Saturday, October 31, 2020

 Day 3: Representation


In the years leading up to 1776, King George III and his government experimented with various and sundry ways to bring the American colonists into submission. A key characteristic of submission was the diminishment of representation in the legislative process. Many colonists, including most of the Founding Fathers, preferred a repaired relationship with the Crown to a separation from it. The independent nature of Americans at the time, though, would not permit a relationship that conferred upon themselves and their posterity anything less than the full rights and privileges of British subjects. 


That independent nature may be traced back to 1620 and the Mayflower Compact. In the compact, the colonists agreed “to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be through most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” These brave people dared to form a social contract and legal structure on their own, with fidelity to British law but in addition to it as necessity dictated, without the express assent of the King.


Independence and recognition of the importance of representation continued to be an integral part of America. For example, The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639) and The Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641) establish mechanisms for the voice of the citizen to be represented in the governance of the colonies.


In the 130 or so years that ensued, representation, particularly in respect to the parent country, eroded. For those laws written to address local issues in the colonies, promulgation was hindered because the king would not approve the laws, as noted in the first fact listed in the Declaration of Independence, “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” The third fact “submitted to a candid world” was so stated, “He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.” Furthermore, the next three facts all pertain to representation, which demonstrates its importance to a free people.


What does this brief overview of representation in our form of government and its precursory forms have to do with the United States today?


Two issues come to mind. First is the relationship the government has with non-state possessions of the United States, such as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Second is the law-making role of government agencies, departments, bureaus, etc. that impact your life and mine.


In 1893, Queen Lili’uokilani of the Hawaiian Kingdom attempted to pass a new constitution. Through a series of repressive acts by non-Hawaiian residents, the constitution was not ratified. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown, and Queen Lili’uokilani was imprisoned. The 1898 Congressional Joint Resolution To Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands To the United States stated, “the Government of the Republic of Hawaii having, in due form, signified its consent, in the manner provided by its constitution, to cede absolutely and without reserve to the United States of America, all rights of sovereignty of whatsoever kind in and over the Hawaiian Islands and their dependencies.”


Why is the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands important today? Look to the Greater Antilles archipelago and to a U.S. possession in that island chain – the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Acquired by the United States, also in 1898, following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico is now a territory subject to the United States, but without any real representation, despite being taxed by the United States. Recall that representation is formidable only to tyrants. How quickly slogans like, “No taxation without representation,” are forgotten. Our seat of government, the District of Columbia, has also been plagued by similar tyranny.


How can people be free, if they are subject to rule but have no say in the form that rule takes? As our Founding Fathers knew, freedom cannot exist in such conditions. By holding hostage the people of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, does the government not deny them the very Natural Rights that underpin the Declaration of Independence, which, while not the law of our republic, is most assuredly the soul of our republic?


To broaden the discussion, We the People of the United States are also denied representation in less obvious yet equally insidious ways through the rule-making authority of the myriad organs of state, namely of the Executive Branch. Over the years, Congress has delegated rule making (i.e., creation of directives that carry the weight of laws and regulations) to the unelected legions of government functionaries, like those in the Department of Education, the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and so-on and so-on. They make rule upon rule that affect you and me, from the composition of our gasoline to that of our breakfast cereal, from the services we can provide and consume to the improvements we can make to our homes, and, yes, even to the time, place and manner that we can freely speak what’s on our minds.


Ayn Rand observed in her novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” that voluminous regulation is intentional and necessary for control. It is virtually impossible for any given person on any given day not to break any given law, simply because there are too many to keep track of. It is the ultimate gotcha, enabling some government agent to have something on some citizen when it suits their purpose. This is exactly what Solzhenitsyn discusses in the chapter entitled “Arrest” in his magnum opus, “The Gulag Archipelago.” One would hope, perhaps childishly – like Don Quixote pursuing honor, that our government is better than that of Stalinist Russia. I still believe we are better; however, we must depart from the path we now tread, lest we find ourselves re-establishing the prison camps of FDR and his administration’s revocation of rights and representation of so many Americans.


In theory, we elect fellow citizens to represent our interests, yet there is little or no evidence that they take this fiduciary role in a responsible way. For this reason, I would entreat you, kind reader, to revisit Day 7 on Term Limits. Only by limiting their acquisition and augmentation of power can we refocus the political class on our interests as opposed to their own.

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