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Lauren and Rob Hudson: Letter of Common Ground about America’s roots; understanding the beginnings

Letters for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

We will be less divided if we focus on favorable, historical traditions that can unite us. Nothing is stopping us from slowing down, thinking, listening and reaching some initial agreements. This approach can include understanding our roots, such as how and why the Founders created America in the first place.

The Founders did not want a federal government that could control most aspects of people’s everyday lives. They knew about the danger of concentrating power over a country in the hands of a king or a few people. As residents of English colonies, they experienced England taking away freedoms. They wanted a government devoted to preserving liberties, not taking them away.

We really don’t have to guess about our Founders’ intent to limit government. Thomas Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence, observed, “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” He also said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” And he encouraged independence by stating, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

The Founders disliked power so much that in their first Articles of Confederation, the states remained “sovereign,” which meant the federal government did not really control them at all. When crafting the United States Constitution, the Founders specifically restricted the federal government in the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution’s Ninth and Tenth Amendments reserve to the people and the states all rights not taken away by the Constitution. The Founders could have chosen almost any form of government. They tried to promote freedom and limit government to preserve “natural law” rights of life, liberty, and property gifted to us at birth.

The Founders divided authority up to take power away through our now familiar system of “checks and balances.” They limited Congress primarily to making laws, and they made it difficult to pass laws by setting up two parts of Congress, the House, and the Senate. They granted courts the right to interpret laws passed by Congress, and they limited the executive branch, including the President, to enforcing laws. The different methods for selecting members of Congress, judges, and the President further divided up and limited power.

The Founders’ devised a genius, natural rights government plan, shifting powers here and there to avoid placing too much control in anyone’s hands. Even if most people someday wanted a big federal government to “get things done,” the Founders tried to make it impossible for government to seize that kind of power. They wanted more people to have more say over their own lives.

Most Americans understand that our country formed as a result of a revolution to separate from government tyranny. Most Americans understand enough about the Bill of Rights to know that the Founders focused, at least in part, on limiting government. Our history of limited government can therefore serve as initial, helpful common ground.

America’s roots can inform our thoughts about balancing responsibilities. With our tradition of independence, we should be skeptical of politicians who say they can solve all or most of our problems, no matter how well-intended.

Meanwhile, we should strive to live up to the favorable, historical tradition of taking care of ourselves, our family members, and others through churches and charity. Regardless of how some people feel about America’s roots, everyone can agree to these useful starting points for American life and culture.

Frost Brown Todd LLC Member and business lawyer Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky. Their next letter will explore common ground about free enterprise.

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