Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Two Parties and the Balance of Power: President Washington’s Farewell Address

 The founders of our nation never intended on a two party system, and it needs to end. I have reproduced a portion of George Washington's farewell address (it is part of the public domain). I felt it necessary to translated it into more common, modern language. Let's face it, our public education isn't what the founders envisioned, either (those guys were wordy). Feel free to read both or skip ahead to my translation, either way, weigh in (constructively) with your opinion on our current system or my translating skills.

“Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

“This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

“Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

“It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

“There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”

Excerpt verses 20 through 26

Farewell Address
George Washington, with the assistance of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
United States - September 17, 1796

2012 Translation by Yours Truly

Let me do a thorough examination, and seriously caution you against the destructive or poisonous effects of organizing people with common political opinions and purposes into groups for gaining political influence and governmental control (political parties).

As emotional beings, we cannot escape from forming alliances with like-minded individuals, it is human nature. All governments suffer from division and taking sides, however, it is smothered or subdued to different degrees. This dissection is antagonistic in the most prevalent forms of government, and is particularly strong.

The passing of control back-and-forth between parties while punishing each other for maintaining different opinions promotes oppression and abuse of authority (as well as the root cause of many heinous acts against other people in the history of civilization). The tyranny of the two party political system will become permanent. The resulting confusion and hopelessness has a tendency to make people look to one leader, a dictator, for security and peace. Eventually, one of the party leaders “more able or more fortunate than his competitors,” will take advantage of this situation, filling the role of “wise leader,” and destroying Public Liberty.

While always keeping this unfortunate scenario in mind, but not dwelling on it, it is the people’s duty to discourage and limit the antics of the opposing parties.

The constant arguing, banter, and revenge tactics employed by opposing parties distract from the issues of substance and handicaps progress. It makes people turn on one another over minutia, fuels unfounded hatred and bigotry, and encourages disorder, revolt, and rebellion. By promoting selfish agendas, it invites foreign bodies into the affairs of the republic, corrupting our system of rule. Therefore, the course of action and the power of choosing the course of action will not belong to the United States of America, it would be that of interfering foreign factions.

If we bowed to a king or queen, there may be advantages to partisan politics. It could serve to promote the principles of Liberty and be desirable for Patriotism. Not so in a government made of elected officials. If the intentions are pure, Liberty and Patriotism will always be present. Public opinion should be to keep the parties in check, as going beyond what is proper is always a threat. “A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” (I like that line too much to translate it.)

We have three branches of government for a reason, checks and balances. It is important for elected and appointed officials to know their role and respect the role of others. Politicians overstepping their bounds could easily consolidate our three branches into one, thus promoting tyranny. If you look honestly at humans’ infatuation with power and money, you will know this to be true. Keeping the three branches separate and independent, protecting them from one another, has been tried experimentally by us and civilizations before us. The architects of our government felt it important to implement the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, and it is now the duty of the people to protect them. The constitution may be amended if it is the opinion of the people that the division of power and duties amongst the three branches are not correct, but the appropriate channels must be followed, or we die by our own sword. The benefits must be carefully weighed against the risks.

In Conclusion: 

We failed as a nation to get Dr. Ron Paul on the ballot this year, but Liberty will be on the ballot. Research third party candidates, see who's not talking out both sides of their mouths, and find a candidate that you can stand behind. American voices are more numerous than two (interrupting, inaccurate, misleading, condescending voices...).