Last week, after going over my most recent column about what the purpose of American government should be with a close associate of mine, I decided to make an attempt at answering this question. At the end of that column, I stated that, “philosophy has not equipped to answer what [the purpose of the American government] actually means.” This is my answer.
The Constitution lays out a remarkably solid foundation for this question when it says, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” I largely believe that this preamble still applies to the American public; however, do take special note of “the people” in this statement. The preamble of the foundational document our government was founded upon prioritizing the everyday person, and not necessarily those who are responsible for administering governance.
Ever since the first Congressional Convention, all branches of government have made moves to multiply their own power. The examples of this are all over American history, although an often forgotten example would be the ways in which the Federalists made not-so-subtle attempts to protect their own financial interests. Political scientist Charles Beard writes on the subject, “The first object of government,” [James Madison] declares, is the protection of, “the diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate.” The chief business of government [is the] adjustment of conflicting economic interests.”
I fear that this central aspect to the Federalists outlook on American governance has sunken deep into our political system.
So, to answer my colleagues’ question, I think the purpose of our government and the American people should be the radical upheaval of this ideology of government as business by whatever means necessary. This is what the Constitution asks of us.