Securing Our Sovereignty
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
– Declaration of Independence
“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”
– John Jay, Federalist 2
The individual cannot hope to defend, by personal effort alone, his/her rights from the multitude of social and economic forces seeking to impose their will as an expression of their rights and interests. The defense of individual rights becomes ever more difficult as population density increases and more complex interaction between people increases interdependency and conflicting interests.
We form a government as our chosen instrument to protect our natural rights, liberties, and property. The ability of that government to effect that protection depends on our entrusting in it a portion of our liberty. The question becomes: how much of our liberty do we cede, and how much of our liberty does that protect? It is both the right and the responsibility of the people who vest the government with power to choose the proper balance, to restrain the overreach of government, and to push it to better protect our rights. This is the very foundation of sovereignty.
But this balance is not a simple or obvious thing. It requires the consideration of a great many factors. It requires factual information, sound theory, and an honest understanding of the world around us. It requires eternal vigilance.
The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces, as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.”
“It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government.”
“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
– Abraham Lincoln
While these words strike a chord with the average citizen, it is equally important to note the implication that “money powers” are not the nation, but a culture that operates with a self-interest divorced from the general welfare of the country.
“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my
predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United State corporations.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower, farewell address, Jan. 17, 1961
As Ike warned us half a century ago (mp3, wav, ogg), the titans of industry have indeed acquired unwarranted influence over the government established for the benefit and protection of the people. As predicted, the effects of abuse of this misplaced power have been disastrous.
We have lost much of our ability to control the government we empowered. The lobbyists who offer campaign money and future employment encourage compliance with special interests over representation of the constituency. This seriously weakens our representational form of government and usurps our sovereignty.
With rare exception, money has become the determining factor in elections, and campaign money the controlling factor in the performance of elected offices. Money has become the primary lever of power.
Money controls the political messages that dominate and influence public perception and public opinion. Money is speech.
People talk about taking back the country, but they only pursue a course of political tug-of-war.
In order to truly “take back the country”, to restore control of government and our very sovereignty to the citizens who entrust their liberties to its protective authority, the levers of power must remain exclusively under the control of the people.
In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.
- Whereas the election of government Officials is an exercise of sovereignty over a representational form of Government;
- Whereas the authority of our Government derives from the consent of its Citizens;
- Whereas petitioning elected Officials is an exercise of sovereign power;
- Whereas the success of a democracy – and a representational form of government – depend on a well-informed electorate, and thus influencing their judgment;
- Whereas money is a decisive factor in controlling the information presented to the electorate;
- It is a natural conclusion that money from sources other than Citizens, when applied to the political process, interferes with our natural Sovereignty.
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States protecting the political sovereignty of the Citizens of the United States of America.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:
The Right of Free Speech, as applied to Campaigns for the election of persons to positions of Public Office or Public Trust; or matters of Legislation, Law,
or Public Policy, Regulation, Referendum, or Constitutional Amendment; shall be reserved exclusively to the Citizens of the United States. The Right of political Free Speech shall not extend to willful deception.
The First Amendment rights of the Free Press, other than participating in or deceptively reporting on a political campaign, are reaffirmed.
All contributions used for Campaigns of a political nature must originate with the Citizens of this country.
The majority of funds for a Campaign must originate within the jurisdiction of the Object of the Campaign.
Campaigns involving the amendment of a state constitution must be funded entirely by the Citizens of that State.
For purposes of this Amendment:
‘Citizen’ shall mean a citizen or national of the United States, either Natural Born or duly Naturalized.
A ‘Campaign’ shall mean a campaign for the election of a person to a position of Public Office or Public Trust, a campaign for or against a Law, Legislation, Public Policy, Regulation, Referendum, or Constitutional Amendment.
Nothing in this amendment shall be interpreted to prevent public campaign financing.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This is a preliminary draft.
It does not yet address the need for tTruth in campaigning . Thiscan be a very subjective matter, difficult to legislate or regulate.
- It does not yet address the disparity of voice that results from the disparity of wealth.
- I am thinking along the lines of a limit based on median income level. It would increase with a general rise in income.
- A limit based on the poverty income level would advantage the rich as poverty increased – very bad.
- A limit based on the average income would disproportionately favor the rich – also counter to the purpose of the restriction.
- Section 6, cl 3 may be incomplete.
- The corporate control of the major news outlets poses a particular problem.
- Having a key roll in the check on governmental power, the Free Press must not be censored.
- As the vast majority of major news outlets are owned and controlled by corporations, the possibility (likelihood) of a corporate political voice would exist if no restraints were in place.
- Opinion shows are important sources of variety in viewpoints, but the liberty is sometimes greatly abused – to the point of undermining the proper functioning of democracy.
- This is the sort of conundrum that can invalidate an otherwise good idea.
These are problems that do not lend themselves to easy resolution by legislation, and I leave them wide open to debate. A constitution “should not be changed for light and transient causes”, and commands the most rigorous public debate and consideration.
[UPDATE] 8/21/11 – added quote from SCOTUS Citizens United decision.
- Voters Can Fix the Court’s Citizens United Mistake
- We The People, part 1
- The GOP and the Banks: Cutting the Garlic Budget as the Vampires Attack
- The Ties that Blind: How the Most Powerful American Entities Have Brought the Country to Its Knees
- CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION
- Corporate Citizenship: How Public Dissent In Paris Sparked Creation Of The Corporate Person
Thom Hartmann: SCOTUS says corporations are people but women are not