June 7, 2010 – Federalist No. 51 – Cathy Gillespie

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Federalist 51 – what a quotable paper!  We have been busy on Facebook today (http://www.facebook.com/constitutingamerica ), rolling out many of the famous and insightful lines!

Thank you to Professor Baker for your wonderful essay, and for itemizing some of the well known quotes from this paper!

The biggest challenge we face today is our government “controlling itself.” As Publius points out:

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Publius is quick to knowledge, in this paper and in many others, that the greatest control on government is the people:

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

Yet, the founders brilliantly erected a governmental structure designed to control itself, as well.  One of the most important controls is the federal structure, with power divided between the states and national government.  But power is also divided within the national government, between the three branches, and going even further, the founders gave each of the branches “tools” to “check” the other.

Despite this well conceived structure, our government is not controlling itself today.  The national government has encroached upon areas far past its enumerated powers, and into the purview of states, and individual rights. As we have journeyed through these federalist papers, we have often asked, “what went wrong?”  How could our founding fathers design a system based so carefully upon history, proven successes, with improvements on historical flaws,that could not protect us from an overreaching federal government.

We have come up with many answers:

*state budget shortfalls (in part a result of unfunded federal mandates) that necessitate federal dollars (with strings attached)

*the addition of the 17th and 16th amendments

*an aggressive Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution as a “living” document

*a Congress that does not always respect Constitutional limits on federal powers

The most important reason, though, may be that the “primary control” on government, “the people,” have failed to pay attention, and to embrace their role.

Without the energy of the people, the structural system can only go so far to set limits on government.

It is now up to the “we the people,” “the primary control on the government,” to bring our system back into balance.  When “the people” work in concert with the structure our founders designed, we will once again start to glimpse the America our founding fathers envisioned.

And how do the people control the government?  First, by knowledge, and then, As Janine wrote in a recent Fox News Op-Ed: “Your Vote is Your Voice.” http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/30/janine-turner-supreme-court-justice-constitution-elections-elected/

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

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