• Who Decides Who Benefits?

    March 28, 2024
    Thomas Jefferson

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    “He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither” – Ben Franklin

    The two most important political questions are: “Who decides,’ and “Who benefits?” The less important political question is: “What shall be done?” V. I. Lenin answered this last question in his most famous pamphlet: “What Shall Be Done?”

    Lenin’s answer to this question was: The ownership of property, including wages and benefits, should revert from property owners to workers. This, pretty much, is the unstated program of our new, reform minded, Marxist tinged, neo-progressive Democrat Party.

    But, of course, business questions must be decided by someone. If not property owners and the managers of businesses under the direction of its stockholders, then who? For Lenin especially, the question “Who shall decide what is to be done?” was paramount. His answer to the question was: All important matters of state, including the direction of the national economy, would be decided by a communist vanguard of the people. Marxist/Leninist progressive change plunged Russia and a good part of the Western world into an economic, cultural and political maelstrom from which, even today, it has not recovered.

    Here in the United States, the U.S. Constitution provides in its governing plan an answer to the question “Who decides?” In so doing, the Constitution breaks the back of autocratic government by dividing the branches of government into three separate divisions – executive, legislative and judicial -- each equal in its own sphere of activity. When we say the separate branches are equal, we mean that each branch – because it is functionally separate – serves as a breakwater that prevents the accumulation of power without which tyranny and Caesarism are rendered less likely.

    “Remember,” Lord Acton tells us, “Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”

    The authors of the U. S. Constitution were familiar, by reason of their own immediate circumstances, with Caesarism -- executive, parliamentary and judicial corruption. And they were having none of it. When Benjamin Franklin, emerging from the Constitutional Convention, was asked by Mrs. Powel, “Sir, what have you given us?” he answered, “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”

    We were told in our Civics classes – when there were Civic classes in public, parochial and private schools – that the division of separate but equal powers into three branches of government preserves democratic or republican government.

    In addition to the Constitutional separation of powers, an organic division of powers – that between federal, state and municipal governments – also serves as a political prophylactic preventing the centralization of political power in a larger and potentially oppressive unitary government.

    To be sure, an autocratic government in which the people surrender their liberties to secure safety and peace may be more efficient than our cumbersome model of governance. However, no less an apostle of liberty than Thomas Jefferson warns us, “When all government ...in little as in great things... shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

    Municipal government, whittled away in our state by a venal and oppressive, tax hungry state government, is the best corrective for an oppressive state government, even as strong and independent state governments serve as guard rails protecting the public against our increasingly ambitious and overweening federal behemoth.

    Connecticut’s current crop of U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, all Democrats, enjoy preening themselves in public as defenders of “the democracy” but, from the Jeffersonian point of view, they would be little more than the “gangsters” Lord Acton has warned us about. 

    The founders of the Republic regarded governance as a brush fire controlled by eternal vigilance and the distribution of political power divided into separate branches and separate governments, federal, state and municipal. These necessary separations, which preserve the hallowed liberties of the people, cannot be destroyed by Caesars and foreign governments. They can be destroyed by solicitous politicians unmindful of Alexis de Tocqueville’s ever timely warning. The author of Democracy in America, sometimes assigned in High School Civics classes when there were Civics classes, wrote “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”

    Those Americans unimpressed by the blandishments of politicians in heat during election periods should bring the Tocqueville quote with them in voting booths when they vote in the upcoming 2024 elections.

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    Don Pesci

    Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.

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