The struggle of the ages has been for mankind, the individuals that make up mankind, to find the proper balance between individual and group sovereignty. Sovereignty includes the power of choice, and of freedom to make choices of thought, word, and deed. As long as there is just one individual choices can be essentially unlimited, even destructive or fatal choices are permitted, as there is no one else to consider, prohibit or to limit them.
However, as soon as two or three people, or more, become involved, it becomes obvious that some individual choices must be limited so as not to harm or interfere with the choices of the others. So individuals in a group setting are somewhat different. Then customs, rules and laws must come into play that allow all fair considerations in the exercise of their sovereignty of choice in relation to all others in the group. Sensible laws are little more than a formalization of sensible rules and customs. Customs evolve into common law.
The ideal is that all should exist and co-exist in balance and harmonious association. Each should pull his/her own weight in contributing to group welfare as well as individual welfare. When either individual or group consideration become unbalanced, dissonance results and relationships are inharmonious, stressful, and unpleasant.
So it is that all “civilized” government and its accompanying laws and economics have evolved, This was once a long, slow process, with change (good or bad) coming gradually, over decades and generations, except in times of natural or man-made catastrophe like wars, famines, floods, or climate changes. These sudden changes introduced chaos, our of which new orders arose, rapidly or gradually, depending on conditions. Recently, with the industrial revolution, and scientific and technological “progress”, the ways entire peoples get their educations and essential information about their world have been changing. Communications that once took months and years now are almost instantaneous through modern media, satellites, radio and TV waves, and wired and wireless communications networks.
Societies and civilizations can now have their opinions and behaviors modified for better or worse very rapidly through mass communications. Our founding fathers, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, et al, fully realized that a democratic republic could only be maintained via an informed and educated citizenry. Franklin, when asked what kind of government the constitutional convention had given our new nation, the USA, replied: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it”.
Ben Franklin realized the forces of tyranny and despotism were deep-rooted and pervasive, and that self-government was going to prove a difficult task, perhaps an impossible one. Most of our founding fathers also knew full well that if our republican government failed, it would be from within, and not from without. The USA was blessed with natural continental protections that kept it from serious forcible threat from other nations, unlike the nations of Europe or Asia, or even South America.
So, if most of our founding fathers did not believe our nation could be conquered or overthrown from outside our borders, what did they fear, and warn us about?
This will be the topic of our next blog, and future blogs.
Jere L Hough