New Politics

I had a bit of a political revelation yesterday, thanks to a post I read on Plastic. I’ve found myself wavering sorta close to being a libertarian these days, but I had problems with the typical conservative (aka Adam Smith-ian) economic philosophy. I’ve never been able to come to terms with a completely free market. Most conservatives, and almost all libertarians will say that consumers have the final power in a free market economy, and it’s up to them to be responsible with their power. A practical application would be the tobacco industry. Conservatives like to say people shouldn’t be allowed to sue the tobacco industry because they haven’t been responsible enough to read up on the dangers of using tobacco product. I agree with that, but why don’t conservatives want to apply that same code of responsibility to big business? And because they are free-market types, they don’t want the government to get involved, because the market should do as it pleases.

Well, I just don’t like that.

Enter James Madison. He is considered to be a Classical Liberal by most political philosophers, meaning he believed in a small, less intrusive government, personal liberties, and personal responsiblities. But don’t write him off as a conservative. Here’s why. Madison had a distrust of any concentration of power. In the days of the Constitutional Converntions, the best known concentration of power was government (like the monarchy in England). The Constitution, and a republican government (that is, a republic or constitutional government) should protect citizens against a concentration of power. Hence the three branches of government, and the layers of government (federal, state, county, city). The better dispersed the power is, the better the citizens will be. So why shouldn’t this apply to everything, not just government?

And here’s an interesting quote regarding the purpose of the constitution:

The two vital characteristics of the political system of the United States are, first, that the Government holds its powers by a charter granted to it by the people; second, that the powers of government are formed in two grand divisions ? one vested in a Government over the whole community, the other in a number of independent Governments over its component parts. Hitherto charters have been written grants of privileges by Governments to the people. Here they are written grants of power by the people to their Governments.

The Constitution’s sole purpose isn’t to outline our rights as citizens. It is to outline what power the citizens grant to the government. Sure, our rights and liberties are listed there, but that’s sorta an afterthought. It’s main purpose is to say what the government can and can’t do. The government has to play by our rules first.