Simple decision

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2002

This fall, the Alaska Constitution orders that we be asked if we want a constitutional convention. This is the most powerful instrument of public will - as we also elect its delegates and ratify what it does. The decision is really simple. Should we not mess with the basis of current state government? Or should we change things to handle any dissatisfaction with it - based on experience?

Well, let's hear from one of the most eloquent of all American Founding Fathers:

"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. ... It was very like the present; and 40 years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead." - Thomas Jefferson (July 16, 1816 letter to Samuel Kercheval)

Now Alaskans, too, have had 40 years of experience in state government, and we are poised at choosing whether our Constitution should benefit from it. Is Thomas Jefferson's advice timely and relevant, or what?

But somehow, we hear people only complain about government conduct. We also hear people boast that in America one has the freedom to be indifferent to civic participation. This is incredible if you remember our country was founded to obtain the freedom of self-government - from which all other freedoms depend! Obviously, a failure to practice this dominant freedom lets every other freedom fade away like water through a sieve.

In conclusion, our government is a creature of the people - except when, in the vacuum of their silence and inaction, government feudalism and authoritarianism grow in substitution. Liberty and freedoms are lost only when enough people fail to execute the responsibilities that create them. What are you planning to do?

Stuart Thompson

Auke Bay

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