An essential element for government of, by, and for the people is the acceptance of following majority rule while respecting minority rights. Purely following the will of the majority is what lost Athens the Peloponnesian War, and when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution of the first modern government which was designed to be run purely by the people, they had the example of Athens in mind.
Unfortunately, many people living in nations ostensibly governed by “the people” do believe that the government should do exactly what the majority says. Anytime the enormous power of government is controlled by a fickle group of people, it is liable to swing from one extreme to the other, damaging everything it was intended to protect along the way.
That is why, instead of a democracy, where the people have a direct voice in all decisions, they created a republic, where the people elect trusted representatives to make political decisions. In order to make sure even a majority of those representatives didn’t disrespect the rights of the minorities, they created a three-branched government interlaced with checks and balances.
Still, however, despite the best intentions of the Founders, the rights of minorities, even those represented in the electorate, have been consistently ignored with the express consent of the majority, and still are today. Americans are forced to pay for wars they abhor, financial aid to countries that they believe will squander the money, money to the United Nations, a world government that nobody elected, charity to their fellow Americans that they might have given anyways in a form they believe to be more effective. All this follows the will of the majority while blithely denying the rights of the minority.
Is there any way around this problem? Yes, in fact there is — anything that the government can find a way to not do, it shouldn’t do. The fewer things the government does, the fewer minority rights it will be violating, and the closer we will be to a government which truly rules by the will of all the people.
But can any government which has the final say on any issue be trusted to “color inside the lines”? In a system where government can interpret those lines however it likes — which is the situation in every state, past and present — it cannot be. Some special interest group will convince some legislator that only the government can take care if some problem (even though it has been taken care of without government for the lifetime of the nation) and suddenly, the government will have a new power.
This is how, for example, the world’s longest-lasting so-called limited state now regulates under what circumstances one can sell novel chemicals for human ingestion. The United States Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, among others, now impose the prudish opinions of what is at least a majority in Congress on what individuals may consume.
In essence, those living under the auspices of the government of the United States no longer own their own body. Of course, that is not how it is presented to us — we are being “protected” from ourselves and from drug companies that want our business and therefore…will sell us drugs that kill us. Clearly there have been some tragedies with side effects of drugs, but the recent Vioxx scandal demonstrates that the FDA’s regulations have failed to protect Americans from dangerous drugs. We still must make our own conclusions about what we put into our bodies, based on either our own judgment or the advice of the experts we each select for ourselves.
Some will agree that these regulations clearly constitute a transgression against individual liberty, and that we must work to eliminate it and similar infringements on our inherent rights. But the state is always fallible. Governments will always tend to expand until they are either abolished or face so much effective competition from market-based sources that they are no longer a monopoly of law and security services — and thus are no longer truly a government.