You would think that after all this time people would have grasped the fact that autocrats don’t much care for democracy .
There are books , of course , but “Book Learnin’ ” is pretty thin stuff compared to personal life experience , especially since so many liars abound ( even among the authors of ancient histories .)
We believe what we have seen with our own two eyes and validated by personal experience . Beyond that , all is hypothetical .
So what have we seen and experienced ? Why the same damned stuff those old Greeks and Romans saw and experienced and tried to pass on through their books . As usual , their wisdom was taken with many grains of much salt . . . until it was pretty much too late to do us much good except to explain to ourselves (after the fact) how we screwed it up again.
Take the authors of the founding documents of the United States , for example . Most of them were both very well read and personally experienced . But did we actually learn anything from them ?
I would have to say , nah , not much . A generous estimate would be that 90% of the population think the Declaration of Independence , Constitution and Bill of Rights are mostly just a lot of high sounding rhetoric that feels nice but doesn’t really have much to do with our daily lives or how to run a country.
I dare say that not one citizen in a thousand has ever stopped to appreciate that those dudes were a bunch of hard eyed realists , very much engaged in real day-to-day lives , and acutely aware that if the government they designed failed then the Redcoats would come back with adequate force to kill them , in a very deeply personal sense.
There’s nothing rhetorical about getting strung up or shot . The prospect alone makes a person (especially a smart & experienced one) think and re-think the plan very very carefully .
So what does any of that have to with checks & balances between the branches of government, Freedom of the Press , search & seizure , and all that other “high sounding theory” ?
Other than the difference between life and death , maybe nothing .
Here’s what I think.
I think that the fight between government & governed is perpetual . Period.
Some people like to run the show for fun and profit and most people don’t like to be run at all. Power is alluring , but subservience to power is demeaning . Like survival itself , the fight just never ends , and never will end . In fact , by the laws of nature itself , it CAN’T end.
So those very bright boys & girls back in 1776 said to themselves , “Well , alright then, since we can’t change nature , maybe we can better accommodate that nature by designing a form of government that takes nature into account .”
And so they did . What they devised was so breathtakingly brilliant and “outside the box” that I stand in awe.
Since human beings are incurably greedy for power yet rebellious when such power is used against themselves (in other words , since we are seditious by our very nature ) The Founders of the American experiment CODIFIED AND INSTITUTIONALIZED SEDITION ITSELF INTO AN ADAPTABLE FORM OF GOVERNMENT .
They recognized that it is the nature of government . . . all government . . . to exploit the general population for its own greedy ends , conspire to perpetuate itself in power , suppress dissent , arrogate to itself powers and consent that were not freely given , etc. etc. etc.
They also recognized that it is the nature of the populations to resist governmental control by various and not always predictable means , to somehow offset the intrinsically asymmetrical power that Rulers have over the Ruled .
Thus they attempted , deliberately , to hamstring each branch of government by empowering the other branches to either check (as in stop) unbridled power , or at least balance it with comparable power of their own.
They fully expected there to be continual efforts to imbalance this perpetual sedition , and so they attempted to thwart them by empowering their opponents . This is what the Constitution and Bill of Rights are all about . The whole idea is to undermine the predictable “soft Coups D’ Etat” by preventing the branches of power from ever joining forces.
The inefficiency and dead-lock were not accidental . The branches were not meant to co-operate , but merely to co-exist in a constant state of detente.
Because experience ( and History) had taught that when Legislative, Judicial, Executive & Military get too cozy and agreeable with each other then the population just doesn’t stand a chance .
The most dependable barometer of how well that’s working is in the loudly contentious area known as “dissent” or “Freedom of the Press” . When public channels of communication boil with outrage ( and I damned well include the Internet as a prime example ) ; when mighty accusation are belligerently hurled , and when incensed demands for justice fill the air . . . then that’s a good sign . That’s not bad . That’s healthy .
It’s when the fight goes quiet & newspapers are full of flag-waving feel-good crap that you better beware . Silence doesn’t mean everybody is happy , because the losing side is never happy . Silence means that people are too scared to speak out . Silence is what happens when a mugger has the gun between your eyes .
Silence means the balance has been tipped , and in the next breath Democracy will either revive in a deafening roar . . . or quietly expire .
Proactively trying to cause silence , such as targeting whistle-blowers , dissenters , and journalists ( and quite aside from being just plumb stupid ) also reveals who is doing the tipping . In this case it is so blatantly obvious that I’m not even going to rehash it .
All that matters at this point is understanding that when institutionalized , codified & limited sedition becomes impossible , then the old fashioned “gloves off” kind of uncontrolled sedition becomes inevitable and completely beyond the ability of any human to prevent .
And nobody wants the last ditch solution those same Founders announced in the Declaration of Independence.