Dave Winer recently wrote that we in the United States are already living in an authoritarian state. He cites as evidence the probability that SCOTUS will say the President of the United States is in fact above the law and notes that the Supreme Court has always been above the law. If one takes a honest look back at the history of the United States you will see that it has always been an oligarchy rather than a democracy.

The founders intended our government to be a republic, a representative democracy, rather than a pure democracy, that would prevent tyranny, but their intentions were thwarted as soon as political parties arose to control/influence our representatives. Go back and look at the definition of oligarchy and consider whether political parties are nothing but classes of people who see the power of government vested in themselves.

Political parties are to democracy what monopolies are to capitalism, both corrupt the founding principles of their institutions, and those who enjoy the privileges of the power these oligarchies provide do everything they can to preserve those privileges.

Consider the wealth of the founding fathers, most of whom were white, male, property owners. Washington and Jefferson owned plantations. When they wrote that all men were created equal, they assumed it understood that meant white, male, property owners and not others. The American Revolution was a war for white, male property owners to keep their wealth from the King of England.

The Federalists vs Anti-Federalists debates, the Three-Fifths Compromise and associated Electoral College, the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage, and the Jim Crow Laws were all moments when the true nature of the founding of the Unites States was exposed. What we are experiencing in the United States today is a continuation of how it has always been in the United States, the difference now is that the oligarchs have become so confident that they no longer care to continue pretending that there is actual democracy. The oligarchs have been able to convince a majority of the citizens of the United States that their aims align with the oligarchs, it is the realization of the “trickle down” ideology that Ronald Reagan preached.

The Declaration of Independence has always hidden the prime question of civilization in plain sight. When Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The question is, liberty for whom?

Truth is, the norm of civilization on the Earth, which over time has been called different things but which can be simply stated as empire, has never allowed for liberty of everyone. Over the course of history different forms of government have existed and even those that claim to be democracies institute class hierarchies that provide liberty for some at the expense of others. Governments are institutions of humans and reflect our human dualistic view of the world. Governments are necessary and not particularly bad, but humans need to be self aware of our instincts and vigilant at guarding against them.

I believe the form of democracy in the United States as intended to exist through purpose, not the literal words, of the U.S. Constitution is as good a government that can provide liberty for everyone as any in the world, so long as citizens push back against our habit of seeing ourselves as better than and apart from our neighbor. I think such vigilance takes the form of placing core values above all others.

One such core value is what does liberty mean? You can look up the word liberty in a dictionary and you will find several descriptions of what one may think of as freedom, but for me liberty boils down to my control over my body, which is exercised in many different ways such as to do as I please, to be free from restraint, and to decide what does and does not happen to my body. A Supreme Court that is unwilling to recognize that liberty, which is intended to be enshrined by our founding documents, extends to women’s right to decide what happens to their body is violating the core value of liberty.

The Bill of Rights defines other core values, but perhaps one most overlooked but closely related to liberty is the Ninth Amendment that states that it is the citizens who claim our rights and not only the Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Constitution does not deny the rights retained by the people. Is a Supreme Court, or for that matter any member of Congress or President of the United States, that does not seem to know the definition of liberty or seeks to deny rights retained by the people acting in the best interests of the people as their representatives or are they acting in the best interests of their oligarch class?

It is true that the founders, like Plato, were not fond of pure democracy and thus created a republic as a representative form of democracy. The founders were also not fond of the authority of the monarchy they just fought a war against, and so they created a system of government intended to preserve the best features of democracy while preventing against tyrannies be they of individuals or classes. Among but not limited to these features are the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Note the similarity between the Declaration and the Ninth Amendment) Beware of attempts to throw out democracy in the bathwater for that is language the political party oligarchs use to claim liberty for themselves at the expense of others. Let us be vigilant for that more perfect union that Madison wrote in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution.