Principle #3: Legitimate Governments Derive their Powers From the Consent of the Governed
The only form of just and legitimate government is one which receives it’s power from the consent of the governed, and maintains those natural God given liberties that will secure such rights in perpetuity. That a government by the people and for the people be maintained for future generations it is necessary that free republican government is constructed with those mechanisms most apt to protect those forms of administration able to secure the natural rights of all men from the usurpation of an overarching central authority.
Our founders were keenly aware of the abuses of power in nation states whose central authority is not restrained by the rule of law, which is a verily extraordinary position considering that England had more restraints on their king then was common among European monarchs at the time. However, the age of Enlightenment was asserting upon western governments more expectations for God given rights and limiting the power of kings by degrees. Europe was emerging out of darker centuries of the feudal reign of kings and the founders of the new American nation leaned heavily on the English legal traditions that had formed over centuries of Magna Carta restraints on centralized power. It became self-evident to our founders, who were extensively studied in government and history themselves, that any legitimate government must come by the consent of the governed and that the purpose of such a government must be first dedicated to the liberty of all its citizens in perpetuity.
You don't have to look very far in our modern world to see the horrific consequences when both of these critical aims are overthrown through the usurpation of an all powerful central authority.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a new political theory emerged from Europe as the antithesis to the unique construct of American free government, namely Marxism. In 1848, Karl Marx laid out a clear plan to overthrow free governments, free markets, and the principles of God given liberties that support them. Marxism is by nature a totalitarian form of government, a direct challenge to the founding principles of the United States of America.
While the theory percolated in academic circles for fifty years, the peculiar new American liberty was unleashing the most extraordinary economic and technological advancement in the history of man. The United States was proving that the experiment in free government was a powerful force for the advancement of human society. While conditions among the poor remained terrible in modern standards, the free market system was providing unprecedented opportunities for the poor and millions flocked to America to work out their own American dreams. The impact of this new American nation was becoming international and the fortunes of rising freedom in the United States and Europe were about to meet a formidable threat in Marxism. Early in the 20th century the Marxist ideologies that had penetrated academia began to exploit of poor Europe an bear fruit.
There is much debate among modern intellectuals about the many nuances of different iteration of totalitarianism that rose to power in the 20th century, mostly this debate continues as academics try to figure out how to implement socialism and communism in a more humane way. It's astonishing that anyone gives the ideas of Karl Marx and other communist intellectuals any serious consideration after the last wave of communist government experiments left approximately 100 million people dead, a billion people enslaved, and the world in ashes; but followers of this ideology continue to believe that a more perfect expression of socialism/communism can gain legitimacy through consent and reign in benevolence. Since the next iterations of socialism and communist will only prove the old adage that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, it is important that youth today know the difference between legitimate government of the people, by the people, for the people and governments subversive to the people.
Let's Define Socialism & Communism:
Let's start with the most nefarious dictator of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler. Wait, Hitler wasn't a Marxist communitst/socialist, right? Well to quote Adolph Hitler, “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system." So yes, Nazism was much like conventional socialism, and Hitler's party was the "The National Socialist German Workers' Party." He is not the right wing capitalist dictator you learned about in school. Hitler's socialist party exploited capitalism but was replete with anti-business and anti-financial attitudes, and demonization the affluent; similar to the way the Chinese communist party today exploits a type of crony capitalism to serve their oppressive ends. Planks in the Nazi party platform fell right in line with those of conventional socialism/communism. The Nazis demanded:
• The abolition of all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work;
• The nationalization of businesses involved in cartels;
• The communalization of department stores, to distribute to small business;
• Land reform, confiscation from owners without compensation any land needed for the common purpose, the abolition of ground rents, and the prohibition of land speculation.
Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed., Vol. 20, p. 895.)
Socialism and Communism are both part of Karl Marx plan for the usurpation of free governments and are relatively indistinguishable in their aims. The distinction between socialism, as represented by the various Socialist and Labor parties of Europe and the New World, and Communism, as represented by the Russians, is one of tactics and strategy rather than of objective. Communism is indeed only socialism pursued by revolutionary means and making its revolutionary method a canon of faith. Communists like other socialists, (1) believe in the collective control and ownership of the vital means of production and (2) seek to achieve through state action the coordinated control of the economic forces of society. Socialist generally believe that the objectives can be achieved by taking control of the bourgeois state, rather than overthrowing it. Communists differ from other socialists in believing that this control can be secured, and its use in the interests of the workers ensured, only by revolutionary action leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the creation of a new proletarian state as the instrument of change.
There are a rising number of Americans who say they are socialist or support socialism but it's common in America to talk about socialism as "democratic socialism." American socialist like Bernie Sanders, give examples of so-called European socialist countries but actually proposes very different political structures then are utilized in European in the countries he admires. Are Europeans democratic socialist?
Europeans are not democratic socialist they are social democrats. Many European states have expansive tax-payer funded social benefits, benefits and taxes that were chosen democratically, but their governments do not have total control over the means of production, enterprise, pricing, and all other economic forces within their societies. Europe has a complicated history with socialist ideas and Marxim hasn't given up on transforming Europe into true socialist states but after moving sharply toward socialism many European countries are learning important lessons in free market economics and are moving away from socialism at the same time that Americans are moving toward it. In fact, there are a handful of European and Asian countries that have economies less burdened by government forces than America.
OK, now that we have a basic understanding of Communism and Socialism, the real questions that illustrate the inspired founding principles of freedom are: Can the objectives of socialism be achieved by democratic means? When such aims are achieved are natural human rights preserved?
Socialism & Communism Are by Nature the Antithesis to Legitimate Free Governments
"Government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery." ~ Johnathan Swift
Consent of the governed and the protection of natural liberties go hand in hand, just as usurpation of governed and the loss of liberty are natural to all the iterations of totalitarianism. It is well known by most Americans that Hitler did not come to power with a majority support of the German population and that what he did after coming to power is to this day a great shame among the German people. Little needs to be said about this in order to state that clearly Hitler usurped power and destroyed liberty, and that is a vast understatement. Was the story any different in Russia or China? Did Lenin or Mao come to power by the consent of the governed or preserve civil liberties? Do we even need to ask? Unfortunately we do need to ask and teach the truth because clearly American youth today do not know the truth about socialism and communism. Let's start with Russia's Bolshevik revolution.
The Bolsheviks and their leader, Vladimir Ilich Lenin the fanatical revolutionary, managed to organize a relatively small but totally devoted and highly disciplined party bent on seizing power. The Bolsheviks won majorities in some provinces but only 23% of the overall electorate. The party used the foothold to turn it into a vehicle for the seizure of power. The Bolshevik's seized power, disregarding the authority of the Central Executive Committee dominated by the Mensheviks and Democratic Socialists. They overthrew the provisional government at a clandestine meeting by inviting their local soviets (provinces) in which they enjoyed majorities to attend a national congress. In the meantime they built up an armed force to carry out a coup. Since the Bolsheviks were the only organization with an independent armed force, they took over the Military Revolutionary Committee and used it to topple the government. (More history here) Lenin constantly and publicly rationalized the use of extreme violence and to solidify control Lenin resorted to mass incarceration and executions on a massive scale.
China's communist party came to power after Mao lead a military rebellion resulting in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), in which a proxy war was fought between the Nationalist army, with American aid, and Mao's communist party aided by the Soviet Union. In October 1949, when Mao Zedong proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic of China, a Bamboo Curtain descended on some 540 million Chinese just as an Iron Curtain had descended across the European continent. Mao continued to pursued his goals and purge to old culture through the Red Guards, groups of the country’s urban youths that were created through mass mobilization efforts. They were directed to root out those among the country’s population who weren’t “sufficiently revolutionary." The Red Guards carried out brutal atrocities on the population with little oversight, and their actions led to anarchy and terror, as “suspect” individuals—traditionalists, educators, and intellectuals, for example—were persecuted and killed.
In both countries, Marxist ideology was an essential element that gave the Communist Party absolute power and ensured its control of domestic and foreign policy. The patterns for how totalitarian governments rose to power in Russia, Germany, Italy, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, and Cambodia follow similar patterns. None of them came to power by the consent of the governed. Marxist Ideology bred many of the same totalitarian practices in both countries:
- Slave labor camps—the Gulag in the Soviet Union, the laogai in China.
- Forced famines—the Holodomor in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union, the so-called Great Leap Forward in China.
- The political role of the military—the Red Army in the Soviet Union, the People’s Liberation Army in China.
- The cult of personality—Stalin in the USSR, Mao in China.
- Mass terror—the Great Terror (1936–1938) in the Soviet Union, the Great Cultural Revolution in China (1966–1976).
- Indifference to the deaths of those who resisted or even questioned communism, resulting in an estimated twenty million victims in the Soviet Union and as many as sixty million victims in China.
History is replete with examples of the atrocities committed by totalitarian governments who rule without the divine mandate of consent of the governed. This is true both anciently and modernly. As defined, socialism requires collective control and ownership of the vital means of production and state coordinated control of all the economic forces of society, this simply cannot be done with out an all powerful state. Civil liberties cannot be protected in a socialist or communist system and still carry out the objectives of the system. History demonstrates that the majority of people will not willingly submit to total tyranny at the ballot box, they may be brought to it by degrees as we are seeing even in the United States today, but as the communist believed, at some point it requires the subversion of the free systems of the government and the will of the people for the objectives of socialism and communism to be fully realized.
From history we learn that our founders in their wisdom understood that the only form of just and legitimate government is one which receives it’s power from the consent of the governed, and maintains those natural God given liberties that will secure such rights in perpetuity. Life is inherently unequal in it's outcomes but legitimate free governments are best suited to protect the natural liberties of it's citizens under the rule of law. Government by the people and for the people can only be maintained upon the foundational principles of free republics. The aim of our founders was to ensure that future generations would retain their natural rights and free republican government, thus they constructed our Constitution with those mechanisms most apt to protect those forms of administration able to secure the natural rights of all men from the usurpation of an overarching central authority.
“A perfect equality will indeed be produced; that is to say, equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary, and on the part of the partitioners, a woeful, helpless, and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above. They never raise what is below: and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest. [Thoughts and Details on Scarcity]”― Edmund Burke