Richard Salbato - May 29, 2009

When we judge people, religion, societies, governments or history we have to start with well established principles and common sense.  When we plan for the future of our life or even death, a good look at history will help us with established principles because they tell us what worked and what did not. Common sense lets us analyze the logical consequences of what we plan on doing. 

What is common sense in families and societies is that people need freedom and security.  To have the maxim freedom for the majority we must give up some freedom for the individual.  To have the maxim security for the majority we must contribute individually to that security.  To have justice for all, we must have common laws that are equal to all.  Over the history of the world we have learned that the only system that works to have peaceful families and societies is when everyone has equal justice under the law.  This is what we call:

The Rule of Law

The rule of law is an ancient ideal, and was discussed by the Greek philosopher, Plato, 350 years before Christ.  Plato wrote:

Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.

Likewise, Aristotle endorsed the rule of law, writing that "law should govern", and those in power should be "servants of the laws." The ancient concept of rule of law is to be distinguished from rule by law.  The difference is that under the rule of law the law is preeminent and can serve as a check against the abuse of power.

Under rule by law, the law can serve as a mere tool for a government that suppresses in a legalistic fashion."

In 1776, the notion that no one is above the law was popular during the founding of the United States, for example in the pamphlet Common Sense by Thomas Paine:

"in America, the law is King. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other."

John Adams said we are “a government of laws and not of men."

All government officers of the United States, including the President, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Military and all Members of Congress, , pledge first and foremost to uphold the Constitution. These oaths affirm that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any human leader.

The rule of law is fundamental to the western democratic order. Aristotle said more than two thousand years ago,

"The rule of law is better than that of any individual."

The rule of law, also called supremacy of law, is a general legal maxim according to which decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws, without the intervention of discretion in their application. This maxim is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance. The word "arbitrary" (from the Latin "arbiter") signifies a judgment made at the discretion of the arbiter, rather than according to the rule of law.

The purpose of legislation according to Madison was to deal with general principles. Madison refers to "the good of the whole", "the common good", "the public good" and "the interest of the people" in relation to the proper aim of government.

Contract Law

Before letting Thomas Paine explain the history of Governments and why we in America set up a government based on the Rule of Law, I will explain why I am writing this small bit of education on governments.  

Remember the common sense thinking method.  This method makes us think of the long term consequences of our actions.  The rule of law requires us to honor contracts between two people, two groups of people or two businesses.  If we have to go to court over these contracts we enter a building with a picture or statue of a woman with a blind fold over her eyes and a balancing scale in her hand. This says that the court is blind to all but the rule of law.  The court cannot favor the rich or the poor, the well dressed or the ragged, black over white, woman over man, or one faith over another.  What does the contract say and who violated it?  Was the contract equal under the law?  Was the contract voluntary or forced?

Without going into any detail I have been watching the Federal, State and City governments violating contracts and oaths over and over, as if they are above the law.  I have seen families brake apart because they do not respect equality under the rule of law.  I have seen priests and bishops act against the law of the Church and their oaths, which are contracts with God. 

Is The Rule of Law Democratic?

After writing the Constitution of the United States, news reporters asked Hamilton: “What type of government did you give us?”  He answered:
”A Constitutional Republic!”  I am sure the reporter did not even know what that meant, but so as not to look stupid, he simply asked: “Why!”

“To prevent this country from ever becoming a Democracy!”

We are a nation of the people, by the people and for the people, with justice for all.  We are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. But what if the majority does not want justice for the minority?  What if the majority becomes morally corrupt?  What if the majority did not believe that black people were real people? What if the majority were like Sodom and Gomorra?  What if the majority wanted the minority to take care of them?

We have a democratic process of electing our representatives, but under the law, neither the people nor their representatives can violate the rule of law.

Common Sense

By Thomas Paine

Origin and Design of Government in General

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least.

Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for, though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Some convenient tree will afford them a State House, under the branches of which the whole Colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man by natural right will have a seat.

But as the Colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present.

If the colony continue increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number: and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often: because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this, (not on the unmeaning name of king,) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. Freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and reason will say, 'tis right.

I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it was noble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected, is granted. When the world was overrun with tyranny the least remove therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise is easily demonstrated.

Absolute governments, (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs; know likewise the remedy; and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.

(In “Concise Remarks on the English Constitution” Thomas Paine goes on to explain why the English Government is stupid and does not represent the freedom and security of the people. At the time, England had a King, a House of Lords, and a House of Commons.  Only the house of Commons was elected by the people, but had no real power.)