Collegiate Democracy

For the almost 4 billion years that organisms have lived on earth, they’ve been governed by brutality. The strong devoured the weak, and, in so doing, ensured that only the strong reproduced. From the origin of civilization some 10,000 years ago, people formed governments to administer the law of the jungle. But some 3,000 years ago, Hebrews and Hindus began to imagine a different form of government, a rule by truth or right and love. By 500 BCE Athenians gave birth to a form of government they called democracy. It manifested love of truth or right in rule by popular vote. Romans copied this form of government until 27 BCE, when the Senate abdicated authority to Octavian. With that, democracy perished from this earth until it was rekindled in the Virginia House of Burgesses (1619) the Mayflower Compact (1620), and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1636), which is the first constitution since the fall of Rome.

By 1776, some truths had become self-evident in America: All were created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, governments existed to secure the rights of the people, and, therefore, governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any government became destructive of this aim, it was the right, indeed the duty, of the people to alter or abolish it and establish a new, responsive, government in its place.

Democracy, defined as rule by the majority, is dangerous, however, because it offers no protection for the rights of the minority or individuals. Democracy can become mob rule. A constitution can protect the rights of all, and the United States is a constitutional democracy. Power resides in the majority but is limited by laws that are created in accord with the Constitution. A constitutional democracy can be synonymous with a republic, i.e., rule by representatives of the people in accord with a constitution. It’s what we have in the United States. But it’s not working, i.e., it’s not fostering liberty and justice for all. The rich are getting ever obscenely richer, while the poor are getting poorer and more numerous. The richest 20% of American families now own some 85% of the nation’s net worth, while the bottom 60% of American families own some 4% of the nation’s net worth. That’s aristocracy and peasantry. What will you do about it?

Will you vote? Will you write to your elected officials? Will you work for the candidates of your choice? That’s all been tried before. What makes you think it will work now? The Republic is 238 years old. Do you get the feeling it’s about to become more egalitarian anytime soon? So what will you do? Nothing? Some of us have pledged allegiance to a Republic that fosters liberty and justice for all. We can’t do nothing. So, what should we do? What can we do?

We can teach. And if we teach well, we can make what we want in one generation. What should we teach? We must teach the people how to control college, for whoever controls college, controls the future. Presently aristocrats appoint administrators to control colleges. We must temper that control with advice from the majority of students, faculty, and staff. The following is a preamble that begs for a constitution: “We the people of — NAME YOUR COLLEGE — in order to form a more perfect union amongst ourselves and with people and organisms everywhere do resolve to dedicate our every action to liberty and justice for all. “

Democracy is never a gift. And it is never secure. Like topsoil, democracy is under constant erosion, and must, therefore, be constantly protected and repaired. What are you doing to protect, repair, and enhance democracy? Are you content now to let government of, by, and for the people perish from the earth? Will you let the sacred sacrifice of those who won democracy for you be in vain? Or will you dedicate your efforts to the great task of bringing liberty and justice to all? You will answer this question by what you do, or don’t do, to bring the vote to campus.


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