Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thomas Jefferson's reset button: Americans have a duty to resist tyrannical government

Washington Times
July 1, 2010

These days, most commentary on the Declaration of Independence focuses on the implications of the passage that "all men are created equal [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Dwelling on that passage might surprise Thomas Jefferson, who thought it was self-evident. The argument that flowed from his premises is more important, namely that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and when the relationship shifts to the point where government becomes a threat to the lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness of the people, it is government - not the people - that must change.

A government becomes corrupt when it abuses the power derived from the people by doing things that harm the polity and when it acts primarily as a servant of its own interests. This definition of illegitimate government has a history going back at least to Aristotle, though the 17th-century philosopher John Locke, in his "Two Treatises of Government," gave it a form that would have been more familiar to American colonists. Beyond a certain point, when the actions of government become intolerable, the people have not only a right but a duty to reclaim their inalienable sovereignty and start over. This must be done, as Jefferson said, to "provide new Guards for their future security."