Back in the 1980s singer Glenn Frey sang the lyric “You Belong to the City.” Now a video shown at Democratic National Convention titled “The Government Is The Only Thing We All Belong To” says Americans belong to different clubs and churches, but they all belong to the same governments.
“We do believe that you can use government in a good way because it’s something we all belong to,” the narrator says. “We all work together as part of our city, our country and our nation.”
The analogy falls apart because clubs and churches are voluntary associations in America; however, individuals lack the ability to disassociate themselves from government. If Democrats think government is something that we participate in voluntarily, then they should watch what happens if they don’t pay their taxes or if they try to create their own traffic laws.
It also flies in the face of the vision of the founding fathers exemplified by Thomas Jefferson’s phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed.”
James Madison, widely seen as a co-founder of the modern Democratic Party, stood in stern opposition to the sort of ideas embodied in the ad.
“To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is [an imaginary] idea,” Madison said in his 1788 speech to Virginia’s ratifying convention. “[W]e do not put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”
And in Federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton writes that the “streams of national power” flow from the “consent of the people.”
Another common theme among the Founders was a mistrust of “dangerous and ambitious men” who would use the power of government to better their own ends and a need to check their power.
Most assuredly, crony capitalist ventures such as Solyndra that enrich the friends of those in power would fit among those sorts of abuses of governmental power that the Founders worried about.
The Democratic Party’s vision of society exemplified by this ad makes the people the subjects of the government not the other way around.