Nature’s Body Politic
This website introduces the American citizens to the body politic gifted to them by our political forebears.
In the Mayflower Compact, our country’s first historical document relative to government, the idea of the body politic is central. This remarkable document, written and signed aboard the vessel, declared the right of the people to perform self-government. It was remarkable because, at that time, it was unthinkable for individuals to remove themselves from a governing body and establish their own body politic, and proclaim self-rule.
“ . . . covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick. . . “
John Locke and his influence on our Body Politic
Born in August, 1632, philosopher John Locke lived during the exciting days of the English Civil War. Among his varied accomplishments, he wrote a political philosophy of liberty known as the Second Treatise on Government. In it, he maintained that at birth, all humans were born free, equal and independent, that there were no superior humans among them. He made it clear that while there were all sorts of inequalities, there was one equality: no one person had dominion over the other, meaning, we have equal rights to freedom without being subjected to the will or authority of any other person.
This freedom and equality guarantees to each of us all the rights nature endowed upon human beings, which includes the right of self-rule. To assist us in the right of self-rule and to better defend and protect our individual rights, we naturally come together and form a Body Politic, and once formed, we organize government, whose charge is to defend and protect our individual rights. However, Locke stated that when any government becomes oppressive, tyrannous or otherwise removed from the trust placed in it by the people, it was a right – a duty of the people – to remove that government and replace it with one more suitable to safeguard their trust.
As one reads the Declaration of Independence, it is as though the hand of Locke penned the words written: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends” – our individual rights – “it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government . . .” And, it is a “. . . Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for [their] future Security.”
These are the idealisms that the colonists embraced, that Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote in the Declaration of Independence, and are guaranteed to the people by our Constitution. The history of the colonies – from the high sounding phrases of the parishioner’s pulpit to the common language heard in pubs and on the street – is replete with the sayings and philosophy that produced the spirit of liberty that came from John Locke.
Our Declaration of Independence
The American colonists suffered numerous oppressions under the rule of their King. In every stage of those oppressions, in humble terms, the colonial diplomats petitioned for redress of their grievances. Those repeated petitions were answered by repeated injuries.
After a long train of those abuses and usurpations, they followed the writings of their political mentor, John Locke, and sent notice to the King that they were dissolving the political bands of their connection and declared their independence.
Each of the thirteen American colonies declared they were independent states and wrote their governing state constitutions.
Following the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War ensued. In order to fight this war for their independence, and provide men and war tools, the states banded together and formed a loosely-bound instrument of governance: the Articles of Confederation. After the conclusion of the War and the signing of the Peace Treaty of Paris in 1783, the alignment of the states continued.
To the dismay of many, the people found that the Articles were lacking as a sufficiently unified governing instrument. Consequently, they decided to meet in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to reform the Articles. After an arduous four month ordeal, representatives of the states produced the new governing document: the Constitution. Representatives then sent the Constitution to the people in the states for ratification. It is interesting to note that many of the representatives of the convention expressed their concern that the Constitution was not a perfect instrument. However, the need to solve their most pressing problems and form a government was urgent. George Washington, in his effort to convince the people to ratify the Constitution, was replete on at least ten different occasions to point out that the deficiencies in the document could be remedied by use of the amendment process outlined in the Constitution.
Today, we face a myriad of difficulties that, in order to solve, require reform. Listed below are some of the reforms that could be made through amending the Constitution:
Political parties – The Constitution is silent about political parties. The idea of parties is not sanctioned, nor part of the Constitution because the founders opposed them. They had just ended their political affiliation with England and saw firsthand the damage parties do to governance. In his farewell address to the nation, Washington warned future generations to stay away from the advent of political parties. Today our entire government apparatus is centered round the two-party system. Adding insult to this injury, we have married it with money, creating an artificial element that dominates and removes from the people their natural desires of political thought and action.
Because of the party/money combination of today’s political system, it reminds one of an athletic contest. We elect individuals through the mechanism of party and money to contest one with another rather than focusing on the urgent issues facing us, and these issues mostly go wanting.
Election process – Perhaps there is no reform more needed than that of the election process in which we find ourselves enmeshed. We witness the spectacle of character assassination by the candidates of the party structure. Very little focus is made to solve the urgent problems we face. Encouraging all of this is the press, on whom we rely to report the problems of our body politic and proposed solutions. Instead, for the most part, they embellish and encourage the circus of character assassination. We need to reform the election process so that it will center on the issues, and ideas that surround these issues, instead of personalities. In short, the election process should not be about people; but it should be about the ideas that are needed to solve our difficulties.
What is real wealth?
In an economic sense, real wealth is property which provides the means of supporting one’s existence. The way to obtain property is from Earth’s resources and converting these resources to some purpose for our sustenance, comfort and well-being. The conversion of these resources is accomplished by our labor, both physical and mental.
There is no other fundamental way that property can be acquired.
Who owns the property that is extracted from the Earth’s resources? As the English philosopher John Locke explained, it belongs to those who use their labor to extract the resource. Locke used the example of apples and an apple tree. He who labors to pick the apples therefore owns them. This applies if the labor is intellectual, as well.
When our labor produces more than we actually can use, we then trade our surplus to others, who – through their labor – have also produced a surplus. This trading provides us a variety of goods and services and thereby increases our wealth.
Until approximately 800 B.C., surplus was traded through the mechanism of the barter system. However, it was discovered that using state-authorized money – stamped ingots of miscellaneous metals – was a more advantageous system that provided an ease of trade and a scale of value for the exchange of our surplus.
For example, prior to the introduction of authorized metals individually stamped with a given value, one would simply trade goods for goods, such as the exchange of sheep for wheat. After money was introduced, one did not trade sheep for wheat, but rather traded sheep or wheat for money. Then, the money was used to pay for other items for trade. And while the introduction of money made it easier to effectuate the actual trade, it also introduced an artificial element into the trade: money itself had a price. Where once twenty sheep may have been traded for forty bushels of wheat (one sheep for two bushels), now twenty sheep only netted thirty bushels of wheat (one sheep for one-and-a-half bushels); the difference being the cost of the money.
Money, in and of itself – having no real wealth – did have a price, such as the cost associated with mining and refining the metals and stamping them. But the greatest cost was in using the money, and that cost was interest. (In our modern world, printing paper money and tracking electronic money transfers – activities that have replaced mining, refining and the stamping of metals – has a cost. And, we still maintain the cost of interest.)
Money did not produce real wealth such as agricultural products, textiles, housing, etc., that supported human existence. However, the use of it had value; it enormously facilitated trade and provided a scale of value. As the practice of using money increased, it developed into an industry.
In the period of transforming from a barter economy to a money system of trade, the industry of money began to dominate all economic activity. Wealth began to be thought of as how much money one had instead of real wealth.
This artificial wealth became highly sought, and as its amount and dominance grew, its effect had a negative outcome. The scale of value persistently changed causing disruption in trade, too much money led to inflation, and too little of it created recession and/or depression. All of these variables produced various degrees of human suffering. Paradoxically, in spite of these negative events, the money industry grew. All sorts of money instruments developed, such as various currencies, stocks, bonds, etc. As these instruments grew, so did the domineering influence of money over real economic activity.
Over time, the trading of these financial instruments grew into a gigantic casino: gambling to make money on money. Today, this artificial economy so totally dominates us, that when the real economy falters because of the misuse of money, the recession/depression it creates is so devastating, i.e., loss of jobs, housing, etc., that it takes trillions of dollars borrowed against current and future tax payers to rescue the casino. The resultant human suffering intensifies and real reform does not take place.
A reform is needed to replace the way we use money. To have its positive effects (the ease of trade with an unchangeable scale of value), we must remove its negative affect of creating human suffering. We need to return to nature’s economy with our labor interacting with Earth’s resources to produce the means of supporting our existence, with money only acting as a facilitator of this activity.