America in 2020 does not look like the America we were taught about in school. Of course the values we are taught are aspirational in nature and our country is an ongoing project of moving closer to those ideals. America has yet to live up to its founding principles but moving closer brings us closer to a more perfect union. Moving away from those ideas will doom societies to despotism and despair. That is what makes Justice Neil Gorsuch’s latest book, A Republic if You Can Keep It, so important. It is a book filled with tremendous legal knowledge, moving speeches, a stalwart defense of Originalism, and eternal wisdom regarding good government. Although it was published in 2019 to educate the general public, it could have just as easily been published in 2020 as a guide for a country that has lost its way.
America is a republic if you can keep it
Americans and now the rest of the free world live under a very special form of government. One that was built to preserve a system of self-governance and most importantly, individual liberty. It was not built to cater to the wishes of the mob such as a pure democracy and it was not built to cater to the elite such as an oligarchy or a monarchy. Justice Gorsuch writes,
“This republic belongs to us all–and it is up to all of us to keep it. I think that’s what Benjamin Franklin was getting at when he spoke publicly after he emerged from the Constitutional Convention. A passerby asked what kind of government the delegates intended to propose, and Franklin reportedly replied: “A republic, if you can keep it”.
As the saying goes: democracy is a verb. The success of our system is dependent on the participation and enthusiasm of the public. However, preserving a republic goes much further than that. In particular, a republic like ours requires an even greater emphasis on protecting individual liberty and upholding the institutions that do so, not just voting. Democracy in and of itself is nothing to be proud of nor will it lead to a flourishing society. A constitutional republic like the United States has laws that even the will of the majority must adhere to. The result is a rule of law that promotes freedom and prosperity. Things like the Bill of Rights, the Separation of Powers Doctrine, and federalism. Such institutions of liberty are not necessarily upheld by democratic participation but through a jealous and partisan defense of freedom.
Protecting our freedom is the ultimate reason why the American government exists. That is apparent in our founding documents that Gorsuch explains when he writes,
“Take the idea found in the very first sentence of the Constitution. The Constitution’s preamble says that “We the People” ordain and establish this Constitution” in order to secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” It is no small thing that the founders claimed our new government was formed by “We the People.” They didn’t say our new government was formed by the Continental Army or the Congress or the States or some bureaucratic drafting committee. Institutions like those, the preamble made clear, exist to serve the people–not the other way around.”
It goes without saying that service to the people means first and foremost protecting our liberty............To Read More.....