(NaturalNews) The U.S. Constitution, as written and intended by our founding fathers, was not a perfect document. But that's because, as humans, we are not perfect beings.
That said, the system of government enumerated in the Constitution -- a representative republic punctuated by and accentuated with pockets of democracy -- is about as close to a perfect governing system as human beings who desire freedom have thus far designed.
Its one weakness, however, has always been the nature of human beings; ambition and lust for power are enemies of any system that holds individual liberty sacrosanct, and our constitutional system is, of course, not immune.
A French philosopher, historian and noted observer of early America, Alexis de Tocqueville, once noted this innately human trait when he said, "There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle." He understood well that civilization was rife with examples of men who sought to claim power and authority not duly granted them by written document or by the people themselves.
History of transformation began with Wilson
Still, for the first century and a half, there was a majority of American leaders serving in the three branches of government who had enough interest and integrity to keep each other in check, as they jealously guarded their power. Our system was working pretty much as it was designed to. There were, of course, setbacks -- the Civil War was, of course, the most serious of these -- but overall, the three branches functioned as planned.
Beginning in the Progressive Era of Woodrow Wilson, however, all of that began to change. The states approved a constitutional amendment authorizing an income tax; the 17th Amendment, ending appointment of U.S. senators by state legislatures, was passed; and Woodrow Wilson became president. He was famously antagonistic to our constitutional system and Congress in particular; he believed in a "living Constitution" -- a document that was not rigid and specific in its limitations and enumerations but one that could be reinterpreted for the times. Before he was 30, and before he even visited Congress for the first time, he authored a tome called Congressional Government (note it was not titled Constitutional Government), in which he claimed that U.S. government was subject to "subtle" modifications. Congress was to legislate, he maintained, but that legislation was subject to parsing and interpretation by "executive agents" of government. In his tome, which served as his doctoral dissertation and was published in 1885, Wilson showed his favoritism for the European parliamentarian mode of government, believing that, after the Civil War, Congress became too powerful.
As they say, boy, have times changed.
Today, America is governed in a manner that more resembles Wilson's "executive agent" mode than either a British parliamentary system or the three-branch, separation of powers system established by the framers. The government's 400-plus federal bureaucracies -- a de facto fourth branch of government -- is controlled by the Executive Branch; through it, presidents issue executive orders as well as instructions to agencies to issue rules favoring the chief executive's policy priorities. These orders and rules have the force of law, but it's important to note that these agencies have been empowered by an increasingly errant Congress; lawmakers pass measures that create these agencies without adequately and succinctly defining their roles. In the end, the agencies themselves often define their roles -- roles which are summarily supported by a Supreme Court that justifies its rulings by referring back to the original legislation creating them. It's absurd.
As a result, Americans today are regulated, guided and micromanaged; every aspect of our lives is orchestrated, mandated and governed. There is so little personal freedom and liberty today as compared to the nation's founding that the framers would no longer recognize their work.
On Independence Day, it is as important to recognize where we are as it is to discuss how to get back to our founding roots; basically, it depends on all of us.
What we can - and should - do
For too long have too many of us sat on the sidelines, mindlessly voting for incumbent after incumbent (if we bothered to vote at all, but more on that in a moment), staying largely silent as successive congresses and presidents and a growing cast of federal agencies robbed us of more of our liberties. But historically, this wasn't the case; Americans have always been busy working, going to school, attending functions and living their lives, but now we use these as excuses not to get more involved in how we are governed. Through our inattentiveness, we've surrendered our incredible power.
The good news is, we can take it back. Here's a primer on what we can do to begin:
Get involved locally: All politics really are local, as the saying goes. Get involved in campaigns; go to town hall meetings; call your congressman (and state and local leaders); let them know that you're watching.
Learn the issues: One thing that today's politicians love is for us to be ignorant -- ignorant about what they're doing, ignorant of the process of government, ignorant of the issues. Our ignorance of the issues allows them to define them for us, which is like allowing a professional sports team to make up its own rules for the game. We can't call them on the issues if we don't know them or understand them.
Vote! One of the most underused and misunderstood tools we have as Americans is the power to vote. In the modern era, far less than the number of eligible voters bother to take time out perhaps a few times a year to make their voice heard (and if you think that vote tallies don't matter, you weren't around during the 2000 election, or you slept through it). In the 2012 election, fully 3 million Republicans who voted in 2008 did not vote in 2012; had they done so, we'd all be talking about President Mitt Romney today. Higher voting percentages among those qualified to do so would most definitely change election outcomes, I guarantee it.
Write your congressman! This isn't a cliche; constituent opinion on issues swings votes. It's a proven fact. And today, it's easier than ever; email makes the process about as effortless as it gets.
Without large majorities of Americans more fully engaged in our electoral process, it will never improve. In our stead have come the unions, the corporations and the big money special interests, and we've seen how that's been working out.
It's Independence Day; let's get busy taking back what rightfully belongs to us.