23 November, 2008

Why there are checks and balances

I am not a fan of pure democracy.  I never have been.  I have never believed that an opinion, just because a majority felt it was right, was a moral certainty.  I have always held my own rationality as the highest authority to which I answer.  I have not always been right in my decisions, and I have caused harm, no matter how hard I tried to do good.  Sometimes I have been wrong on purpose or through neglect.  But it is I who will answer for those things, and not the majority. 
In the end, we all stand alone.
In a group of one thousand, I could be the sole dissenting vote.  Unless I were swayed by the power of their logic, I will not be swayed by their numbers.  I will still have a one in a thousand chance that I am right.  If I have stacked the deck in my favor by doing my research, then I consider that one in a thousand chance good odds.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. 
James Bovard once said that democracy had to be better than two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner.  The founding fathers knew this.  The reason they put the checks and balances into this new form of government they designed was to make it robust enough to not only survive the corrupting influence of power in too few hands but, also, to guard against the corrupting influence of power in the hands of too many whose only claim to authority was majority.
There is a revolutionary spirit buried deep (or maybe not so deep) within all of us.  That part of us that rails against injustice, that says to hell with the status quo.  We know when something is wrong, no matter how long it has been done.  We know when something needs to be changed, regardless of tradition.

The Judicial Branch stands between the arrogance of a few and the foolishness of the many.  Jurisprudence is the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics.    It is the deliberate and studied resolution of questions of Right and Wrong, the answer to which might offend the masses. 
Now, I know that you might say that the terms legal and right are often far from synonimous.   I would agree with you.  Congress, the representatives of the masses, makes the laws.  And the masses are not always right about something, no matter what percentage of them believes it.  The judges interpret the Law, and they are the ones who strike it down when it is wrong.
The administrations(s) have long complained that the courts legislate from the bench and want to remove that power from the courts.  It was placed there for just that reason, though they don’t legislate.  Legislating is making the laws.  They don’t make the laws.  They are there to call bullshit when the law is wrong.
The masses recently overturned a ruling by the courts of several states which had given the right to marry to a group of people who ask for nothing more than the right to live in our society with the ones they love and to publicly establish their union in the sight of their Creator. 
I am certain that this will eventually be turned over again by the courts.   Eventually, I am certain, their right to the pursuit of their happiness will be acknowledged.  It doesn’t have to be granted, for that comes as our birthright.  It only needs to not be hindered. 
The liberty in this country has always trended upwards.  We have spikes of hedonism and we have pitfalls of bigotry but we always,always, move upward.  Because Liberty will not be shackled by the masses, nor will it bow down to the few.
Ben Franklin once quipped about the Bovard quote concerning wolves and sheep and dinner. 
He said liberty was a well armed sheep contesting the vote.

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