The Key 2 Liberty involves learning the principles of freedom for yourself and then sharing your knowledge with others.


Constitutional Republic

The government of the United States is a constitutional republic.  This type of republic differs from a unitary republic in that the powers granted to the government by the people are not concentrated at the national level.  Instead they are shared between the individual state governments and the federal government with each level of government being assigned specific duties to protect the rights and property of the people.

The federal government of our constitutional republic is composed of three branches; a legislative branch, an executive branch, and a judicial branch.  The legislative branch is given the responsibility of creating the laws, the executive branch is responsible for making sure the laws created by the legislature are faithfully executed and the judicial branch is left in charge of interpreting the laws created by the legislature and enforced by the executive branch.  Each branch serves a distinct role in the management of the government and the system is designed so that each of the three branches cannot encroach on the responsibilities of the other two.  There is, however, a set of checks and balances between the three branches to assure that no one branch becomes dominate over the other two.  The individual state governments are structured in the same way.

In a properly operating constitutional republic, the responsibilities of the government are distributed among many different people so that political power is never concentrated in the hands of a few.  The Founders knew that placing all the powers of government in one person or a small group of people would result in tyranny.  This is why the governmental powers of the United States were divided up vertically between the federal and state governments and then horizontally at each level by splitting the responsibilities between three independent branches.  The Founders felt that the federal government should only be given the power to handle matters that concern the relationships between foreign governments and the people of the United States and such other matters that concern the nation as a whole that the individual state governments can not effectively manage on their own such as raising and supporting an army and navy for the common defense of the whole nation, coining money and regulating its value and regulating trade among the individual states and with foreign nations.  They also wanted to make sure that the individual state governments retained the authority to create all laws dealing with the day to day lives of the people.

The responsibilities that have been delegated to the federal and state governments are best described by Thomas Jefferson.  -  “The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign affairs.  Let the general (federal) government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants. – Bergh 10:168. (1800.) [The Real Thomas Jefferson, p. 624]

A constitutional republic as designed by the Founders is placed at the ideal point at the very center of the political power scale.   The government is under complete control by the people and is granted just enough authority to be effective at keeping the peace and protecting the rights and property of the people.  Unfortunately, we have made some disastrous modifications to the original Constitution that has shifted our government to the left of the ideal center point on the political power scale.

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the United States is called the Congress.  It is made up of two chambers; The House of Representatives and the Senate.  In order for a bill to become a law it must pass both chambers and then be approved by the president.  If the president disapproves of a bill passed by both chambers by a simple majority it can still become a law if both chambers go on to pass the bill by a two thirds majority.

The members of the House of Representatives are proportioned among the states according to population.  States with larger populations have a greater number of representatives and all states are entitled to at least one.  There are currently 435 members that make up the House of Representatives. The number of representatives assigned to each state is refigured every 10 years after the results of the constitutionally required census is completed.  As of the 2010 US Census California receives the largest number of representatives at 53 and there are seven states that receive the minimum one representative: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.  The people of the United States vote for their representatives every 2 years for a two year term.  There are no term limits for representatives.  The House of Representatives are responsible for introducing all bills for raising revenue and have the sole power of impeachment of federal officials.

The Senate is composed of two members (senators) from each state for a total number of one hundred.  Senators serve a six year term and like representatives have no term limits.  The Senate is divided as equally as may be into three classes so that approximately one third of them are voted on every two years by the people.  The Senate has the power to confirm the appointment of officers that have been nominated by the president and to try all impeachments.  The senate must also approve all treaties with foreign nations by a two thirds majority vote.

Senators have not always been chosen by the people by popular election as they are now.  When the Constitution was first adopted senators were chosen by the legislatures of the individual states.  This provided a very important check on the powers of the federal government.  Originally, the House of Representatives was the chamber of Congress that was designated to represent the people and the Senate was the chamber that was designated to represent the states.  After the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment on April 8, 1913 the method of choosing senators was changed from being chosen by the individual state legislatures to being chosen by the people by popular vote.  This amendment effectively destroyed the ability of the states to protect their own interests and prevent the federal government from usurping their power by legislation passed by the Congress.  Before the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment senators were held responsible by the state legislatures that sent them to Congress and therefore always voted to protect the rights of the states.  After the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment the senators became beholden to the people instead of their state legislatures.  Now that senators are no longer chosen by and therefore no longer responsible to, the state legislatures, they frequently do not take the states rights into consideration when they vote.  As a result the federal government has been swallowing up the powers that were originally reserved to the states.  The negative impact that the Seventeenth Amendment has had on our republic cannot be overstated.  The Seventeenth Amendment has virtually transformed our republic into a quasi-democracy.

The whole purpose of structuring a government as a republic is to have a nation that is governed by laws designed to protect the rights and property of the people instead of being governed by the whims of men.  The elected members of a republic, and especially those who make up the Senate, are supposed to be knowledgeable about protecting the unalienable rights of the people.  In the previous section on democracy it is explained that the primary flaw of a democracy is that the rights of the people are not protected.  If 51% of the people vote for a particular law then it becomes a law regardless of the rights of the other 49%.  If 51% of the people vote to increase taxes on the other 49% of the people, which obviously would be the wealthier portion, then it becomes a law.  Today, laws like this are very common.  We simply do not protect the right to private property anymore.  After the country was first founded, laws that create entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would have been unthinkable as they basically redistribute wealth from “the rich” to the poor.  Since senators are now elected directly by the people they often feel compelled to provide what the majority of the people demand to ensure their reelection.  This is often done at the expense of the rights of the minority.  Prior to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment senators would more often than not vote to protect the rights, including the right to own private property, of the people and the rights of the several states.  The people of the United States should highly consider repealing the Seventeenth Amendment and place the right to private property back on the priority list.

Executive Branch

The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch and is responsible for making sure that the laws of the federal government are faithfully executed.  The president is commander in chief of the military and approves all bills, orders, and resolutions that get passed by Congress.  With consent of the Senate the president appoints the officers of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers, and Judges of the Supreme Court.  The president is also in charge of making treaties with foreign nations with approval of two thirds of the Senate.  The president serves a four year term and can be reelected once.

There is also an office of Vice President of the Unites States.  In a general election the candidates for the offices of president and vice president run together on a common ticket.  The responsibilities of the vice president are limited.  The vice president’s only constitutional responsibility is to be the President of the Senate.  His only role in the Senate is to cast a vote for a bill, resolution, treaty or appointment in the event of a tie.  The vice president is first in line to take over as president in the event of the president’s death or if the president becomes unable to perform the duties of the office due to a disability.

Due to the two party political system (Republican / Democrat) that is prevalent in the United States today, the president and vice president are basically elected indirectly through a popular vote using the Electoral College system.  Through this system electors appointed by each state cast electoral votes for the citizens on their behalf after they have voted for their choice of president and vice president in the general election.  The number of electors appointed in each state is equal to the number of senators (always two) plus the number of representatives that the state is entitled to in Congress.
The laws governing electors differs from state to state but in general electors must pledge to vote for the candidates that the public votes for in the general election.  In some states the electors are not absolutely required to vote for the popularly chosen candidates and do on occasion vote for a different candidate.  Although the final result of an election has never been affected by an elector voting against the wishes of the public an interesting situation did occur in the 1836 election.  In this election 23 electors from Virginia refused to cast their votes for Democrat Party vice presidential candidate Richard Mentor because of the fact that he lived with and fathered children with an African-American woman.  This resulted in the vice presidential candidate not having a majority of the electoral votes.  The result was then decided on by the Senate who chose Richard Mentor anyway and thus the final result was not affected.
If after an election there is no candidate for president with a majority of the electoral votes (which today is very unlikely to happen with a dominant two party system) then the House of Representatives is assigned the responsibility of choosing the president by selecting from the three candidates with the highest number of electoral votes, each state having one vote.  The House of Representatives has only had to choose the president twice in the history of the United States because there was no majority of electoral votes for president.  The first time was basically due to a flaw in the Constitution with respect to the way the president and vice president were chosen.  Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution provided the original method of choosing the president which was later changed by the Twelfth Amendment.

Article II, Section 1, (third clause).
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose a President. But in choosing the President the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each State having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the Electors, shall be the Vice-President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice-President.

For the first two elections (1788 and 1792), George Washington had the greatest number of electoral votes and a majority so he became president and since John Adams had the second highest number of electoral votes he became vice president.  In the third election (1796) John Adams had a majority of the electoral votes so he became president and Thomas Jefferson had the second highest number of electoral votes so he became vice president.  This was an unanticipated result as John Adams was from the Federalist Party and Thomas Jefferson was from the Democratic-Republican Party.  In the election of 1800 Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr ran together on the Democratic-Republican Party ticket as president and vice president and received a majority of electoral votes compared to the Federalist candidates John Adams and Charles Pinckney.  This was the first election where the presidential and vice presidential candidates ran together on a common party ticket.  This resulted in Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr having the same number  of electoral votes so the House of Representatives had to choose between the two.  In an attempt by the Federalists, the party in control of the House of Representatives at the time, to embarrass Thomas Jefferson it took over 36 ballots to resolve the presidency as the first 35 did not give Jefferson the needed 9 state votes out of 16 to win.  Prior to the 36th ballot Alexander Hamilton urged some fellow Federalists to vote for Thomas Jefferson since he thought Jefferson was the better of the two even though he disliked the policies of both.  After the fiasco of the 1800 election was over changes were made to the way the president and vice president were elected by the Twelfth Amendment.

The Twelfth Amendment takes into consideration political parties and separates the offices of president and vice president by voting for them in separate ballots.

Link to Twelfth Amendment

The second time the House of Representatives had to choose the president happened in 1824.  Shortly before the election of 1824 the Federalist Party had dissolved leaving the country with basically one political party, the Democratic-Republican party.  As a result there were four Democratic-Republican candidates that ran for the 1824 presidential election and none received a majority of the electoral votes.  Andrew Jackson received 99 electoral votes, John Quincy Adams received 84 electoral votes, William Harris Crawford received 41 electoral votes and Henry Clay received 37 electoral votes.  Since no candidate received a majority of electoral votes the House of Representatives had to select from the three candidates that received the highest number of electoral votes which was Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William Harris Crawford.  The House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams on the first ballot with 13 states voting for him while only 7 voted for Andrew Jackson and William Harris Crawford getting 4.