The Real Purpose Of Government
If every constitutional question were to be decided by public political bargaining, Madison argued, the Constitution would be reduced to a battleground of competing factions, political passion and partisan spirit. For over two centuries the Constitution has remained in force because its framers successfully separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights, of liberty and equality, and of the federal and state governments. More a concise statement of national principles than a detailed plan of governmental operation, the Constitution has evolved to meet the changing needs of a modern society profoundly different from the eighteenth-century world in which its creators lived.
This displays how allocation and collaborative systems were essential to creating a successful civilization. The Post-60s progressive liberals go further, however, and see the purpose of government above all to be that of protecting the rights of the less advantaged – women, the poor, racial minorities, sexual minorities, the disabled – the least among us. Society has oppressed and wronged these less advantaged and it is the task of government to right the wrongs and create a new socially just society. The purpose of government becomes that of promoting policies that spread the wealth around. Government creates individuals by first deciding what people need and then providing it for them by a) the redistribution of resources and b) transforming the character of inferior citizens through “uplift”.
The word “preamble,” while accurate, does not quite capture the full importance of this provision. “Preamble” might be taken—we think wrongly—to imply that these words are merely an opening rhetorical flourish or frill without meaningful effect. To be sure, “preamble” usefully conveys the idea that this provision does not itself confer or delineate powers of government or rights of citizens. Those are set forth in the substantive articles and amendments that follow in the main body of the Constitution’s text. It was well understood at the time of enactment that preambles in legal documents were not themselves substantive provisions and thus should not be read to contradict, expand, or contract the document’s substantive terms.
This power of “judicial review” has given the Court a crucial responsibility in assuring individual rights, as well as in maintaining a “living Constitution” whose broad provisions are continually applied to complicated new situations. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish other federal courts to handle cases that involve federal laws including tax and bankruptcy, lawsuits involving U.S. and state governments or the Constitution, and more. Other federal judicial agencies and programs support the courts and research judicial policy. The legislative branchdrafts proposed laws, confirms or rejects presidential nominations for heads of federal agencies, federal judges, and the Supreme Court, and has the authority to declare war. This branch includes Congress and special agencies and offices that provide support services to Congress.
If both laws and rights are made to suit their purpose, then society will rise as a whole, as opposed to having different levels of society. The Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. It is representative because people choose elected officials by free and secret ballot. It is a republic because the Government derives its power from the people. Hamilton had written that through the practice of judicial review the Court ensured that the will of the whole people, as expressed in their Constitution, would be supreme over the will of a legislature, whose statutes might express only the temporary will of part of the people. And Madison had written that constitutional interpretation must be left to the reasoned judgment of independent judges, rather than to the tumult and conflict of the political process.
This was to be a republic that worked – not one that failed as all previous attempts had. The Framers’ republic went one step further by dividing power between two “distinct governments” to cite Federalist No. 51 – the federal level and the state level, and then subdividing power among separate departments or branches within these governments. But the government has no moral or constitutional right to force some people to pay for the retirement or health care of other people. The problem with these programs is not that they are “ill managed” or “need reform.” The problem is that they contradict the proper purpose of government. They take money from people who have earned it and thus morally own it, and they give that money to people who haven’t earned it and thus have no moral right to it.