Time For A New Convention?

What is a "government" and what is it for?

The time has long passed to ask ourselves this fundamental question.

Far be it from me to undertake an extensive "scholarly" analysis of the various forms of governments throughout history, their pros and cons, their origins and evolutions, and whatnot. Nor is it my intent to discuss the nuts and bolts of governing.

Rather, allow me to present to you my humble thoughts on what democratically elected governments are for - in other words, why we go through the process of electing people to represent us and govern in our (individual) stead. And of course, I'll be focusing on Canada and the U.S.A.

Expand the post +/-

Aside from the obvious fact that Canada is a parliamentary-based democracy and the U.S.A. is a Republic-based one, the two share basic similarities in levels of government.

The very first level is the municipal one. Representatives and Mayors (leaders of municipal governments) are elected to City Councils in order to govern the affairs of municipalities, both small and greater. Same thing applies with agglomerated municipalities, whereby Burroughs elect representatives and Mayors for themselves, as well as for the overall Agglomerated Greater Municipality Council.

The second level of government is Provincial (in Canada) or State (in the U.S.A.). Here, representatives and leaders (Governors/Provincial Prime Ministers) are elected to govern the affairs of the greater geographically/territorially-defined entity under which many municipalities are regrouped.

Then we have the last level, the Federal, whereby representatives and leaders (Presidents/Prime Ministers) are elected to govern the affairs of countries, entities which regroup numerous states/provinces.

My intent today is not to discuss the distribution of powers and jurisdictions of governing between these three ascending levels of government. Rather, my presentation of these three levels serves as the set up to discuss the question I asked right at the top on this article: what is a government and what is it for?

First and foremost, governments are needed to provide and maintain basic communal services for all citizens - be it power (e.g. electricity), running water, sewage systems/water recycling, garbage collection and disposal, snow removal in the winter, road/bridge maintenance or construction, communal transport (buses, trains, shuttles, etc.), schools, and so on. Governments are also there to act as watchdogs in our stead to preserve and defend our immediate territory against those who would appropriate it for themselves, exploit it or outright steal it. Hence zoning and permits for land buys, constructions (residential or industrial), and so on. Likewise for the role of maintaining proper communal peace and protection from crime - thus they are to make laws and provide the necessary policing services to ensure that said laws are respected by all. Then there is also a need to ensure the flow of goods in and out of the agglomeration - thus the need for regulating trade and the responsibility of managing communal trade agreements within a given municipality, as well as with other municipalities. In short: to manage the economics of the municipality so that prosperity is not only brought about, but maintained at the very least.

Hence why we need at least a municipal level of government, to which we pay taxes in order to allow it to provide those basic services that we require as individual communities.

However, whenever communities gather themselves within a larger geographical and territorial association, such as the State or Province, then a new level of communal services is required for said greater whole. The sovereignty of the greater territory must be protected and defended. Land-based communications such as roads, waterways and railways, must be established and maintained between municipalities for travel and trade. The vast unsettled landscapes must be preserved and managed against those who would appropriate it for themselves, exploit it or outright steal it. A need for harmonization of civil and criminal laws between all municipalities requires State/Provincial laws and the resources to enforce/police them. Same thing for health services. There is also the need to manage the economics of the greater territory, such as harmonization of trade between individual municipalities as well as establishing trade with other, similar greater territories. Often, by necessity, such a level of government will take charge of many other responsibilities of the individual municipalities, if only to ensure harmony between all of them. One could see this as an evolutionary step in governing at a greater scale, out of the individual agglomeration level. The human need to form alliances and friendships in order to create a greater common good is as much a driving force here than at its original level of agglomeration.

Hence why we have the Provincial/State level of government, to which we pay taxes in order to allow it to provide those basic services that we require as citizens of such individual, "small countries".

But of course, the need for alliances and friendship to ensure a greater common good of prosperity and security does not end here, whereby States/Provinces come together (by choice or by whim of history, whether as a union or confederation, however tight or loose it may be) to form a larger country - Canada or the U.S.A., in this case. It is typically at this third, higher level of government that responsibilities such as maintaining an army, managing the currency, preserving/managing even vaster, unsettled landscapes and natural resources, or managing overall economics and trade between member states/provinces as well with other countries, come into play. In short, it will be usually a matter of necessity that such a level of government will often take charge of many other responsibilities of the individual states/provinces, if only to ensure harmony between all of them. One could see this as yet another evolutionary step in governing at an even greater scale, out of the individual state/provincial level.

Hence why we have the Federal level of government, to which we pay taxes in order to allow it to provide those basic services that we require as citizens of such individual, countries.

Of course, such an incremental superseding of levels of government will, and do, lead to instances of chicanery with regards as to which level has jurisdiction over which service to provide and/or manage and, consequently, at which level specific taxes are paid by the citizens. But that is merely an expression of the inherent adaptive/evolutive nature of such type of democratically elected, incremental level of governance.

The real point to emphasise here is that a government, regardless of whether it lies at the municipal, state/provincial or federal level, has one - and only one - purpose: to preserve and protect our rights and civil liberties, while dispensing those services that we require - and yes, one such service is the encouragement of the creation of riches and prosperity ... for us.

In other words: a government is by nature and definition a non-profit organization which we entrust and hold accountable, by giving to it the monies that are necessary for the performance of its function.

No more, no less.

Therefore, as a tax-paying citizen, I demand the following:

Enough with attempting to run a government like a business;

Enough with the outsourcing of services which are supposed to be provided by a government;

Enough with by-passing the basic provisions of our constitutions by forming without our expressed consent (such as a national referendum) supra-governmental organizations like the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America;

Enough with putting aside our constitutional rights and civil liberties in the name of the false god of security;

Enough with treating big business like "privileged", favored citizens not beholden to any laws ("regulations"), unlike the rest of us;

Enough with forcibly (i.e. through war) attempting to impose our democratic values to other countries;

Enough with the lack of ethics in government;

Enough with the unrestrained access of lobbyists;

Enough with the erosion of the separation between church and state;

Enough with the nauseating, arrogant "Father-knows-best" act by treating us like children;

Enough is quite enough.

The time has long come for a New Convention, whereby we the citizens reaffirm the original purpose and function of our governments. For despite all the complexities of the world, one fundamental truth has ever remained unchanged:

Government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Whether for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or for peace, order and good government, this truism constitutes nevertheless the founding stone of our democratic values.

What say you?

(Cross-posted from APOV)


Related Posts with Thumbnails