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Just Say KNOW Week 2: The Structure of our Government is Central to Liberty…

Published in Blog on January 16, 2024 by Rep. Ken Ivory

Just Say KNOW: YOU Are the Answer to What Ails America Week 2
“The Structure of our Government is Central to Liberty…”

"The Framers considered structural protections of freedom … the most important ones, for which reason they alone were embodied in the original Constitution and not left to later amendment. The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril." Justice Antonin Scalia, NFIB v. Sebelius (2012, dissent)

YOU Are the “Boss” of the American Governing Enterprise

You joined the Convention of States Project (COSP) because you care deeply about how out-of-control government impacts your children and grandchildren, right? This is why I downsized my law practice and ran for the Utah State House in 2010 – “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” And it’s why I accepted the call to become an Ambassador for Patriot Academy to help raise up hundreds of thousands of Constitution Coaches to share the principles of our exceptional constitutional form of government as taught in an entertaining format by David Barton, Rick Green, and others. 

We learned last week in this Just Say KNOW Series that We the People are the “Boss” – “the dread and redoubtable sovereign” – of our American governing enterprise. It’s up to us to restore and maintain constitutional order to secure these blessings to our children and grandchildren.

But children and grandchildren can be messy, right? We are still cleaning up messes made by our favorite two-year-olds over the holidays! Two-year-olds are experts at making messes; it’s what they do. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

Government is Like a Two-Year-Old

My little two-year-old grandson has so much energy and imagination. One morning, my daughter found a trail of footprints made of flour leading to the pantry. The pantry was a mess, with my grandson’s little panda bear pal stationed on the top shelf, surveying his handiwork. As my daughter, hands on hips, looked at him, my grandson shot his hands up to shield his face, and blurted: “Don’t See Me, Mom! Don’t See Me!”

The Framers understood that government is like a two-year-old! They knew if We the People do not vigilantly keep an eye on it every minute, government will make a mess! And, when caught, the first thing government does is (figuratively) hold up its hands and declare, “Don’t See Me, America! Don’t See Me!”

Just like our beloved two-year-olds, this is not a government bug, it’s a feature! When it comes to two-year-olds, and governments, making messes is what they do best – and they don’t like to be seen or held accountable when they do. When they make a mess, it’s not their faults, it’s ours! It’s up to us to constantly keep an eye out for the mess we know is always coming.

The American Structure of Government is Central to Liberty

Knowing this truism, the Framers engineered an intricate structure of government with a deliberate network of limits, balance, and divisions of governing powers to check, restrain, and “keep an eye” on government … ALWAYS!! 

My first job out of college was working in the International Relations Department of the Mayor’s Office in the City of Osaka, Japan. An American economist and systems engineer who helped rebuild Japan after WWII is still a household name. W. Edwards Deming is famous in Japan for systems theories like this:

“Every system is perfectly designed to achieve the results that it gets.”

Think about that one!

    • “Every system,” like a constitutional governing system, 
    • “is perfectly designed,” or perfectly unmaintained and in disrepair, 
    • “to achieve the results” – a $34 trillion national debt, accruing interest at the rate of nearly $1 trillion a year, more than 5,000 federal felonies (only three federal felonies are constitutionally authorized), and control over virtually every aspect of our lives and livelihoods by unelected bureaucrats in a distant federal government – 
    • “that it gets.”

Deming described the type of system America’s Framers engineered into the Constitution, “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed,” to achieve very specific results, “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” for “ourselves and our posterity.”

So, when the results we achieve as a nation are not those promised in our founding documents – “the greatest work ever struck off by the brain and pen of man,” remarked England’s Prime Minister William Gladstone – it is up to us, “[t]he dread and redoubtable sovereign” (we discussed last week), to restore and maintain the limits, the balance, and the divisions of our exceptional American system of government.

Limits on Governing Power

The Ninth Amendment establishes that We the People only delegated a small speck of our sovereign power to government:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

All power We the People did not delegate to government is reserved to and retained by the People. This is the first structural limit, check, and restraint in our constitutional system. To keep our eye constantly on this critical limit for every matter of governing concern, we must simply ask: 

Did We the People delegate power over the governing matter in question to any government?

Constitutions are instruments by which the People “constitute” – create and delegate power to – the government established thereby. If power over a matter in question is not delegated to the national government by the United States Constitution, as amended – or to the respective State by its Constitution, as amended – that power is retained by the People and government has no authority (or jurisdiction) to act. Period! Do not pass “GO!” Do not collect $34 trillion!

Balance of Governing Power

Where the People have delegated to government some of the vast power endowed upon us by our Creator, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declares and restricts which of these two governments has authority (jurisdiction) to act:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

If the power is not in the U.S. Constitution, and not specifically prohibited to the States, the power (jurisdiction) belongs to the States, unless the People reserved that power to themselves in their State Constitution. This is the second structural limit, check, and restraint in our constitutional system.

Known as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison called this new structure of American government a “Compound Republic.” This name is not a distinction without a very important difference. Madison explains:

In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments (discussed below).”

This is NOT our structure of government! The critical difference in our American Republic, Madison informs us, is that all governing power is balanced between two governments, constituting a double security to the right of the People: 

In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” James Madison, Federalist No. 51, 1788

In Federalist No. 45, Madison instructs us on the precise balance of power between the two governments:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite."

He goes on to explain that national government powers “will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce;” and:

The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” 

Arguing for the ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, the supposed “big government guy,” warned:

This balance between the national and state governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from over passing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” 

Divisions of Governing Power

Having first fixed clear limits on power delegated to government by the People (a small speck – Ninth Amendment); and next having established the critical balance of governing powers between National and State Governments (“few and defined” and “numerous and indefinite” – Tenth Amendment); lastly, the Framers instituted precise divisions of governing power between and among three governing branches at both the national and state levels of government, as Madison explains:

In a single republic [whether state or national government], … usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments.”

Madison clarifies that this unique blueprint for our American System of Government was precisely fashioned to secure our rights, as follows:

“…the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” James Madison, Federalist No. 48

The “Job Description”: Restore the Structure of American Governing

Most commentators, educators, and “experts” describe our government today referencing only the three branches of the national government: Executive, Legislative, Judicial. Madison corrected that this is “a single republic,” and NOT our American governing structure.

Is it any wonder when the structure of our exceptional and unique “Compound Republic of America” is reduced to barely 20% of the network of limits, balance, and divisions of governing power that our nation is 80% (or more) off track in achieving the results for which America was founded.

It’s time that We the People demand that our state and national leaders focus their utmost energies on restoring and maintaining constitutional order in America … before the debt and destruction of our exceptional governing structure “puts liberty in peril,” as Justice Scalia warned. We the “Boss” of this governing enterprise, must KNOW our ingenious American System of limits, balance, and divisions of governing power. Moreover, it is up to We the “Boss” of our American enterprise to give to our four (4) state leaders, who report directly to us, the “job description” to restore and maintain the limits, balance, and divisions of governing power which the Framers carefully crafted into the United States Constitution to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” for another 250 years!

Just Say KNOW

In our collective mission to Act Like the Boss and Just Say KNOW, we learned last week to KNOW that We the People are the Boss of the American governing enterprise, that We “are in charge around here.” We learned that it is our responsibility to act like the boss and solve the problems facing our nation. I promised that you can do this job if you will come to KNOW the exceptional structure of American government and learn to delegate to your four state leaders the “job description” to restore the limits, balance, and divisions of governing power established in the U.S. Constitution which secure our rights.

Next week, we will KNOW the duty and the powers of our States, and our four state leaders to restore the balance of this governing structure which is “of the utmost importance.” We will KNOW why.

“IT WILL BE THEIR OWN FAULTS, if the several states suffer the federal sovereignty to interfere in the things of their respective jurisdictions.” John Dickinson (Fabius), Letter III, 1788 (all caps in original).

Step up now and join us to restore constitutional order, and stay tuned next week as together we re-learn that which We the People must KNOW to do our job as the sovereign … in as little as five minutes a week! 

Ken Ivory

Utah State Representative; Ambassador, Patriot Academy; Attorney; and Author of “Where’s the Line? How States Protect the Constitution.”

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