Common Sense #3

This post continues the examination of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”.

OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, Continued.

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz., freedom and security. Better than I could have said it.

In his next paragraph, Paine posits that “the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered”.  This is true for many things in life.  In looking at the complexities of our current federal government simplicity is non-existant.  I am reminded of the flowchart for the 2010 health care bill.

In the next few paragraphs Paine examines the British constitution and monarchy of the time.  Paine says that absolute guvernments have the advantage of being simple, so that the people have the knowledge of what the cause of a particular problem is.  He then goes on to say that “the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies.  This is the truth today.

Paine examines the king, and believes that he is the baseline power of the British government (at the time).  The House of Lords is the remnants of “aristocratical tyranny”, and the House of Commons, elected by the people, is unable to truly represent the people and enforce what is best for them.  His key question is this:

“How came the king by a power which the people are afraid to trust, and always obliged to check? Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, neither can any power, which needs checking, be from God; yet the provision, which the constitution makes, supposes such a power to exist.”

In trying to answer this question for America today, it is not completely obvious what the preeminent power in our country would be.  I think between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government, the legislative is clearly the weakest.  While it holds the power of the purse, I see the legislative branch as the least free to do what it wants.   Others must implement its actions.  Between the judicial and executive branches, the judicial branch is by necessity reactive (you have to have standing before you can bring a suit and get a ruling).  This leaves the executive branch in the preeminent role in America today.

 

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