Voting booth awaits

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2002

This November, the Alaska Constitution orders that we be asked if we want a constitutional convention. Alaskans should think about why asking this every 10 years is a distinct part of the Constitution. Far from being mere lip service to the supreme sovereignty of the people, it can be a very basic tool to protect that sovereignty. Even though the people must elect the convention delegates and ratify what they do, why is a constitutional convention feared? Such fear develops from two sources - one depends on weak education and the other on social insecurity.

First, weak education on the differences between government activity (done by elected officials and bureaucracy) and constitutional activity can affect citizens. The government activity focuses on what and where the people are ruled or governed - so by this design becomes subject to minority self-interests. Sadly, painful experiences of this are what most people judge things by. In contrast, constitutional activity focuses on how and why government rules or governs over its creators. It is much easier to create a form of government to do the work than it is to get dirty and get that work done. So it's no mystery why America has had so much success making constitutions.

Now what do I mean by social insecurity? Unfortunately, it is covert lack of confidence in oneself and one's neighbors cooperating at the work of self-government.

This is not hard to comprehend when common understanding of American self-government has been reduced to minimum concepts. To many, self-government just means deciding whether to vote, facing the possibility of jury duty, and paying taxes. So they apply the adage "better to deal with the devil you know, than deal with one you don't."

But this covert lack of confidence at self-government is very sinister! In the world of our country's birth, it was not believed that the average human was capable of keeping educated on his country's problems and cooperating to find and execute solutions. Instead, common experience was that humans needed to be controlled and forced to live cooperatively. This was precisely why the world back then thought the American government experiment was doomed to the chaos of social anarchy.

Well, Americans have spent over 200 years proving the unsubstantiated and unreasonable faith our Founding Fathers had in the potential of people. So has our form of government proved to be a joke? Do you have enough faith in yourself and your neighbors to match the faith the Founding Fathers had in you? A voting booth awaits you this fall.

Stuart Thompson

Auke Bay

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