Why Have Representation At All?

Why Have Representation At All?
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In a recently conducted analysis by the Washington Times, it was found that many members of the U.S. House of Representatives “don’t understand the founding document [the Constitution] or don’t take its precepts seriously.” To the conservative newspaper, the discovery was a shocking scandal. Here are men and women who take an oath to support the very text that created the federal government, yet they fail to understand its meaning. Some Congressmen have introduced legislation while refusing to explain which provision of the Constitution authorizes the bill. In some cases, a power taken completely out of context was used to justify bills that would otherwise not qualify as Constitutional. Doug Kendall, founder of the Constitutional Accountability Center, seemed most dismayed at the results by exclaiming, “the thing that jumped out is how many parts of the Constitution members of Congress seem to think grant them legislative authority.”

He is not alone in this sentiment. Liberty and natural rights are often thought of as the bedrock principles of the United States of America. They are said to have inspired the men who engineered the revolution of independence from Britain and are embodied within the founding document of the republic. The orthodox version of American history teaches that the Constitution was written to establish a national government with limited authority and tasked with protecting the rights of the citizenry. Abraham Lincoln’s oft-repeated phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” has enshrined itself within the nation’s collective conscience as an unquestionable ideal.

The concept of a representative democracy has been emulated by the rest of the Western world and has served as a basis for the rise of the modern nation-state. But this concept also begs a question.

If the state is formed for the sole purpose of securing liberty, why have a legislature which passes additional laws? Because life, liberty, and property are to be protected by government- as transcribed within the Declaration of Independence– why tempt a violation of these tenets by putting men in positions of authority from which they can decree this normative law null and void? Man is far from God in that he can be easily tantalized by power. Providing him the opportunity to exercise force upon others will most certainly corrupt his conscious. This aggregation of individual depravity results in an institutional body reflective of the lowest common denominator in society. Conniving and lustful for power, the state legislature always comes to resemble that of a sumptuous house of burlesque.

The only explanation this author can deduce is that the existence of a representative body within the apparatus of the state is to provide the illusion of self-determination amongst the people. If the booboisie are convinced they have a say in government, they will pay no mind to the exploitation taking place all around them. Votes will be cast, pledges will be recited, and taxes will be paid without the least bit of inquiry into the real nature of the state and the text which brought it to life. The social order slowly cedes to state power before the masses rise from their stupor of blind nationalism to notice.

The Constitution, while a transformative document, was not born out of an aspiration for securing liberty. The impetus behind the modern form of American government was thoroughly deceptive. The mercantilist-driven federalists wished to centralize the autonomous states for their own benefit. The Constitution was drafted by men with economic interests in land speculation, shipping, manufacturing, and the issuing of public credit. They benefited financially from the document’s final ratification. It just so happen that administration of the new federal government would be carried out by the very few whom authored it into place. As Albert Jay Nock wrote,

The new president, Washington, had presided over the Constitutional Convention. All the members of the Supreme Court, the judges of the federal district courts, and the members of the cabinet were men who had been to the fore either in the Philadelphia Convention or in the state ratifying conventions. Eight signers of the Constitution were in the Senate, and as many more in the House. It began now to be manifest, as Madison said later, who was to govern the country; that is to say, in behalf of what economic interests the development of American constitutional government was to be directed.

The Articles of Confederation were tossed and burned and a national republic was formed under the auspices of representative democracy. Whatever loyalty the original colonists had toward liberty or virtues inspired by Providence began its downward slide into restless authoritarianism. Congressional representation gave the people the perception they had a say in state affairs. Big-moneyed interests and the well-connected were to be the real beneficiaries.

The idea that one man can embody the wishes of a hundred thousand is asinine on the surface and deceitful below. Individuals are bound by their own preferences. When someone claims to speak in turn of another, their request is necessary infused with their own conviction. Conflict is the only outcome when one man strives to balance the desires of many. Like the attempted distribution of goods under an economic system without prices, representative democracy has no rational to its functioning outside of an unwarranted faith in the integrity of politicians.

The passing of legislation cannot make for a peaceful social order. As economist Walter Williams writes,

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms – transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings – represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching.

Democracy is a plaything for the masses to wrap crude affection for their self-righteous brilliance upon. Bequeathing knowledge to a state from the voting booth is a practice best reserved for the ignorant. If the state truly existed for the purpose of safeguarding property, there would be no need for representation. Natural law would be supreme and not subject to the fleeting will of public office holders. But as taxation, war, tariffs, regulation, subsidies, compulsory education, and central banking have shown, the assurance of individual liberty is the last thing on the state enforcer’s mind.

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James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of Mises Canada and a regular contributor to the Mitrailleuse . Send him mail

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