Understanding America’s Political Spectrum
The American Founding Fathers Used a More Accurate YardstickGovernment is defined in the dictionary as "a system of ruling or controlling," and therefore the American Founders measured political systems in terms of the amount of coercive power or systematic control which a particular system of government exercises over its people. In other words, the yardstick is not political parties, but political power. Using this type of yardstick, the American Founders considered the two extremes to be anarchy on the one hand, and tyranny on the other. At the one extreme of anarchy there is no government, no law, no systematic control and no governmental power, while at the other extreme there is too much control, too much political oppression, too much government. Or, as the Founders called it, "tyranny." The object of the Founders was to discover the "balanced center" between these two extremes. They recognized that under the chaotic confusion of anarchy there is "no law," whereas at the other extreme the law is totally dominated by the ruling power and is therefore "Ruler's Law." What they wanted to establish was a system of "People's Law," where the government is kept under the control of the people and political power is maintained at the balanced center with enough government to maintain security, justice, and good order, but not enough government to abuse the people. The contrast between Ruler's Law (all power in the ruler) and People's Law (all power in the people) could be graphically illustrated as follows. Note where the power base is located under each of these systems. Also compare the relationship between the individual and the rest of society under these two systems.
Can you recognize Ruler’s Law in today’s governments?It is critical that people be educated to recognize the destructive elements of Ruler’s Law so they can immediately resist it and correct the course of government. This writer has found that instructing youth in these elements is particularly gratifying because they begin seeing what is really happening in America. Here are the basic characteristics of Ruler’s Law:
- Authority under Ruler's Law is nearly always established by force, violence, and conquest.
- Therefore, all sovereign power is considered to be in the conqueror or his descendants.
- The people are not equal, but are divided into classes and are all looked upon as "subjects" of the king.
- The entire country is considered to be the property of the ruler. He speaks of it as his "realm."
- The thrust of governmental power is from the top down, not from the people upward.
- The people have no unalienable rights. The "king giveth and the king taketh away."
- Government is by the whims of men, not by the fixed rule of law which the people need in order to govern their affairs with confidence.
- The ruler issues edicts which are called "the law." He then interprets the law and enforces it, thus maintaining tyrannical control over the people.
- Under Ruler's Law, problems are always solved by issuing more edicts or laws, setting up more bureaus, harassing the people with more regulators, and charging the people for these "services" by continually adding to their burden of taxes.
- Freedom is never looked upon as a viable solution to anything.
- The long history of Ruler's Law is one of blood and terror, both anciently and in modern times. Under it the people are stratified into an aristocracy of the ruler's retinue while the lot of the common people is one of perpetual poverty, excessive taxation, stringent regulations, and a continuous existence of misery.
The Founders' Attraction to People's LawThe Founders’ goal was to have a government that protected the unalienable rights of the people and otherwise left the people completely free to do as they will. The government was not to become oppressive of the people. Thus they put into a written Constitution such concepts as separation of powers, checks and balances, limited delegated powers, etc., to keep chains around the structure of government to keep it from moving to the left or right along the political spectrum. Jefferson described exactly the goal of the Founders when he noted: “We are now vibrating between too much and too little government, and the pendulum will rest finally in the middle.” In our teaching of the Constitution we like to call the position sought by the Founders on the political spectrum as the “balanced center.” It is balanced between too much and too little government. It is important to emphasize to our students of government that if they identify with the Founders’ positions on government they are not on some right-wing binge as some would attempt to label us, but we are actually in the “balanced center” of the political spectrum—right where the Founders were! It feels good to be a balanced person! In direct contrast to the harsh oppression of Ruler's Law, the Founders, particularly Jefferson, admired the institutes of freedom under People's Law as originally practiced among the Anglo-Saxons. As one authority on Jefferson points out:
"Jefferson's great ambition at that time  was to promote a renaissance of Anglo-Saxon primitive institutions on the new continent. Thus presented, the American Revolution was nothing but the reclamation of the Anglo-Saxon birthright of which the colonists had been deprived by a ‘long trend of abuses.’ Nor does it appear that there was anything in this theory which surprised or shocked his contemporaries; Adams apparently did not disapprove of it, and it would be easy to bring in many similar expressions of the same idea in documents of the time."
Characteristics of the Balanced Center position or People's LawHere are the principal points of People's Law which the Founders recognized in ancient Israel and in Anglo-Saxon Common Law culture. Once again, as this writer teaches these concepts to seniors in high school it becomes very apparent to them how far we have slid from the balanced center. These concepts create a feeling of optimism and hope in the human heart and are really a part of the Biblical concept of “the perfect law of liberty.”
- They considered themselves a commonwealth of freemen which means that all are equal and have the same obligation to perpetuate freedom for oneself and all others.
- All decisions and the selection of leaders had to be with the consent of the people, preferably by full consensus, not just a majority.
- The laws by which they were governed were considered natural laws given by divine dispensation, and were so well known by the people they did not have to be written down in detail.
- Power was dispersed among the people and never allowed to concentrate in any one person or group. Even in time of war, the authority granted to the leaders was temporary and the power of the people to remove them was direct and simple.
- Primary responsibility for resolving problems rested first of all with the individual, then the family, then the tribe or community, then the region, and finally, the nation.
- They were organized into small, manageable groups where every adult had a voice and a vote. They divided the people into units of ten families who elected a leader; then fifty families who elected a leader; then a hundred families who elected a leader; and then a thousand families who elected a leader.
- They believed the rights of the individual were considered unalienable and could not be violated without risking the wrath of divine justice as well as civil retribution by the people's judges.
- The system of justice was structured on the basis of severe punishment unless there was complete reparation to the person who had been wronged.
- They always attempted to solve problems on the level where the problem originated. If this was impossible they went no higher than was absolutely necessary to get a remedy. Usually only the most complex problems involving the welfare of the whole people, or a large segment of the people, ever went to the leaders of the nation for solution.