Do We Still Have A Republic?
For two years now we have been subjected to unprecedented lockdowns and hitherto unimaginable infringements of our civil liberties. A self-appointed elite has decided it has the right to take control of our most personal medical decisions, to ruin private business, and to parent our children. Look around the nation and north of the border, and you will see the result.
Little noticed in all of this has been the complete absence of the legislative branch at both the state and federal levels. We talk a lot about the separation of powers and the balance of power in our federal system. We don’t often enough stop to consider how those powers are divided and how this government is really supposed to work.
The executive branch has the job of administering the day-to-day functions of the government. It implements the laws passed by the legislature. It runs the machine the legislature creates.
The judicial branch interprets the law and ensures it is fairly applied. In some sense, it acts as an umpire on a playing field might.
The legislature is designed to be the heart of the system. It is supposed to be the most powerful branch. The people’s representatives at both the state and federal levels make the laws by which we will live. Those laws are made pursuant to an elaborate and often cumbersome process that includes committee hearings and public debate.
The process is supposed to be cumbersome. Government is not intended to run our lives. We are intended to run and control government. When and if government steps in to curtail our liberties or impose mandates it is only after we the people, via our elected representatives, have said we think it should.
Nothing that has happened for the last two years has been in accordance with this intent or design. At all levels, the legislature has sat impotent and silent, while Governors, Presidents and a whole host of unelected bureaucrats whose existence is not even addressed in the Constitution have issued what amount to ‘royal orders’ imposing requirements and directing penalties for disobedience.
A democratic system over two hundred years old and based on much older traditions of common law and popular rule, has been exposed in the blink of an eye to be autocratic and dictatorial. A nation founded on the principle that power derives from the people has become a nation of subjects.
We no longer have rights. We only have privileges. And we only enjoy those as long as we obey.
What is happening right now across Canada, our sister nation north of the border exposes somehow with ultimate clarity what is also happening right here. People who have suffered under draconian and largely pointless Covid restrictions for two years have exploded with anger and chosen civil disobedience as the only means they have of demanding an end to the tyranny. Abandoned by their elected representatives, they have resorted to closing bridges, honking horns and blocking streets.
Trudeau and his minions in Ottawa have not responded with sympathy. They have not reconsidered their policies. They have not considered changing course in response to popular outrage.
They have reacted with threats and the use of force. Protesters will not be engaged in dialogue. Their demands will not be considered.
The ugly truth is that the men and women running the government in Ottawa, just like those here at home, do not believe they are under any obligation to listen to the people. In fact, they reject any such notion out of hand. Their conception of government is not one based on the idea that they serve the people. It is based on the absolute certain knowledge that they are entitled to rule, and that our obligation is to do as we are told.
This would once have seemed impossible here or in Canada. We were certain that our system was based on power derived from the people, and that tyranny was for poor, third world nations abroad.
We got lazy. We watched as the executive branch gradually took on functions never given to it by law. Presidents began to effectively declare war without any Congressional action, and we remained silent.
Bureaucratic rule-making authority replaced legislation as our mechanism for ordering society. The Faucis of the world took control of our lives and shoved aside the messy legislative process. We remained silent.
Our federal bureaucracy grew out of all proportion to our needs and transformed into an apparatus serving the interests of giant corporations, and we remained silent.
And, then Covid hit, and we awoke to discover our government no longer answered to us. Instead, we answered to it.
There is no more fundamental issue before us today. Ben Franklin is supposed to have been asked following the 1787 Constitutional Convention what form of government we would have and to have answered “a republic if you can keep it”.
Perhaps the question today would be better phrased, “do we still have a republic?”