GrAS EXAMINES social contracts and civil rights in a free society; DEFINES the terms of our social and political systems, and PROMOTES the paradigms of a liberal democracy: Specifically, that government is created by the will of the people, and can be dissolved by that same will. Cannabis laws are especially scrutinized as they so readily demonstrate the many political and social justice issues inherent in the legislative processes.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
TED CRUZ AND THE 2013 DEBT CRISIS: Notes on The Right and Duty to Revolt
Photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
Senator Ted Cruz talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Sept. 25, 2013
The Right and Duty to
Have our elected representatives of the Goverment violated their Social Contract with the people who empowered them?
Once again news, editorials and pundits repeat claims with
varying degrees of optimism that Washington is getting closer to a deal. It is
generally agreed that any Senate "deal" will be a temporary measure
to keep the government open until about January 15, 2014, and avert a global
financial crisis.Still, it places us in
the same situation again in a few months.
On one end of the spectrum, Joshua Green
of BloombergBusinessWeek writes that even if the Senate comes up
with a deal, Ted Cruz (R-TX) could manipulate the Senate rules preventing the
passing of any deal before the Thursday deadline[i].
contributors McAuliff and Siddiqui are cautiously optimistic that Congress can
agree on a deal, but concerned that the legislative bodies will be unable to
complete the complicated and fragile processes and procedures before the
January 17th deadline on US borrowing capabilities. Also hopefully optimistic,
Senator Schumer (D-NY) told Face the Nation that he believed a deal would be
reached, citing the sequester cuts as a way to "spark a
conversation", while Senator McCain (R-AZ) called the sequester a
"sticking point" in negotiations.[iii]
With government services closed and only days from reaching
the Country's borrowing limit, President Obama has taken to the podium in an
attempt to define the terms that have divided Congress and shut down the daily
business of the government, specifically, the cryptic verbiage of the
complicated US budgetary system. Our elected representatives appear flippant to
the consequences of a financial default, each party, branch and faction blaming
the other while meting out fallacious arguments.
The most frequent fallacy that these professional persuaders
present is that of the false dilemma, claiming only two possible outcomes to
the current Congressional/Executive stalemate over funding the government.Yet any debater worth their premise
understands that truth is multifaceted, and few issues are dichotomous: There
are as many possible outcomes to any situation as the mind is capable of considering.
Although we've been offered only two choices, there are infinite possibilities.
"The bounds of possibility, in moral matters, are less
narrow than we imagine:it is our
weaknesses, our vices, and our prejudices that confine them" wrote
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an 18th Century philosopher whose ideas were set down in
his political treatise "The Social Contract" (1769).
"Clear them out and start over!" is an oft heard
sentiment these days as the publics' frustration with their elected leaders
grows.The Congressional approval rating
is under twenty five percent, and the majority of the Country is
dissatisfied.While Washington makes a
weak attempt to reverse a self-created crisis, the public is becoming
increasingly vocal for change.
But how do we, the people, determine the course of action
that would create a revolutionary change of political and economic power and
policy?How do we agree that the
government has become untenable and undeniably broken?
An understanding of the philosophies of free and democratic
nations is essential, as is examining how other major paradigmatic changes have
come about in the past. After more than Two Hundred and Twenty years, it is a
generally accepted warrant that our Constitution is a brilliantly viable document
that has proved its ability to create the greatest nation in the world. A
cursory review of modern and contemporary political thought reminds us of the
contentious and often bloody history of western democracy. Yet the paradigms of
government by consent and the equality of man, delineate both a right and a duty
to revolt against an unjust body politic.
Fair and open elections combined with universal,
unencumbered suffrage is the most effective, democratic, moral and nonviolent
method for changing the members of the government. On October 14, NBC News questioned if fair
elections were even possible, claiming that assignment of districts have been
Gerrymandered (manipulated to ensure specific party dominance), assuring
re-election of the ultra-conservative minority.Add to that voter apathy and the chances of electing an entirely new
Congress becomes even more challenging.
Hobbes and Locke
Thomas Hobbes (b.1588-d.1679) is considered a founder of
modern political philosophy, proposing his philosophical discourse on civil
society and authoritarianism in his analytical work Leviathan. This,
probably his most famous work, established much of the foundations of western
politics. Leviathan also developed liberal democracy fundamentals, such
as the right of the individual and the natural equality of all men.
Hobbes' concepts supported representative government at the will of the people.
Hobbes believed that individuals entered into a social
contract and civil society to avoid a state of war, with the instinct of
self-preservation. The civil society described by Hobbes begins with the
"state of nature", which Hobbes describes as "solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish, and short".Hobbes
supports this under the premise that men, being rational beings, desire both power
and their own preservation; and, that men's greatest fear is a violent death at
the hands of another human. To reconcile these axioms with the state of nature,
Hobbes claims that man must relinquish his power to an authoritarian
The fallacy of this claim is ironically familiar to our
present day Legislative-Executive standoff.Hobbes gives citizens only two choices: either subjugation or a state of
Although Hobbes prescribes absolute authority to governments,
he believed that the government derives its original authority from the people,
and maintains this power only so long as it successfully keeps peace.There is no place in Hobbes' society for revolution; however failure to
adhere to the social contract voids it and returns society to a state of war.
By not providing for the financial solidarity of the
Country, has today's Legislature voided their vow and larger contract to defend
the Constitution, and their personal contract with those States they were
elected to represent?
English philosopher John
Locke (1634-1704) claimed in his Second Treatise of Government that people have a duty to revolt
against an unjust government. The right of a people to dissolve their government
has been a generally accepted concept especially within the liberal democracy
Locke describes two ways in which governments can be
dissolved. The first is from without, as when a nation is conquered by a
foreign force and the society is dissolved. The purpose of a government is to
protect the society from dissolution. If it does not, a breach of the social
contract has transpired because it "ought to have preserved them from
A second way that government can be dissolved is from
within. Locke claims that when the
condition exists that has altered the legislature in some way, the government
is then dissolved.According to Locke’s
principals, government can be dissolved when the legislature is no longer
acting according to the rules it has set for itself, such as when a government refuses or neglects its executive
powers and fails to enforce the laws in effect.Has the legislature voided the government by withholding the necessary
elements for the executive branch to function effectively?
All members of Congress take a vow of loyalty to uphold the
Constitution against enemies, "foreign or domestic".What of the dissolution of society by a FACTION,
foreign or domestic?A domestic faction
which has found its way into an elected body may be even more poised to
dissolve the society without direct violence by influencing and blocking the
necessary business of the Administration, causing widespread disruption and
changes in the workings of the legislative process.
According to Locke, individuals have a right to prevent such
happenings:"The reason why men
enter into society is the preservation of their property".A government that has failed the duty it was
engaged for puts itself into "a state of war with the people and are left
to...force and violence" (qtd in Locke’s 2nd Treatise of
The Contemporary Manifestation of Revolution
These philosophies, consent of the governed and the
duty to revolt against an unjust government have been manifested in
American contemporary politics as non-violent, passive-resistant direct
action.While the right and duty of
revolution in modern history (16th-19th C.) reflects the violent dissolution of
societies and their governments, contemporary thinkers harbor the concepts of
social contracts and the duty to revolt as necessary to bring about non-violent
political modernization of laws that are unjust and governments that have
Henry David Thoreau
In 1848, Henry David Thoreau listed grievances against the
American Government, not the least of which was the issue of slavery.Thoreau claimed in his famous pamphlet Civil
Disobedience that the current situation required "at once a better
government" and reminded the American public of their right to refuse
allegiance to a government which has become "unendurable".Distinct in Thoreau's approach to the right
of revolution however, was the concept of passive resistance.
It is not a man's duty to eradicate "even the most
enormous wrong", writes Thoreau of the issue of slavery, "but it is
his duty not to give it practically his support."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Thoreau's concept of revolt through non-violence was the
cornerstone of Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement
and contemporary manifestation of the duty to revolt without violence.From a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated
"direct action", a non-violent form of resistance, against Southern
segregation laws. In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King admonishes the
white clergy for failing to support his organized resistance movement to
illegal and unjust segregation laws in Alabama, and lists in graphic detail the
suffered wrongs, this time by the Negro in the status quo government of
Alabama.King justifies his belief in
non-violent direct action as the best recourse for righting civil wrongs by
creating a crisis situation and establishing "creative tension" to
force the Birmingham authorities to recognize their wrongful deeds and enter
into negotiations. Letter was not only a call for support of the passive
resistant movement, but also came to be a prescription for the implementation
of a non-violent revolt.[v]
The Great Society Days
1960's and the early 1970's saw a great outpouring of reform literature, much
of which called for a restructuring of administrative government. Social
philosopher John Rawls had much in common with early philosophers, with an
added emphasis of liberal democracy and the challenge of creating a "just
society".Like Hobbes, Rawls also
believed that people act on self-interest; however, according to Rawls they are
capable of acting rationally through planning. Rawls' theories were presented just after the
"Great Society" days begun by President Lyndon B. Johnson. During
this period, the administration created and funded many new social programs,
such as MediCare and Welfare. The repercussion of the Great Society programs
was one of the most wide-spread anti-statism movements in history. Thus, his
philosophy was criticized for supporting the foundation of the Welfare State,
during the politically conservative era following the Great Society days.
Contract with America
"Contract with America" was another symptom of a decline in the
integrity of the American civil society and their social contract with the
American Government.Presented by then
minority leader Newt Gingrich and Representative Richard (Dick) Armey, this
ten-point legislative program promised reform in many federal programs,
reversing the efforts of "The Great Society" days.Based on a State's Rights argument, the
Contract awarded large block grants in place of Federal programs into the
jurisdiction of individual states. Presented six weeks before a Congressional
election, the document laid out specific legislative actions it would take to
reform the government, should the Republicans win the majority in the House of
Representatives.When the GOP took over
the 104th Congress, they gave credit to the Contract with America, and chose
Newt Gingrich as the new Speaker of the House.
Has our government become unendurable? Does the Legislative
Body represent the American ideal?Has
there been a breach in the Government's constitutional and statutory compact
with U.S. citizens?Does a default of
the Government's global contracts constitute a state of war among the populace
and void authority?How does a society
agree on unjust laws and government? (See How does a society agree that a law is unjust?)
History proves the ability of a social contract to resolve
or dissolve the creation of a political order. Review of political history and
infrastructure reminds us of the fluidity of the political body and the issue
of trust in those who have been granted power over the masses. Once again, the
conversation surrounding government reform is growing. Yet for most, the
workings (or non-workings) of the Federal government creates more questions
than it does answers.
Green, J. (2013) http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-14/ted-cruz-could-force-a-debt-default-all-by-himself#!
McAuliff, M and Siddiqui, S.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/senate-budget-deal_n_4099135.html