Of the People, By the People, and For the People

When our predecessors broke away from Britain in the late 1700s they set up a government of the people, by the people, and for the people — a Democracy. The governmenLincoln_Of_the_People-3ct has three branches, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. They are designed to help ensure that no one branch has control over the government.

Looking around the world today in many countries, both large and small, we see the government under the control of a ‘strongman’ — dictator, despot, demagogue, autocrat and oligarch — call him what you will. Frequently they have the support of the Military. Many will do anything to remain in power. Our country — the United States of America — was designed to help ensure that does not happen here.

The late 1800s brought about significant technological changes. Steam engines brought along with them locomotives, the railroads and steamships. Internal combustion engines led to the development of automobiles, trucks and tractors. Electricity added lamps and electric motors; and the telegraph and telephones. All were part of the Industrial Revolution. The new technology contributed to making ‘the people’ better off. They had new products that they could buy along with many more job opportunities and greater income. Initially, the changes remained largely within national borders. The changes also brought with them the “Robber Barons” who were relatively few in number.

The technological and economic conditions in the 21st century are much different from those that were faced earlier. At that time the countries were largely separated from one another. Today you can hop on a jet plane and within hours be almost anywhere. Or you can pick up the high-powered, small pocket-sized computer called an iPhone and talk to someone anywhere else on the planet. The goods and services each of us consumes are often produced in another country. And the things produced in this country are sold elsewhere. Effectively, in the earlier years, because of the high transportation and communications costs, the people and their activities were largely restricted to one country. Now we are all part of One World.

The changes over the last half-century or so have made the whole process more complex and more complicated. Not only have the new, widespread technological developments brought along with them greater wealth and prosperity, it has led to a greater inequality in the income distribution — the rich are richer and the poor poorer.

As a result, those corporations and individuals at the upper-end of the income distribution have been able to use some of their recently acquired additional funds to engage in activities designed to maintain and extend their control over the market in order to enhance their wealth. They have also engaged in activities in an effort to influence the government’s activities and to promote their private and political agendas. We can start with one word — lobbying. It is just one technique that they use in the attempt to limit the government’s control over corporate activity and to reduce the amount of economic services governments provide. Importantly, one of the essential functions of government is to rein in corporate excesses. Some of their actions are designed to limit the government’s ability to do just that. When company operations extend beyond national borders — a.k.a. multinationals — the countries are less able to regulate corporate behavior. Furthermore, those at the upper-end of the income distribution have also promoted gerrymandering to help foster their private and political objectives. Moreover, some corporations and individuals at the upper-end of the income distribution engage in various activities designed to lower their tax burden, some at the high-end paying no taxes at all.

Taxes are a government’s primary source of income. Without those funds, governments are unable to provide services. One long-standing tax principle is called ‘proportional taxation’. In order to ensure that the tax burden is shared equally, everyone pays the same percent of their income. Some corporations and individuals have done all they can to avoid paying taxes. When successful they pay less than their fair share of taxes. When those at the upper-end of the distribution pay less than their fair share, the taxes are called ‘regressive’. Some have argued the tax burden should be ‘progressive’ — namely, that those at the upper-end should take on a larger share of the tax burden.

The bottom line in a democracy is one person, one vote. What has developed in one country after another is that those in power have been able to determine who has the right to vote. We have gotten to the place when we look around the world we see country after country headed up by dictators, despots, demagogues, authoritarians and autocrats that remain in power for decades. In each of them the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches are under the control of the leaders and are not representative of the entire population.

Rather than providing the goods and services the population needs and wants most in an efficient, low-cost manner, the government promotes the Leader’s agenda. Along with that there is often evidence of corruption and of high living by those in charge. In some cases — like Syria, Venezuela and some Central American countries — the dysfunctional government has led to chaotic conditions in the country, the devastation of portions of its population, and mass emigration. The end result is that those actions result in a significant burden on the country’s neighbors and on the rest of the world.

In our United States of America we have gotten to the position where the head of the Executive branch issues Executive Orders, the leader of the Senate determines what comes up for a vote, and, effectively, in the 5 to 4 Supreme Court decisions, one Justice decides for us all. Their decisions effect everyone in the country. Is that what the principle of one person, one vote has become?

How about considering an alternative? First, acknowledge that everyone has the same rights as everyone else. “The People” includes everyone. Furthermore, everyone has the right to their own opinion. You have the right to yours and they to theirs. That is especially true when their actions do not have a direct effect on you. Rather than taking a stand based on your position and insisting that others see things in the same way that you do, how about recognizing their right to see things differently, trying to understand why they hold their position, and working with each other in the attempt to reconcile any differences that exist. That suggestion not only applies to each of us, it applies to all of our representatives in government as well. That will allow us to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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