“A Republic, If You Can Keep It”

Our Constitution is 225 years old this week. In a famous story, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Constitutionally limited government was our new country’s distinctive characteristic. But while we have rights as individuals, we are also members of society. Limited government works best when our common values act as our rights’ line of first defense. John Witherspoon, a member of the Continental Congress from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote: “A Republic must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.”

Personal virtue, honesty, responsibility, and courtesy are the basis of relationships, communities, and a sound marketplace. Expanding government regulations will fill the vacuum created when people don’t respect each other, keep their word, or deal fairly with others. Every time we experience an epic failure of honesty, integrity, and justice, government responds with thousands of pages of laws and regulations.

Defending American freedom and minimizing intrusive government require both standing up for our founding principles and proactively living with integrity. “Character,” it is said, “is doing what is right when no one is looking.” If we do that, we’ll keep our Republic. When we don’t, government will arbitrate, and regulation will increasingly dictate every aspect of American life.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland program at Cascade Policy Institute.

Learn more at cascadepolicy.org.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Federal Government, Government Regulation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Judahlevi

    This article has good intentions, but misses a few very important points. Our “first” line of defense is not our community values, it is our individual and natural rights. The country was not founded on community rights – it was founded on individual rights. The primary, and most important, purpose of government is to assure that our individual rights are respected and protected.
    It is also not government’s responsibility to make us all “respect” each other. Respect is earned not given. Honesty, as in enforcing business contracts and preventing the theft of private property, is a government function but limited to these activities.
    Government cannot, and should not, try to control the “community” or groups within the community. There are no separate “group” rights, only individual rights. By enforcing individual rights, including the right to individual property, government is doing its job. Anything more than this excessive use of governmental power.

    • 3H

      Actually, wouldn’t you consider States Rights to be, in essence, a group right? And this country was founded, in part, on the group right of each State to govern itself independently of the Federal government – which is why states could take away individual liberties and rights (slavery, 2nd class status of women, establishment an official state church, etc…) until the ratification of the Fourteenth amendment which extended the Bill of Rights to the states.

      • Judahlevi

        No, I would not consider State rights to be a “group” right. And the 14th amendment was passed by all Republicans voting yes, with no Democrat votes. So much for which political party has a better civil rights record.
        More reading: An historic apology, issued unanimously on January 20, 2007 by the North Carolina Democratic Executive Committee, composed of over 700 party leaders and activists from 100 counties, resulted from the1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report of May 31, 2006. The report concluded that the Democratic Party was solely responsible for that 1898 murderous rampage against blacks. That reign of terror led to the Democratic Party takeover from Republicans, mainly black Republicans, who controlled the City of Wilmington during Reconstruction. The report, which was commissioned by the state of North Carolina and contains the gruesome details about the killing of black Americans and the usurping of governmental powers by the Democrats, can be found on the Internet at: http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/1898-wrrc/

        • DavidAppell

          Definitely! Because if we know anything for sure, it’s that Democrats of today are responsible for what happened in 1898.

          Have you looked into the Pleistocene??

          • Judahlevi

            The North Carolina Democratic Executive Committee issued an apology in 2007, which means they did feel responsible for their actions of 1898. If not, then tell me why they issued the official apology five years ago?

          • DavidAppell

            I do not speak for them — why would you assume I do?

          • 3H

            Because, evidently in the mind of Judah, he believes in group guilt… as long as liberals and Democrats are the group. All the crimes and hypocrisy committed under the name of the Democratic Party, or by liberals, make you guilty as well. Wanna bet he’s willing to accept the same?

          • 3H

            You are, of course, willing to accept Republican responsibility for the genocide committed against Native Americans, yes?

        • 3H

          I don’t believe I mentioned a word about civil rights records or which party passed the fourteenth amendment. Now, if we can get back to the topic rather than spinning off on a tangent….

          Why wouldn’t states rights be a group right? A state is not an individual, but rather is a community of people living with the borders of the state. A state is not an individual, and the governor, and other officials, represent the entire body of the electorate – and act in their behalf. How is that not a group right? In fact, states did routinely limit individual rights (such as voting). They routinely pass and administer laws for the benefit of the state… or the group.

        • 3H

          If you get hung up on labels.. such as Democrat or Republican.. you are going to fail at understanding history. The Democratic party of today is not the Democratic party of 100 years ago. The same can be said of the Republican Party.

          Southern Democrats have been, generally, more conservative than Northern Democrats. This has been generally understood by commentators of both sides of the political spectrum and was a key to Nixon’s Southern strategy: he got southern Democrats to not vote reflexively for Democrats — helped in large part by Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

          The picture is much more complicated than your simplistic dichotomy suggests.

          • Judahlevi

            Gee, I thought we weren’t going to be “spinning off on a tangent…” Couldn’t help yourself – I know.

            Yes, Democrats have been trying to avoid their party’s history for years, but it is your history, not the Republican party’s history. The Republican party never formed the KKK, they were Democrats. The Republican party’s first president, Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves, not the Democrats who wanted slavery to continue. The 14th amendment was passed by Republicans, not Democrats. Etc.

            And no, it is not explained by Nixon’s Southern strategy which is a pathetically weak attempt by Democrats to cleanse themselves of their racist past. It doesn’t work. It is your political party’s history, not ours, not ever. Own it.

          • 3H

            I was simply responding to what you had posted. My bad. I could have ignored it, but I did respond to what I considered the major point of my original post, and then responded to your non-response in a second one. I’m sorry if this has confused you.

            My history? Are you under the mistaken impression that I am a Democrat? You do like jumping to assumptions, don’t you? But, I get the idea that you prefer to put people into little boxes, and then call the day done. Pretty intellectually lazy, don’t you think? In fact, sounds pretty much like group-think to me: Liberals [or Democrats] are [insert broad over-generalization here].

            So, given all the great things that Republicans did… 100 years ago… what happened to them? Must be a source of disappointment to realize how great they once were.

          • DavidAppell

            Somehow, I don’t think understanding history is “Judah’s” foremost concern….

        • 3H

          By the way, which party has members pushing for the repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment?

  • DavidAppell

    The US Constitution was written at an extremely different time than today: the population of the US was less than 1/100th of today’s value, technology as we know it barely existed, and the problems of that age only intersect somewhat with the problems of our age.

    The Founders — rich men, privileged men, men who were necessarily bound by the myopia of their age — had some good ideas. But they were propertied men and privileged men, and an overarching concern for private property no longer serves society well.

    In a time when it’s clear that what someone does with their private property affects the entire planet, property rights much necessarily be scaled back — and they will be (and are).

  • Judahlevi

    “OregonCatalyst is a place for conservative Oregonians to gather and share news, commentary, and gossip.”

    I think 3h, David, ardbeg and any others who are not “conservatives” should consider if this is the right place for them. After all, the site says a place for “conservatives” to gather. From what I have read from each one of you, none of the names mentioned are “conservatives.” So why are you here?

    • ardbeg

      I’m for personal responsibility, smaller fed and state gov, I don’t mind paying taxes but I don’t want them wasted. I don’t mind that we have a safety net for people who truly need it, but can’t stand the abuse and waste of the programs. I support the 2nd amendment. I want the government to get out of peoples lives and to quit telling individuals what they can and cannot do. That makes me a liberal?
      I don’t know why you would only want conservatives on OC in the first place. If all you want to do is preach to the choir you can stand in front of a mirror and that guy will agree with you 100% of the time. I usually learn something from the expression of ideas and sometimes I re-evaluate my position by learning something new. Try it, you might like it.

      • Judahlevi

        You may find discussions with conservatives boring, I do not. Conservatives, in my opinion, are some of the most stimulating and free thinking people in the country. Their whole philosophy is one based on individual freedom versus the collectivism, central planning, and groupthink of liberals. I don’t come here to read the Democrat Socialist Republic of Oregon party line – there is enough of that out there.

        • ardbeg

          “You may find discussions with conservatives boring”, obviously not. Why would I? I’ve agreed/disagreed with some of the Cons on this site and the same for some of the Libs. Your original post had nothing to do with the article so lets hear your opinions about the article. Here are mine: “But while we have rights as individuals, we are also members of society”. I would totally agree with the authors statement. Would you? I recall some possible disagreement from you about what I and others call “the commons”. The author uses “members of a society” which to me is akin to the commons. We all in this together, we want safe schools and streets, we want national parks and libraries, we want an economy that allows prosperity, etc, etc, etc.
          “Expanding government regulations will fill the vacuum created when
          people don’t respect each other, keep their word, or deal fairly with
          others. Every time we experience an epic failure of honesty, integrity,
          and justice, government responds with thousands of pages of laws and regulations.” Another authored statement I totally agree with. Though I’m disappointed the author didn’t offer a solution of how to deal with these epic failures besides the laws and regulations imposed by the government. How do you think they should be dealt with?

          • Judahlevi

            My “original post” was indeed directed at the article and is found below these posts. You can read it to see my initial reaction. I was not impressed with the line of thinking in the article.

    • 3H

      Because I like to debate, and I get easily bored on sites where I agree with much of what is posted.

      There are no rules against liberals, and the moderators have had ample opportunity to ask me to please stop posting. And, if they did, I would.

      If you want a site that is scrubbed of liberal viewpoints I would suggest that you create your own website and make it clear that liberal opinions are not welcome.

      • valley person

        Damn….you know what? Juda is right. I never noticed that Catalyst was a place for conservative Oregonians! Doh!

        • Judahlevi

          VP, you are another person who doesn’t fit. And from what I have seen of your posts, they do nothing but try to insult other posters and add zero value to any discussion. We can get your groupthink at Huffington Post or any other far left site.

          • valley person

            Juda, in my defense its hard to “add value” to discussions that amount to people yelling at empty chairs. What I try to do here is give the chair a bit of a voice, knowing full well that you and other so-called conservative posters prefer a chair that does not talk back..

          • Judahlevi

            That wasn’t me, it was Clint Eastwood.
            My problem is that many of you ‘liberal’ types always come up with the same argument based on the same faulty ideology and then try to convince conservatives you have something new. You don’t.
            If you haven’t noticed, Oregon is a blue state. The public universities turn out nothing but groupthink, speech codes, and politically correct liberals. The only free thinkers from our university system are conservatives. It takes a truly independent mind to come out of an Oregon university as a conservative. I would rather engage an independent mind than to hear over and over again the mantra that it “takes a village.”

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