By Mike Cronin
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Ben Franklin was asked what kind of government had been created. He replied “A republic, if you can keep it.” Yet today, you almost never hear people call the U.S. a republic. It’s often called a democracy. It is also sometimes spoken of as an empire, usually in a derogatory way. So what are we supposed to have, and what do we actually have?
Let’s start with “republic.” The word republic, derived from the Latin res publica, or “public thing,” refers to a form of government where the citizens conduct their affairs for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of a ruler. It’s the form of government we are supposed to have, it’s the form of government our Constitution establishes, and that our presidents, military, and other public servants swear oaths to support and defend. That’s what our founders gave us.
So, do we Americans conduct our affairs for our own benefit, or for the benefit of a ruling power? How long do you have to work each year to pay your tax bill? How much paperwork do you have to fill out to file your taxes? Is the NSA spying on you? Can you sell your product without some kind of mandatory labeling to warn idiots not to do something stupid with it? If you decide to home school your kids, or send them to private school, do you still have to pay for your neighbors’ kids’ public schooling? If the local government thinks your house and yard would be put to better use as a shopping mall, will you be able to keep your own property? Can you conduct any financial affairs without government scrutiny? Can you travel anywhere you like via any mode of transportation you want without having your papers checked and/or your property or your person searched? Are your particular vices allowed or prohibited? Can you marry whichever mutually consenting adult(s) you’d like? Can a male over 18 NOT register for the draft without consequences? If you decide to hire candidate X instead of candidate Y, are you going to get into hot water for not supporting affirmative action or diversity goals? Once that has been settled, can you pay the candidate what the work is worth, or do you have pay them what the government says you must? Are you obligated to provide a benefit package to boot? Do you have to take a drug test in order to work, so that the government can give some of your money to people who don’t work and couldn’t pass a drug test? Can you keep your insurance plan and /or your doctor this year? Are you in compliance with all of the millions of pages of other laws and regulations our government has levied on us over the last 237 years?
I think we can say, that based on the definition above, we are no longer fully functioning as a republic. To be sure, and for now, we still have many freedoms, including the freedom to write a blog like this one, and many other trappings of a republic, including the ability to vote. But are we truly able to conduct our own affairs for our own benefit?