That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.
– The Declaration of Independence 1776 AD
There in RGB pixels in their founding document is the right of which Americans no longer speak.. The right to revolution. There is nothing surprising in that. The English, Greeks, French, Russians, Haitians, Colombians… in fact almost the entire world is in countries which were started by some degree of revolution.
More than that, there we see the definition of legitimacy: The consent of the governed. The people are the source of sovereignty for the very government. Perhaps the means of generation later become taboo, or those in comfortable places no longer trust the people, but the foundation of the American polity is not spoken of in polite society. Like sex, it is done but not discussed.
Revolution is the right of the people and sometimes needed, but it is generally stupid. [ I had a recounting of the modern revolutions here. But such is too pedantic. And inappropriate for those not popping antidepressants like popcorn. ]
This is brought to mind by the various riots in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, and Boston. It doesn’t much matter that they are foolish. What is going on is a revocation of the consent of the governed. A delegitimization of the local governments. Revolution writ small, if you will. We are witnessing a conversion from democracy to penitentiary on the local level. This may not be a seed that will grow to national revolution, but the loss of legitimacy can only fester. If the local governments cannot regain the consent of the people very bad things will happen.
On the national level things are also trending badly. Few people support the President who is scandalizing those who pay attention, and we have the regular scandal of a lame-duck Congress claiming to pass laws for the people who have repudiated them.
These are chronic conditions, not acute, and they lead exorably to decline. I fear it is time for us to get off our duffs.
RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable—omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, “soaring swine.”) Ambrose Bierce The Devil’s Dictionary.