The American Founders, great statesmen standing on the shoulders of great philosophers, derived from the wisdom of the ages an all-important lesson, one subsequently distilled for all time by British historian Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In other words, any normal man is susceptible to the temptations of power, from which it follows that a society that wishes to remain free and just must avoid granting its governing authority excessive powers. Placing one’s trust in the integrity of one’s elected officials while handing them “legal” means to wipe out or circumscribe all your natural rights at their discretion is, as the great advocates of (true) liberalism understood, foolhardy in the extreme, for such blind trust presumes exactly what history and sound reasoning teach us never to presume, namely that the world is comprised of pure and untainted souls on one side, and evil and corrupt souls on the other, such that choosing good leaders is merely a matter of electing one of the “pure” souls.
Obviously, Barack Obama is a Marxist subversive, so there is every reason to fear that excessive power cannot be trusted in his hands. It does not follow, however, that such power can or should be trusted in the hands of a better man. To reason that way would be to forfeit or deny the awareness of man’s inherent imperfection, an awareness which used to be standard issue with every new package of adult common sense.
Hence the case for limited government, and the rule of law. For those educated in public schools, the word “limited” in that first phrase means “limited in power.” The purpose of such a foundational principle is not to cast aspersions on the integrity of any particular man in government, but rather to acknowledge a sobering fact of life, which is that we are all, in principle, morally susceptible to the temptations presented by the opportunity for perceived personal advantage gained without fear of retribution. Thus, although government is a useful and necessary instrument for protecting life, property, and civil order, and therefore an aid in the pursuit of virtue and happiness — or rather, precisely because it is such a necessary and useful instrument — a governing authority that becomes too expansive in its capability to control and manipulate the population from which it derives its purpose loses its legitimacy.
The American Founders were quite clear, and enormously wise, in their insistence that the people must always reserve the right to resist, and even overthrow, their government, if and when its founding purpose has been abrogated. But this injunction requires that the people actually have the practical capacity to resist. In other words, it requires that the institutionalized disparity in strength and material advantage between the government and the people never become insuperable; for if that should happen, the people would be left entirely at the mercy of the good will and honorable intentions of their leaders.
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