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Counting the votes before they are in

By Nancy Salvato
web posted March 1, 2010

Everyone can identify with foreshadowing, you know what I'm talking about, the part in a book or a movie or a play when you have that sense of foreboding that something isn't quite right, that the characters are celebrating too early. Maybe the real killer is still lurking out there, somewhere, waiting for the right moment to pounce. You're sitting on the edge of your seat, wanting to shout, wait, no, be careful! But to no avail. Sometimes, like in 24, the hero, Jack Bauer, comes in to save the day, just in a nick of time. Sometimes, as in Silence of the Lambs, the killer escapes the odds and disappears, no one knowing just when he will resurface. How many reincarnations of Jaws movies are there?

Events dont always come to what feels like proper closure, for example, in Gone Baby Gone, folks may question their values of right and wrong and wonder about whether the ends or the means is more justifiable. The point I'm making, if I haven't made myself abundantly clear, is that I'm feeling a bit unsettled whenever I read or hear about how optimistic Republicans are about the 2012 elections. As if status quo Republicans coming into more power will settle our problems.

The issues we are witnessing in our country are much bigger than the next election cycle. Perhaps a repudiation of those in power will stop the hemorrhaging, but I'm not convinced it will fix the problem. Before a problem can be fixed, we must agree there is a problem. And on this, we all do not agree.

The Founders of our country understood that we would never agree on all issues and so they put in a system of government that would protect our rights to disagree and pursue our lives in ways that would least interfere with one another. At the time of our founding, they recognized we needed to live as one people in communities across the country, but that we needed to respect our rights as individuals. They recognized that there was a balance involved in this and that sometimes the winds of change would shift the balance in one direction and then the winds would shift and the balance would fall in another direction, but the system was set up so that no majority or minority would be able to impose their ideas on others. This works if everyone is in agreement about the US Constitution being put into place as a limit on the powers granted to those we elect to federal office. Herein is the problem.

As Thomas Sowell explains, there are two philosophical visions on which we operate, both diametrically opposed to each other, one being a constrained vision and one being an unconstrained vision. Those who hold a constrained vision are more about process. For example, people have the right to the pursuit of happiness. This is a process. They have the right to the process. People with a constrained view believe in systems, rules, traditions, and institutions that evolve from the wisdom of the ages, not from a set of people who charge themselves with determining what is best for the rest of us, who believe themselves to be availed of more education and wisdom, and therefore suited to make such determinations. Finally, people with a constrained vision believe that it is the freedom to pursue trade, make money, own property that incentivizes people to get ahead, and that the bi-product of getting ahead is a wealthier society with more freedom and opportunity for everyone. I have no problem admitting to the idea that I have a much more constrained than unconstrained outlook.

This differs greatly from those who hold an unconstrained vision. Those who hold this view believe that the knowledge we hold at any given moment is greater than the knowledge passed through the ages. I liken this to a teenager who thinks that he or she knows more than the parent. A person with this view thinks of the US Constitution as a living document, not a binding contract or covenant, sacred, set in stone. There are some who hold office, yet show outright contempt for the US Constitution and the traditions of this country. Amending the Constitution by passing laws which are contrary to the document or interpreting laws which undermine the system of federalism, and making law through executive order are all ways in which our elected and appointed officials do not uphold the US Constitution. People with an unconstrained vision see no problem with redistributing wealth in our country to equalize the ends, as opposed to the means. They believe they can engineer our society to act on behalf of society, instead of accepting and understanding that people, most of the time, are motivated for themselves, yes, you can say that people usually have selfish motives. That isn't to say that people dont want to help others. Often, they do. But a likelier scenario is that a self-motivated person might become a famous inventor, and a bi-product of inventing something terrific is that society benefits. And so it goes. Usually people lean more in one direction or the other. It would be rare to find a person who holds an entirely constrained or entirely unconstrained vision.

There are generations of people who recognize there is a problem. Many people will vote in 2012 to stop the bleeding. But this will not address the problem at its root. People may recognize themselves as constrained or unconstrained visionaries. They may recognize where they want to draw their limits on behalf of others. But do they know why? Do they understand the history, philosophy, religious beliefs, or context that united the Founders in those 3 long hot months in Philadelphia? Do they understand the unique opportunity, system, wheels of motion set in place when our US Constitution was ratified? Do they realize what is at stake if they reject the covenant that we the people are all party to by virtue of being citizens in this great country? Do they really understand the alternatives?

Too often, I find myself going back to the words of probably one of the most unconstrained philosophers of the 1970s,

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til its gone, ya take paradise, put up a parking lot. ESR

Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country, specifically the threats of aggressive Islamofascism and the American Fifth Column. She serves as a Senior Editor for The New Media Journal. She is also a staff writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets. She received her BA in history from Loyola University and her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from National-Louis University. She is certified to teach in grades K-9 and 6-12 and as a teacher has worked with students in preschool, 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th grades. She has also worked as an adjunct instructor at the graduate school level. She continues to augment her education and areas of expertise in the style of Abraham Lincoln

 

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