We’d like to think that our nation’s problems are related to policies. They’re not. Our problems are because, as a nation, we’ve lost our way. We’ve failed to hold true to the exceptional genius embodied in our Founding Documents that created the greatest form of government and the greatest country in human history.
When asked what the Founders gave us Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it”. I think we’re rapidly losing our republic.
John Locke provided the world with an elegant tenet: Consent of the governed. Locke’s theory states that if the people of a nation do not agree or "consent" to what their government is doing then it is not a legitimate government....and illegitimate governments have no power to govern the people. Primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government. The genius of Locke’s theory of government is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The Declaration of Independence and Washington State Constitution have virtually the same language: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,…” The consent of the governed is the inherent genius of these documents. It is also the fundamental precept increasingly dismissed by governments at all levels and is unknown or forgotten by citizens. Failure to adhere to consent of the governed is the root cause of the governance problems facing us today. We citizens have abrogated our responsibility to keep government in check by failing to exercise our consent at every attempt by government to impinge on our rights and freedoms. Government is all too willing to fill the void created when we citizens fail to exercise our consent.
If you feel like government is not doing what citizens want you’re not alone. Just 22% believe that government has the consent of the governed. If government is not what we want it to be it’s because we’ve shirked our responsibility to invoke our consent of the governed. Consequently, our individual natural rights and freedoms have eroded.
I believe the solution is more self-governance and less central governance. Self-governance is self-determined citizens exercising their individual liberty, personal and civic accountability, and responsibility for the control of instituted government.
Here are some suggested citizen actions:
· Remind officials about consent of the governed. Regularly remind government that their power to do anything comes from the consent of the governed.
· Inform and educate others. Make other citizens aware of their rights, freedoms, and what’s at stake.
· Exercise eternal vigilance and perseverance. The last sentence in the Declaration of Independence states, “We pledge to each our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” That requires both vigilance and perseverance.
· Exercise your civic authority. Every citizen has civic authority - the right, responsibility, and power to hold government officials accountable. This goes beyond voting. Each citizen has to be actively and positively engaged. When law-abiding citizens exercise their civic authority and practice civic responsibility they push the burden of government down and self-governance increases.
· Argue principles, not issues. Rarely does someone change another’s mind on an issue of importance yet that’s what many of us have tried to do in the past – argue our issues. Instead, argue why a given issue supports or violates a fundamental principle you believe in. Fundamental principles are just another name for our inherent, natural rights.
· Build credibility. Either earn credibility as an individual or acquire it as part of a group or team. Without credibility there is no opportunity to influence.
· Exercise citizen engagement. Vote. Contact elected officials with letters, emails, and calls. Make personal visits to officials and legislative bodies. Become a candidate for elected office.
· Learn to communicate effectively. Verbally, non-verbally (body language, gestures, facial expressions, etc), and written. Learn about your audience and craft your message accordingly.
· Find like-minded citizens and amplify your voice. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Organize a group then hone it into an effective team.
Time is running out. We’re losing our republic. If more citizens are made aware of what government is doing to violate citizens’ natural rights, if more citizens utilize their civic authority to lower the burden of government, and if more citizens routinely invoke consent of the governed we can turn this around. By exercising these self-governance principles we can restore our republic. Don’t wait for someone else to do it; become engaged - now.