By James Schaefer.
In a Wall Street Journal piece entitled Obama and the Politics of Condescension, Karl Rove asks the question, “Do we place our trust in the federal government or the people?”
This question is not a new one.
At the founding of the republic, it was central to the debate.
Alexander Hamilton wanted a strong federal government, and Jefferson believed in state’s rights. Hamilton sought efficiency; Jefferson once said, “I am not a friend to a very energetic government.”
Hamilton feared anarchy and thought in terms of order; Jefferson feared tyranny and thought in terms of freedom (source: U.S. Department of State).
Jefferson and John Adams prevailed, and for whatever flaws we may have as a country, we are blessed with three of the most profound political documents ever put to paper: the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The world saw its first democracy, with a government selected by the collective wisdom of its people, rather than by inheritance (a monarchy), or by might (a dictatorship).
It was a great experiment in self-government, and it has worked.
In modern parlance, this trust in the common people would be characterized as “the wisdom of crowds”, played out in a political arena.
The core issue is whether we want a government that is a public master, or, as the Framers envisioned, a public servant, “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The issue of government vs citizen will be central to the 2012 election, and it should be to all elections.
Thomas Jefferson founded what is now the Democratic Party.
He had an abiding trust in the wisdom and inherent goodness of all people.
These beliefs are evident in the Declaration, and they are a tribute to him, his party, and the nation those beliefs gave rise to.
The issue before us is whether we continue his trust in the common people, or to continue to vest yet more power in government.