Wednesday, November 17, 2010

American Government and Power

"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."

-- James Madison, National Gazette essay, March 27, 1792
American government was created to protect its citizens from abuses of power. Those that hold positions of power are accountable to "the people" and the checks and balances in our government. Our Founders understood that men were limited and were not always to be trusted when it came to power. Lord Acton's quote was probably in their minds when they formed a "more perfect union". "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Power was understood in the public domain as service, not priviledge. Priviledged positions were not viewed apart from their responsibility of representation. Public officials understood that good leaders, "do not lord it over" their contituencies, but protected and represented their interests.

The balance of power and accountability were what protected those in leadership from becoming short-sighted and narrowly focused on goals that might end up usurping another's right of liberty. Liberty was of utmost importance to American principles of "good government". Limited government meant that government was to "check" its own over-bearing nature, not just the people's.

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