The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is that the Founders of our nation devised a genius type of government where both conservatives and liberals play a part. The Founders were intelligent men who had traveled to various countries, and they were well read individuals. They studied many different governments, and they put together a form of government that had never existed previously.
The Founders desired a government where the power rested in the people themselves -- “We The People.” They discarded anything that could be termed “Ruler’s Law” and sought to put together a government based on “People’s Law.” W. Cleon Skousen said that this law was “originally practiced among the Anglo-Saxons” (The Five Thousand Year Leap, p. 13).
What they wanted to establish was a system of “People’s Law,” where the government is kept under the control of the people and political power is maintained at the balanced center with enough government to maintain security, justice, and good order, but not enough government to abuse the people.
Skousen explained that “People’s Law” is the balanced center between “Ruler’s Law” (with 100 percent control or tyranny) and “No Law” (with zero government control or anarchy). To maintain “People’s Law” the Founders used an idea previously advocated by Polybius, John Locke, and Baron Charles de Montesquieu: “the separation of the governmental functions into three departments – legislative, executive, and judicial” (Leap, p. 23). The Founders took this idea and structured what is known as a three-headed eagle.
The central head was the law-making or legislative function with two eyes – the House and the Senate – and these must both see eye-to-eye on any piece of legislation before it can become law. A second head is the administrative or Executive Department with all authority centered in a single, strong President, operating within a clearly defined framework of limited power. The third head is the judiciary, which was assigned the task of acting as guardian of the Constitution and the interpretation of its principles as originally designed by the Founders.
The genius of this three-headed eagle was not only the separation of powers but the fact that all three heads operated through a single neck. By this means the Founders carefully integrated these three departments so that each one was coordinated with the others and could not perform independently of them. It was an ingeniously structured pattern of political power which might be described as “coordination without consolidation.”
Continuing the use of the eagle to show the form of government created by the Founders, Skousen described the purposes of the wings – Wing #1 and Wing #2 (Leap, p. 24). Most people understand that a bird needs two healthy wings to fly straight, and the same is true of the government of the United States.
Wing #1 [Left or liberal] of the eagle might be referred to as the problem-solving wing or the wing of compassion. Those who function through this dimension of the system are sensitive to the unfulfilled needs of the people. They dream of elaborate plans to solve these problems.
Wing #2 [Right ore conservative] has the responsibility of conserving the nation’s resources and the people’s freedom. Its function is to analyze the programs of wing #1 with two questions. First, can we afford it? Secondly, what will it do to the rights and individual freedom of other people?
Now, if both of these wings fulfill their assigned function, the American eagle will fly straighter and higher than any civilization in the history of the world. But if either of these wings goes to sleep on the job, the American eagle will drift toward anarchy or tyranny. For example, if wing #1 becomes infatuated with the idea of solving all the problems of the nation regardless of the cost, and wing #2 fails to bring its power into play to sober the problem-solvers with a more realistic approach, the eagle will spin off toward the left, which is tyranny.
On the other hand, if wing #1 fails to see the problems which need solving and wing #2 becomes inflexible in its course of not solving problems simply to save money, or not disturb the status quo, then the machinery of government loses its credibility and the eagle drifts over toward the right where the people decide to take matters into their own hands. This can eventually disintegrate into anarchy.
I like to think of the two wings as “Justice” and “Mercy” because the laws of the land must be fair to all citizens (justice) but have leeway to include compassion for those who are struggling (mercy). Most of us have read or heard of police officers called to a store because employees have caught a shoplifter. Depending on the circumstances, the officer has authority to offer justice or mercy. If the shoplifter is a mother stealing diapers and formula for her baby (or something similar), the officer will usually pay for the items and not arrest the shoplifter. When he pays for the items, the officer gives justice to the shopkeeper who is paid for their item. When he declines to arrest the shoplifter, he offers mercy.
I have been thinking about the two wings of the American eagle for several days as I contemplated a government with Democrats in the White House and controlling both houses of Congress. Without anyone to stop them, they can cause America to spiral into tyranny. However, the same could be said if Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress. The cause would be different, the result would be the same – government spiraling down but this time into anarchy.
For the American eagle to fly high and straight, it needs it needs two healthy wings. It also needs two wings that work together. This lack of working together is the cause of much of the division in our nation today. The coronavirus is ravaging many Americans, but the government has refused to help. The Democrats offered a huge bill in the House of Representatives, but the Republicans in the Senate refused it due to the excess and unrelated costs. In this case, both the Republicans and Democrats were performing their duties. However, the Democrats/liberals/wing #1 dropped the ball when they refused to offer another bill – showing no mercy to the people.
John F. Kennedy was a Democrat, but he would probably be too conservative to be considered as a Democrat candidate today. As President Kennedy, he made the following statement: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” He is the same man who said, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
I wish that we had more Americans like JFK! I also wish that the two wings of our government – conservatives and liberals – and the three heads of the American eagle --- executive, legislative, and judicial -- would learn to work together as they should for the benefit of the people.