Political Trust & Distrust 6

Free course. One paragraph (usually) per day.

The framers found a way to deal with their distrust. The pervasive distrust the framers encountered at the Constitutional Convention could have motivated them to give up. The whole thing could have been a big failure.  Instead, the framers invented a system of government that directly addressed the distrust. 

Their solution was republican democracy. Fundamentally, they designed a system meant to:

  • limit political competition to elections and legislation; thus
  • ensuring that all legislative power is derived from the voters and will remain accountable to the voters;
  • establish a federal system with state governments close to the people and a national (federal) government to provide for the common defense.
  • constrain and divide the powers assigned to election winners:
    • some to Congress, some to the presidency, some to the Supreme Court, some to the states, and some to the people.

Their solution was also a liberal republic. This is because they amended the Constitution to:

  • guarantee political and civil rights for all citizens, even for the factions out of power.

Note:  We are using the 18th century concepts of “liberal” and “republican.” Liberal implies a focus on liberty.[1] Republican implies a system of government in which the people and their elected representatives hold supreme power for the public interest.[2] To dig deeper, see our short course “America: Republic or Democracy?”

In the next few days, we will show first that the framers idea of who could participate was broadened out. After that, we will show several ways that the farmers Constitutional design can help build trust in government – provided that some vigilance is maintained as well. But if you are impatient, go ahead and take the whole thing here.

[1] “Liberalism In general, the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice.” Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan, Third edition 2009.

[2] “The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government.” From Federalist 57. Some scholars add an emphasis on the presence of checks and balances.

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