At the very top of everything in the USA, government-wise and authority-wise, is the U.S. Federal Government. Or so those who think they are at the top would have you believe.
The federal government is the big boss, at the very top, and it tells the states what to do. It also regulates the daily lives of U.S. citizens. Anything it wants to do, it can do. And does it ever do! Laws by the hundreds - orders for the states and the people to abide by. It knows what's best for all of us. The federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, is over all the state courts and can overturn anything the state courts do. It is very powerful indeed. How much of this paragraph is true?
While the above may have come (nearly) to pass in today's world in the USA, it isn't really anything like the writers of our constitution had in mind. It wasn't what the states had in mind when they agreed to the new constitution, either. Indeed the constitution doesn't really say anything like the above at all. So how did we get into this sorry mess (my opinion) where the servant of the states grew into a seven-headed (at least) monster that devours everything in it's path, money-wise, angers the rest of the world and strikes terror into the hearts of the states and the citizens? Let's investigate. Then let's discuss how we can tame this monster and put it back in harness.
The first (and most important) thing Americans need to remember, or be informed of, is that the the federal government has only the powers the states allow it to have. The states "cede" certain powers to the federal government, and they can "uncede" them at will (by modifying the constitution, which only the states can do.) Somehow, the federal government has bluffed the states and the people into believing that all power derives from the top, that THEY are at the top, and that they are the final word in all things.
However, our constitution is what defines who has what powers, not the bureaucrats. What does the constitution say?
Earlier, we talked about the Preamble to the constitution. Although not law, the Preamble told us why the actual constitution was being written: to make the lives of individual citizens better and to form a better union between the several states. Frankly, it left no doubt where the true power was coming from: "We, the people...".
Now we look at the very first Article of the actual constitution.
Article I, Section 1. "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."
Oh, my. Trouble already. I would call your attention to the word "granted".
The U.S. Constitution is essentially an enumeration of the powers that the new federal government would have. It is clear from the very first sentence that this listing of federal powers was "granted" by someone or something. If something is "granted" to you, that means the person or thing doing the "granting" is superior to you. Otherwise, you could just TAKE the power.
So... who is doing the granting? Ostensibly the several states which had decided to form a union, but more correctly the PEOPLE who lived in those several states. The state governments, after all, existed only at the pleasure of the people and for the purpose of carrying out the will of the majority of those people, as made known through their representation in the state legislatures.
Remember our discussion defining what a republican form of government is? ("Republican" meaning "a republic" - nothing to do with the political party that was formed much later.) Remember that the definition of that form of government was that the power rested with the citizens of the country, but was expressed through their elected representatives.
That is the not-so-subtile difference between a republic and a pure democracy: representation. In a pure democracy, majority rules. Period. Government by referendum. We don't have that form of government. In the USA, whether at the federal level or at the state level, only very large and important issues are put directly to the people. In a republic, the people we choose to represent us engage in democracy, not the people directly (except in the actual choosing of our representation, and an occasional legitimate referendum.)
Here we could argue the merits of pure democracy, but the end result would be an agreement that it is too cumbersome (in a very populous country) to have the individual citizens vote on each and every issue that comes up. For example, should our country be attacked, it would be rather foolish to have the people vote on what to do about it. Not while we are being killed. Our representatives are supposed to keep in touch and know our minds and do what the majority of us WOULD have done. The result, of course, is that up to half the people are always dissatisfied with their representation.
This constant segment of dissatisfaction, incidentally, is what keeps representatives who wish to be reelected listening to the citizens. The loyal opposition keeps those who are in power ever vigilant, with ears constantly open. At least that was the intent.
What very important thing have we learned from the very first sentence of the constitution?
In my opinion, it is that the framers of the constitution intended to give the federal government the powers needed to govern effectively, while denying it so much power that it would have had the ability to abridge the liberty of the governed.
To be continued. (There are even more sentences to discuss. :)