Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm writing this as an American citizen who is both appreciative for and concerned about our unique system of government. It is my concern that causes me to reflect on a speech given by Edward Erler, professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino California. Dr. Erler delivered a speech at a National Leadership Seminar held in Dallas Texas last May and has appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of birthright citizenship as well as being the co-author of a book entitled The Founders On Citizenship And Immigration.

What Dr. Erler said has caught my attention. I'm going to be paraphrasing much of it but will attempt to capture the salient points that serve the purpose of this post.

One of his points made was that the Framers of our Constitution understood limited government in a different manner than is being propagated by the Tea Party movement of the present day. The Tea Party seems to be advocating a limited government which is synonymous with small government and is similar to what the Anti-Federalists held who opposed the ratification of our Constitution. They preferred a form of government in which the states held the top spot of priorities.

The Federalists, on the other hand, viewed it next to impossible to have a States/Federal system because any attempt to hold to both multiple states rights AND federal sovereignty was a lost cause since one or the other would have to give up their sovereignty and that would render ineffective the governing of the whole nation.

The framers decided on a new and unique system never before tried that James Madison called "partly national and partly federal." Madison explained his point this way..."For some purposes we will be one people: for other purposes, we will be many peoples. So for those purposes that concern the nation as a whole___the federal government will have sovereignty___complete and plenary power to accomplish the things assigned to its care in the Constitution."  [Those things are principally found in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.]

Dr. Erler went on to make a second point that if those assigned federal responsibilities are to be fulfilled, the federal government must be given the necessary means to achieve those ends. He also said..."If this entails large government___and today it does___then large government must be compatible with limited government."

But therein is the rub. If large government IS the antithesis of limited government as the Tea Party SEEMS to be saying, then we're in trouble. However, if limited government IS compatible with large government, because the issue is not the size of government, but the definition of limited, meaning the limited areas of concerns assigned, then we must make sure such assignments to the Fed are carefully approached and undertaken by the Fed in a fashion that does not allow for their violation. The States deserve that inherently. 

So it is obvious that since by "Limited Government" is meant the limited range of responsibilities, then whether a violation does happen or not will always ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the USA.

I expect some major decisions are on the way. As an American citizen I'm watching and waiting with interest.

Paul B.


Christiane said...

I have recently thought much about the claims of 'smaller government' and 'limited government' by some.

I think there is currently witness that some of the most intrusive government has been commanded by those who say that they advocate the opposite. One example (and I apologize to all for the graphic nature of it in advance):

In Texas, hoping to stop abortions, a mandate was given that all women seeking abortion have an 'ultrasound' and look at it so that they could see the infant forming in their womb was moving . . .

people thought 'ah, yes, the jelly-belly test', that's okay.

But what wasn't known by many is that the 'jelly-belly' test doesn't work for very early pregnancies (ten weeks and before):
another 'form' of the test is conducted on these women . . .

I will stop there, except to say that it is VERY intrusive.

I don't know if people can have it both ways that they say 'we want government to get out of our lives', and at the same time mandate intrusive medical tests on women. I don't think it works that way . . .

Personally, the only real answer to abortions is a 'change of heart', and the ultrasound was meant to help with that . . . but people who decry the invasion of government into our lives must face it that the forced invasive nature of the kind of ultrasound test required to be done on a woman in the earliest stages of a pregnancy is . . .
well, extremely personally invasive.

Paul Burleson said...


At the risk of sounding "cliche-ish" and being guilty of "pointing out the obvious," I have to say that you remind me of two things I hope I never forget.

One.. is that civil-liberty issues are never simple. the that, generally, there are good people on both sides of any complex issue.

Very good comment. Thanks.

Johnny D. said...

The Federalist/anti-Federalist issue was decided in April, 1865.

Personally, Paul, I think all of these issues will be coming up for renewed debate, ratification and adoption. Why? Because I believe that within three years time, we won't recognize this country. I think we will be split into at least 4 different regions - maybe more.

I don't not think it is possible for this country to survive its coming encounter with the debt it has created. While the 14+ trillion debt is bad enough, most folks forget to take into account how our government has promised something like 60 trillion over the next couple of decades to seniors via SS and medicare, military retirees, VA, welfare, fannie/freddie, on and on. Where will that money come from?

If I was you all, I'd listen real close to this guy's three and half minutes he just gave to the BBC.

Paul Burleson said...

Johnny D,

I do think a major argument was settled then, but the need to correctly define, monitor and protect the limited assigned areas of Federal responsibilities as per the Constitution is an on going learning and living process.

I listened and, while he was speaking about the British condition, it was a word for all I'm thinking.

For sure, if he doesn't know what can be done, I don't.

But I'm glad that ultimately my faith is not in the British OR American abilities, as yours is not, but in the One who was/is able to correct Kings and leaders with a Word.

I'm convinced that every thing that CAN be shaken WIll be shaken until the only thing that truly remains is the eternal unshakeable purposes of God. And that is not hyperbole but the truth of scripture with which I'm sure you would agree. Aren't we glad we know the One who is Himself the way and the truth!

Aussie John said...


Australia has elements of North American and British systems of government, both of which declare that they represent the wishes of majority of the people, whom they are purported to represent, both having two levels.

It seems to me, looking from afar, that, both yours, and our, governments, take very little notice of the wishes of the people, and are more concerned about individual personal agendas, and self aggrandizement, finding ways of subtly circumventing the propositions of our constitutions.

At present their are strong overtones of totalitarianism being exhibited by our government.

The framers of our constitution had similar ideas to those explained in your James Madison quote.

You would agree with me that the Apostle Paul was right in Romans 3:23. That being the case, the issue the people need to be concerned about is just how honest our governments are in interpreting our constitutions.

Our High Court has recently had to reign in our government on the matter of refugees, our Prime Minister's response was, "Well, we'll just change the laws to achieve our aim".

One of your attorney's Scott Greenfield, began an article,called Getting the Government We Deserve,"French political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville said that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Jonathon Turley proves the point with this post, aptly entitled Elected Officials Score Lower on Civics Tests Than Average Citizens (Who Score Lower than Basic Condiments). Condiments are considering organizing a new political party but are squabbling over the name.

"American elected officials showed a shocking lack of knowledge about government, history, and basic constitutional principles in a national survey. They scored a failing grade of just 44 percent on a basic test of knowledge of our nation in a quiz by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Average citizens scored 49 percent. Note: many of these people scored less than a random or blind selection of answers — quite an achievement.

"These are the people who get to vote on laws. How does that grab you?"

Believe you me, our politicians are no better!

Aussie John said...

Paul, I've just read your response to Johnny D.

Love those last two paragraphs!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Two things...

One is I'm surprised by how similar or countries in foundation AND problems.

Two is I'm impressed with your knowledge of the issues and assessment of the problems both countries face.

I still want to meet you though it looks like it may have to be around the throne..but it will come then for sure.