Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughts from Mr. Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, writing to James Madison in a letter dated September 6, 1789, touched on a powerful concept providing the rationale for the people to change their government:

“The question whether one generation of men has right to bind another seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water (Jefferson was writing from France). Yet it is a question of such consequence as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be so transmitted I think very capable of proof. I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living” : that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it...

“What is true of every member of the society individually, is true of them all collectively, since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals...

“On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, over even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct...”

The passage, cited in Alf J. Mapp, Jr.’s through biography “Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity,” elaborates on a concept discussed at the time, regarding the authority of a people to enact changes in their governance - bottom up alterations. The leading bottom-up changes of the period were the revolution of the British colonies in America and the revolution in France.

The money quote: “...the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals...” This is the thinking behind Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution - No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. If a government can make war on a single person, it can make war on all. If it can single out for special punishment a group, then it can punish all.

Mr. Jefferson’s reasoning also provides impetus to abolish former laws when their purpose is fulfilled. Only recently was an onerous tax on long-distance telephone calls repealed. How many folks knew they were paying for the Spanish-American War nearly a century after the event? One must wonder how many other stealth taxes lurk? They can be examined and repealed if the current generation determined their purpose is long past. Now that’s a scary concept...

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