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Let's imagine we got to a society with proper government, with limited powers, oriented exclusively at defending the rights of its citizens. Presumably, this is accomplished by writing a very specific constitution, which describes the functions of the government, forbidding all others.

Except - that's what our founding fathers thought they were doing! (Or close to it, anyway.) In the last two hundred years, the constitution has changed beyond recognition, and there are people who talk about throwing it out and rewriting it from scratch, claiming it is outdated.

How would one go about securing the proper society and preventing such degradation of its fundamentals?

asked May 25 '11 at 17:56

Kate%20Yoak's gravatar image

Kate Yoak ♦

The short answer is: there is no way to guarantee that a rational society will stay rational in perpetuity.

Humans have free will and are therefore capable of error and evasion. Cultures can change for the worse, and if this happens, then the subsequent degradation of politics is only a matter of time. This is what has happened to the United States and the rest of the Western world.

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood history well, and they incorporated many procedural mechanisms into our government that have served to inhibit -- though not make impossible -- abuse of government power. These include representative government, separation of powers, and specific prohibitions of state action such as the Bill of Rights. (Procedural weaknesses that the Framers did not head off include the lack of protection for economic liberty, and the "ratchet" phenomenon in which laws are easy to pass but difficult to repeal.)

But procedures alone cannot stand in the way of statism if the culture becomes consistently hostile to liberty and even reason itself. For example, the Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Raich that the Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate actions that are neither interstate nor commercial.

As bad as our culture and political climate are today, our strength is that we have the ideas of Ayn Rand to make a full and consistent defense of liberty. This is in contrast to the Framers, who, for all of their achievements, remained basically ethical conservatives who supported Christian morality (which would later contribute to the erosion of America's Enlightenment culture).

The only way to secure a rights-protecting government is to continually defend reason, individualism, and capitalism as the ideal.

answered May 25 '11 at 19:24

Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Andrew Dalton ♦

The short answer is: by means of the vigilance of the society's intellectuals.

Ideas precede politics. A government gets proper by means of the right ideas entering a culture. Getting that to happen is the role of the intellectuals.

The founding fathers were great intellectuals who almost got it right. They supported capitalism, but they still held an implicitly altruist morality, which ultimately trumped their political views over the past two and a half centuries.

The new intellectuals will uphold an egoistic morality as the foundation of a capitalistic government. They will know that any alteration in the country's essential moral basis spells doom for freedom and prosperity, and will be able to point back in history to the way things used to be, saying "do you really want that again?"

Now, when we point to the old Soviet Union, people tend to think "that can't happen here." The intellectuals of the future will be able to point back at something which did happen here, and they'll be able to explain why.

answered May 26 '11 at 11:55

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

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Asked: May 25 '11 at 17:56

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Last updated: May 26 '11 at 11:55