David, Goliath and Frankenstein

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    ‘…(S)peaking of the Bill of Rights, target the freedoms of speech, or press and of assembly. And when that happens, beneath the veneer of constitutional democracy you no longer have a David and Goliath, but a Frankenstein waiting to be let out.’

    THE People are Sovereign under the Constitution. Government is subjected to a host of limitations in the power delegated by the People. It’s like “the People = Goliath” and “the Government = David.”

    And yet, why do people (note: lower case p!) fear the government?

    “The People” as a collective whole are the Sovereign Power in constitutional government.

    Nothing else can equal or surpass their power. But “the People” rarely act as one (except when the qualified among them cast their vote, for example), rarely speak as one, and in the day-to-day affairs of life do not hold in their hands the levers of power.

    It is government that does.

    In the day-to-day affairs of life it is the government, acting on the powers that “the People” delegated to them, that exercises the power. It is government, for example, that gives orders to the police, to the military, to tax authorities, and the like.

    Now imagine a scenario where the government, with powers so concentrated in its hands, decides to focus all these powers and use them against one individual (maybe a staunch critic), or against a group of individuals who are deemed “the enemy.” What happens?

    When “the People” (collective and upper case P) become persons (individual and lower case p), the balance of power tilts. The David and Goliath roles are reversed. And the Sovereign Power becomes, as Chairman Mao would put it, a “paper tiger.” The stark reality is that an individual, or even a group of individuals, are almost completely powerless in the face of the all-concentrated power of government.

    That’s why the constitution is replete with checks and balances, to keep government (the original David) from transforming itself and becoming the Goliath. Checks and balances such as the tripartite system of government, featuring the Legislative (see Article VI of the Constitution, further divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives), the Executive (Article VII) and the Judiciary (Article VIII). It is very important in a constitutional democracy that these branches of government are and remain independent and co-equal.

    There also are four constitutional Commissions, so-called because they cannot be abolished by simple legislation. Article IX lists three: The Civil Service Commission, ensuring a professional bureaucracy; the Commission on Elections, highlighting how vital free, fair and honest elections are to a constitutional democracy; and the Commission on Audit, which makes sure that the Peoples’ money are not played around with or, worse, pocketed by those in government. The fourth commission, the Commission on Human Rights, is a creation of Article XIII.

    This is also why elected public officials are subjected to term limits, the President most “severely” because he is limited to one term of six years, no more.

    But most importantly there is the Bill of Rights (Article III), the ultimate delineation of the rights and powers of the People, and the limitations on government.

    (Note the numbering of the articles: Art. III for the Bill of Rights, Art.VI for the Legislature, Art.VII for the Executive, and Art. VIII for the Judiciary. Why do you think they come in that order?)

    It should be clear, therefore, that if and when a government in whom power is concentrated succumbs to the “power corrupts” temptation and decides that it wants to upend the constitution and wrest power away from the People, what it needs to do is simple: destroy the independence of the other two branches of government or at least bring them under its sway; cripple the Constitutional Commissions, and run roughshod over the Bill of Rights.

    Oh, and speaking of the Bill of Rights, target the freedoms of speech, or press and of assembly.

    And when that happens, beneath the veneer of constitutional democracy you no longer have a David and Goliath, but a Frankenstein waiting to be let out.

    But remember: government is only powerful if it is able to focus its concentrated power on one individual, or one group of individuals. And, as has been shown in the history of totalitarianism or fascism around the world, you do this by keeping other people on the sidelines, dividing and conquering along the way. This is because others will say that the fight with government is not their fight and therefore they had better just not stick their nose into other peoples’ business. Which is half true – because if underlying principles or freedoms are involved, then the “other peoples’ business” is in truth and in fact everyone’s business.

    Against the all-powerful concentrated power in government, the ordinary citizen’s protection is his constitution and everything that is in it. Public officials swear to uphold the constitution as their way of telling the citizenry that they respect the limitations and recognize that they are merely temps – temporary holders of these powers.

    We must make sure we keep them to their oaths of office, and in so doing keep Frankenstein at bay.

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