they can only use those powers that we give them permission to use.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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