This is a pretty big subject we are taking on here, maybe too big for a blog. Even so, we can use blogging to at least bring out some facts, air some points of view, and, above all, discuss the issues.
I started this series of posts because I am tired of hearing Americans calling each other names.
What I hope to accomplish, as always, is to clarify. Knowledge is power. Knowledge and clarity of purpose will defeat those who would manipulate you.
At first, I thought my premise for these posts was simply that our federal government has gotten too big and too intrusive, far beyond what the writers of our constitution intended or envisioned it to be, and, as a result, many important things today are not being taken care of effectively. After only two posts, I realize already that simply pointing out the bigness and resulting unresponsiveness to the needs of the people, is not going to accomplish much. Many people already agree with me that government is too big and too unresponsive.
So, instead, I think it might be more productive for us to try and formulate a consensus of what we would want our federal government to become, and what issues we would like to see addressed, and come up with ways for these problems to be effectively addressed. Along the way, I hope we can also begin to drop the labels.
Where to begin? Since this is going to take awhile, why not begin at the beginning and lay the proper foundation? Starting at the beginning may be especially useful because I am blessed with several readers who are not Americans, who are not necessarily completely familiar with our origins and our government, but whom I hope to still involve in this discussion. In a larger sense, this discussion affects non-Americans very much indeed. So, by starting at the beginning, I can maybe bring some of them along with me if I can keep their interest. I should also mention that if one's goal is truly clarity, it is always a good idea to start at the beginning anyway.
I intend to sprinkle in posts on other subjects to keep the interest of readers who may not be interested so much in the ways and perceived sins of our federal government.
Before we begin at the beginning, though, how many of you can tell what form of government we have in the USA?
1. A monarchy
2. A dictatorship
3. A democracy
4. Something else
On to the beginning. The real beginning might be Athens, Greece, a long time ago. It might even be farther back in time than that. I don't want to go quite that far back though. How about we start with a simple summary of where the country called the United States of America came from, and work our way up to the point where we got ourselves something called a federal government? Feral government. Whatever.
Europeans began coming to this part of the world a long time ago. The Spanish came in 1492, but even before that the Vikings came. The British began coming in the late 16th century, and the first permanent British settlement, at Jamestown, was in 1607 if memory serves. There was an earlier British settlement, also in Virginia, that failed. The Dutch came only a few years later, 1612 I think, concentrating only in what is now the city of New York and up the Hudson to Albany. Feel free to correct me.
This land when all these various Europeans came was hardly uninhabited, so none of them "discovered" the Americas. They did discover the new lands for the Europeans, though, and soon there were plenty of Europeans camped out in the Americas.
The British settled on what is now the East Coast of the country now called the USA, primarily between present-day Massachusetts and Georgia at first.
The various British colonies were established by companies or men who had royal charters or investors to explore and settle the new lands, with the usual intent being to prosper the land for the benefit of the British crown or the company's investors. In the end, there were 13 of these British colonies.
Again, feel free to make corrections to this overview, since I am doing it from memory and there may be errors.
In a sense, even before our revolution against the British crown, we have always had a sort of federal government. Back then the "federal government" was simply the British government, and our ancestors' fortunes ebbed and flowed pretty much at the whims of the British Parliament.
The actual country called the United States of America didn't come about until after our ancestors fought a successful revolution against the government of Great Britain.
It is important to remember that up until that revolution, the 13 colonies were very much separate entities. Travel between them was allowed and common, but they each had their own legislatures and their values and were not necessarily all that compatible either. In those days of few and poor roads, and travel by horse, it was serious business to travel even from Boston to New York - and travel to the Carolinas or Georgia was a major event. This was long before the railroads, of course.
I bring these points out only to remind you that the colonies at that time were not exactly united entities with overall common purposes. A Virginian was very much a Virginian. A New Yorker was very much a New Yorker. The life of a backwoods planter in South Carolina was almost as foreign to the life of a Massachusetts lawyer as the man in the moon.
It is especially important for you Europeans and Africans reading this to take note of this individualism of the several colonies, and the states that subsequently evolved from them. It would be a huge mistake for you to think of our states in the same general manner as you think of your counties.
The colonies, later states, were almost more akin to separate countries than merely united geographical subdivisions of one big happy country: no such big happy country existed yet. To a certain extent, you would be wise to think of even the present-day states as being very separate in many ways. You will understand the inner workings of the current USA better if you keep that in your mind.
When the rotating inattentions and oppressions of the British Parliament, and other reasons, finally brought on a revolution, those very different colonies united against their common enemy and each contributed men and materials to a common army (although they often remained colonial militias, as do many present-day U.S. Army units remain state militas, or "guards.")
This unification for a common cause was unnatural for the separate colonies. It was the revolution that gave them their first taste of some sort of larger unity, although even after the revolution they still didn't quite think of themselves as part of a larger country. This feeling of separateness, or independence, and distrust of an outside government would continue through even the first attempt at a national government: quite frankly, the first attempt at a central government failed.
Tomorrow: the USA's first federal government.
Answer to question about the form of government the USA has:
4. Something else.
The United States of America is a republic. A republic is a state whose power derives from the people rather than from a ruler. This, as opposed to a (true) monarchy or dictatorship where the power is at the top and the people at the bottom are the subjects.