Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Political Middle Class

In my previous post, I delineated my view that small business owners are the middle class. This is of course an economic definition, and while these individuals can weld political power just as any other citizen, there is a middle class built into our political structure.

If you look at how we operate today, there appears to be only two tiers or classes of people - the ruled and the rulers. You are either a citizen or an elected official. In theory of course, this could work as the people elect the officials. Thankfully, our founders were smart enough to set up a system that can work in the real world, not just in theory.

Take a good look at the Constitution. Now everyone is aware that we have three branches of government which share power and are intended to keep each other in check. There are also three different political entities specifically delineated in the Constitution. These are the federal government, the citizens, and the states.

States rights, unfortunately, has become a passe cause since the end of the Civil War. In fact, our teaching of this period in history seems designed to ignore the entire issue of states rights. Let's start with the name a civil war is a conflict in which one group within a nation attempts to wrest power from some other ruling faction. In the Civil War, the southern states attempted to secede from the union. This is not the same as taking over by any stretch of the imagination. This more like a petulant child getting angry with his playmates, collecting up his toys, and going home.

The fact of the matter is that there were two issues at stake during the War of Southern Secession - slavery and states rights. Each side was right on one issue and wrong on the other. To press the point, slavery was already declining in viability during the time leading up to the war. Slavery worked under an agrarian economy, but the time of agrarian-based economies was ending. Much of the world, including the south was developing an industrial base. Most leaders in the south knew the time of slavery was ending. It was a common issue of discussion -- what would the future look like? Further, many of the political leaders in the north where not ardent abolitionists -- they just wanted to press the advantage against the faltering south. In other words, they wanted to kick someone who was already down. I imagine the true believers in abolition were only conditionally happy with the political support they got from these types. It's probably akin to the reaction within those of us who have loved this nation much of our lives have to the people who began wearing flag pins after 9/11.

But enough of the history lesson. The political power retained by the states in the Constitution is intended to be a bulwark against federal hegemony and the degradation of individual rights. The checks placed on states' powers in the Constitution serve two purposes: protect individual rights and protect the small range of powers held exclusively by the federal government.

Then by virtue of their place in the Constitution, the states are the middle class of our political structure. Most people would acknowledge that our economic middle class has been squezzed for the past few decades. An honest view of history shows that our political middle class has been under attack for over a century.

If you truly love the United States of America, if you admire the Constitution of our country as one of the greatest documents crafted by the mind of man, then you must stand up and fight for our political middle class. If you cherish individual rights (the actual rights laid out in the Constitution, not the ones concocted in the fevered imaginings of unelected judges) then you must defend states' rights. If the political middle class is completely subsumed by the federal government, then you can kiss your individual rights away -- they'll be gone eventually.