Monday, December 20, 2010


I have a question and I'm hoping that someone out there will weigh in and give me some ideas about the answer.

In America, the Founders believed that, as far as I can tell, power comes from God, through the people to the government. They believed that the powers of government were essentially granted it by the people as a loan. That the people, in the cause of advancing the common good, hand over certain of their rights and privileges to the government to allow the government to have the power to govern effectively. These powers are spelled out in the Constitution in
Article 1, Section 8.

This idea puts a natural barrier in place against the overreach of government. If the powers of government are derived from the people then the government cannot posses powers greater than the people. In this regard the nature of the government and the people are the same and the people retain the place of honor because they create the government, not the other way around.

If this is the case, and we have an inalienable right to liberty which can only be removed from us if we commit a crime against the rights of another, how can the government have the authority to conscript its citizens? I, as an individual citizen, cannot enslave another and if the government cannot have any powers that I don't how can it enslave anyone in the military?

"US Constitution, 5th Amendment:

"No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Conscription deprives a person of liberty without due process of law. This is clearly prohibited by the 5th amendment. Conscription is an involuntary taking of a person's labor-which is a form of property-without just compensation as provided by the eminent domain provisions of the 5th amendment.
Compulsory government service is incompatible with individual liberty.

We oppose imposition of the draft, the registration law, compulsory military training or any other form of compulsory government service.

We support a well-trained and highly organized volunteer state home militia, and voluntary Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) military training in our schools, colleges, and universities."
Constitution Party Platform

I tend to agree with the position of the Constitution Party on this issue because I have always agreed with the ideas of government as stated above. But, I can also see an argument for a draft in times of serious defensive need.

"With Vatican II we recognize that: "As long as the danger of war remains and there is no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level, governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defense once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted". This principle acknowledges the right of the state to call citizens to acts of "legitimate defense". To this right there corresponds the duty each citizen has to contribute to the common good of society, including, as an essential element, the defense of society. Both the right of the state and the responsibility of the citizen are governed by moral principles which seek to protect the welfare of society and to preserve inviolate the conscience of the citizen."
USCCB: Statement on Registration and Conscription for Military Service

If the state has the moral authority to conscript its citizens in a time of great defensive need then it would seem that the state possesses rights and powers that the citizens do not. I couldn't force my neighbor to defend my property, so why can the state?

If this is the case then perhaps the idea that the nature of the state is much the same as ours is wrong. Is it possible that the understanding of so many in the Conservative/Libertaian movement could be wrong? What if, though government retains its authority through the consent of the governed, the nature of its authority is removed from and different than the nature of the authority of the governed?

"A closer study of the Declaration of Independence discloses its dissimilarity with the social-contract or compact theories as explained with slight variations, by Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke, Puffendorf, Althusius, Grotius, Hooker, Kant, or Fichte. The American Declaration, like the political doctrine of Cardinal Bellarmine, declared political power as coming, in the first instance, from God, but as vested in a particular ruler by consent of the multitude or the people as a political body. The social-contract or compact theories sought the source of political power in an assumed social contract or compact by which individual rights contributed or yielded their individual rights to create a public right. Contracts of individuals can create individual rights only, not public or political rights. According to the American Declaration and Cardinal Bellarmine, government implies powers which never belonged to the individual and which, consequently, he could never have conferred upon society. The individual surrenders no authority. Sovereignty receives nothing from him. Government maintains its full dignity, it is of Divine origin, but vested in one or several individuals by popular consent."
Catholic Education

It seems perfectly reasonable to me that because the nature of the two things, the people and the state, are different that the rights and powers of the two would not be interchangeable. If this is the case then the arguments being made today by people such as Glenn Beck, Judge Napolitano, Rush Limbaugh and others about the nature of our system of government are based on a false premise. The government is subservient to us because we have the power to choose our leaders and to cast it off it becomes destructive to our needs. However, it also retains rights and powers that we don't, such as the ability to enslave for the benefit of the common good.

So does government get its powers directly from God with the people only acting to establish it and to choose its leaders? Is it a sort of parallel to our human rights, not a derivative from them?

What other legitimate powers does it posses that we don't? And what does it claim to posses that it doesn't and how are we to know the difference? Can it be restrained by the Constitution that created it? One would think so since the lesser cannot create the greater, ergo the Constitution should be binding on the government.

Anyway, welcome to my world! I'll be thinking about this and doing research for the rest of my life now so I'd appreciate your comments to get the ball rolling. Am I completely off base on this?

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