Saturday, May 15, 2004

What is the Consent of the Governed?

What would it look like if the general public created the federal budget? I bet schools and health care wouldn't be the sore spots they are.

Twice in the past year I have talked to Phil Korman, Director of Development at the National Priorities Project. The NPP website shows the federal budget in great detail. I proposed the creation of a comparison, called the People's Budget, which would be developed by allowing site visitors to allocate their prior year's tax burden across line items as they see fit.

A lot of important and strong conclusions could likely be drawn from the differences bound to appear between the two budgets. My initial thinking was related to "taxation without representation," that our representatives are spending our money without regard for how we want to see it spent.

The No Confidence movement has brought me to another angle. This campaign is addressing the Consent of the Governed, a phrase found in the Declaration of Independence, ordained as the source from which Governments derive just Powers. It now occurs to me that the US government has long since stopped seeking this consent, instead acting with impunity, presiding over not constituents but unquestioning subjects (look at what we've been subjected to).

It is often said that no one can take advantage of you unless you let them. Americans haven't had a way to keep the government's behavior strictly within the bounds of the public's consent. For the most part, though not entirely, prior to the Bush administration the government seemed to play along with an invisible and unwritten social contract that at least maintained the illusion that representative bodies were acting on our behalf and at our behest.

For all its bravado, shamelessness and deception, this administration can at last be seen as having crossed the ultimate line in the sand - they don't even pretend to seek the Consent of the Governed. Actually, if they do pretend, it is in the form of the sham elections we are aiming to stop with the No Confidence campaign. The Consent of the Governed seems to be an especially vulnerable blind spot which can now be targeted from multiple directions.



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