We the People
Jul 13, 2019Posted by on
This week on Facebook: I would venture that there never has been a time in history of mankind when there was not a wealthy Aristocracy. The Encyclopaedia Britannica opens with the definition that aristocracy means, ‘government by a relatively small privileged class or by a minority consisting of those felt to be best qualified to rule’.
Of course the vast majority of people supporting this ‘privileged class’ have no desire to rule, they are only interested in their own welfare. However, the even smaller privileged class¹ that they currently support most certainly do. Furthermore, be they capitalists or socialists, or even the demos (whoever they may be), the ruling elites always claim that they represent the views of ‘we the people’.
It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude. (Aldous Huxley – Berkeley 1962)
Written nearly 500 years ago and preceding Aldous Huxley’s remarks, the prescience of Étienne de La Boétie ought to be remembered for his essay The Politics of Obedience — The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. Both are now largely forgotten by a demos that loves its voluntary servitude under a controlling oligarchy. However, searching for a political system on which there would be a consensus in the nature of a more perfect union is a fruitless task, as is any reliance on ‘we the people’ seeking political solutions to their subjugation.
Even in the USA Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness as a solution only exists in the notions of philosophers, intellectuals, the occasional optimistic politician and perhaps — pessimistic bloggers. There never has been a time when the thoughts of we the people were not mostly divided between altruism and avarice, with the success of avarice assured. Eudaimonia has never been the happiness pursued by the majority of we the people.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. USA Declaration of Independence July 4 1776
Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness invoked the Greek and Roman philosophical tradition in which happiness is bound up with the civic virtues of courage, moderation, and justice. Because they are civic virtues, not just personal attributes, they implicate the social aspect of eudaimonia. The pursuit of happiness, therefore, is not merely a matter of achieving individual pleasure.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Preamble — National Constitution Centre
“We the People“, has been made famous in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of American (1787). Of course “We the People” means many different things to peoples². As Justice Antonin Scalia points out in the following video, the Constitution of the United States is not taught very well and very few people have read The Federalist Papers (1787), which explain the thoughts of the Constitution’s legislators.
[In a case that went to the Supreme Court in 2004 the Justices handed down one of the most important (if least known) decisions of the decade. Scalia supported equal protection under the law afforded by the Constitution, saying that the plaintiffs sought “…a right to proportional representation. But the Constitution contains no such principle. It guarantees equal protection of the law to persons, not equal representation in government to equivalently sized groups.“³]
In Aasof on Democracy I was convinced that democracy came in many idealogical forms, non of which represents the consensus of a significant proportion of ‘we the people’. While we the people may rarely voice the opinions of a significant majority, they do appear to represent a vociferous minority who, in a liberal democracy, succeed in new laws being imposed on a silent majority. I asked if the key element of a truly democratic society in most countries was the will of we the people and if so what proportion of it? Is freedom of expression, especially the freedom to criticise (in whatever form) the practices of any State and its public administration democracy?
Political systems are now “imprisoned” by the regime of finance, while the corporate model suffuses society, enclosing populations in the production of financial capital. Control of money creation, liquidity and credit shifted from regulated banks to deregulated financial markets. Central banks have ceased being lenders of last resort, since the finance sector is now creating money. Instead, central banks are now investors of last resort, through quantitative easing, buying securities with money they created to keep financial markets from failing.
It seems that the political systems I am faced with are somewhere between those of laissez faire capitalism or socialism as it is interpreted by the ruling political class. Would that I had an answer to a more perfect union for ‘we the people’, any political system purporting to form a more perfect union represents to me a choice made between a rock and a hard place.
1. How a democracy becomes an aristocracy: The idea that human nature has some special affinity with democracy as a regime of political inclusion is too rosy. We need to recognise that human nature can equally be channelled into an exclusive kind of democracy.
2. Is Meritocracy the new Aristocracy? Just because you are clever why should you have more money, more wealth and a better life, any more than someone who has inherited a fortune from their parents?
3. ‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World: In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.” More than a quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere.
4. The New Financial Aristocracy: The decades preceding the Wall Street crash of 2008 saw a dramatic enrichment of this social element and the refashioning of politics to suit its needs. The financial oligarchy exercises monopolistic influence over political life, and the police state mechanisms built up since 2001 have been put in place largely to protect its wealth.
5. The new aristocrats of power: Businesspeople have the wealth to fund their campaigns. Many enjoy some name recognition and they tend to have close allies in the media who can support their cause (Mr Berlusconi had direct ownership of a media group). Entrepreneurs can also promote themselves as apolitical outsiders, above the partisan fray, a role once played by generals like Charles de Gaulle or Dwight Eisenhower.
Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:
- A bold text subscript above and preceding a title below (¹·²·³), refers to a book, pdf, podcast, video, slide show and a download url that is usually free.
- Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) reference a particular included article (1-5).
- A link (url), which usually includes the title, are to an included source.
- The intended context of words, idioms, phrases, have their links in italics.
- A long read url* (when used below) is followed by a superscript asterisk.
- Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
- JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹While the Nation Fragments Socially, the Financial Aristocracy Rules Unimpeded (url): The citizenry that broke free of the chains of British Monarchy, the citizenry that reckoned everyone was equal before the law, the citizenry that vowed never to be ruled by an aristocracy that controlled the government and finance as a means of self-enrichment, is now so distracted by social fragmentation that the citizenry is blind to their servitude to a new and formidably informal financial aristocracy?
²America’s new aristocracy (url): It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying… When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.
³Our Broken Constitution(url*): In many ways, the contemporary debate reflects the framers’ arguments, more than two centuries ago. How insulated should elected officials be from the demands of the people? How should power be divided among the federal and the state governments? What rights of the individual must be protected against the claims of the government? The Constitution offers only contingent answers to these questions.