The government and the people: who’s in charge here?

Government is the protector of society, and to a large extent exerts its power and authority via punitive measures.  It often behaves in a reactionary fashion to perceived ills and threats.  Past history is full of examples, some unarguably good such as the laws passed to protect equal rights, others that perhaps may have been well-intentioned but have in fact turned out to be catastrophic failures, such as those involved in the current drug war.  An ultimate goal of government is the preservation of society.

In contrast, a free and interactive society is creative, a community in which ideas and issues can be freely discussed and disseminated in a communal process with the ultimate goal being the betterment of society.  It is a lofty, perhaps ultimately unattainable goal, and the path is beset by a variety of problems, some new but many recurring.  A society traveling along this path, however, cannot help but become better due to the journey.  In other words, it is the conscience of society that forms the rules by which society behaves and evolves.

An alternative to this communal process is to have the rules of society imposed by the government.  This latter idea is currently being postulated as the solution to our contemporary problems.  Today’s “progressives” have faith that the government will always be benevolent towards them.  They argue that, with enough rules and safeguards in place, society can keep the government from degenerating into a tyranny.  The problem with this way of thinking is that all governments likely started out this way; history is full of examples where this has failed.

Rules and regulations only reflect what is known.  They are rooted in the experiences of the past.  We cannot know the future, neither the events of the future nor the attitudes and ideals of the people involved.  We can’t predict the unpredictable, and can’t prevent the unpreventable.  Society needs to be dynamic so that it is able to react to unforeseeable circumstances.

A government established under restrictive rules is effective only so long as conditions exist as they have in the past, under which those rules were envisioned and established.  That is, provided events are progressing in a predictable fashion, preparations can be made to prepare for and circumvent bad times, and society will behave accordingly.  The problem is that the unforeseeable is inevitable.

Over time, such a government is in danger of becoming ineffective at providing for its society, as it will be unable to successfully address events and issues facing its people.  It will become irrelevant and, as its citizens increasingly lose faith and the government increasingly loses control, it will turn to tyranny, using the rules against the society who had established those rules.  A society in such a position will have no means of recourse.  It will simply have become a collective victim, as its government feeds off it in order to sustain its now-meaningless existence.

A case in point is Obama’s mounting scandals resulting from his escalating abuses of governmental power, especially those related to the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance activities.  The chief author of the Patriot Act, Wisconsin Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., has recently gone on record stating that the Obama administration is going far beyond what was envisioned when the law was written.  It was never intended to be used in the manner in which the current administration is using it.  It is in fact becoming a violation of civil rights.  The provisions of the Patriot Act, when originally written, had “time limits”, but the Act has been greatly expanded by the current administration.  The current government interpretation that every phone call is relevant to a future terrorist investigation is tantamount to the idea that every current action is relevant to a future crime.  One can’t help but see this as an attempt by the current government to increase its control over its citizens, and that it is doing this as a response to a perceived loss of power.  However, it seems to have somehow forgotten that, in the US, the government never had – or at least never should have had – that power in the first place.  That power resides in the people, in the form of their endowed rights as written in the Constitution.  The government’s role in all this is to protect the people and their rights so that the people do not lose that power.  It is not supposed to usurp that power from the people.