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February 08, 2022

True Institution of Governments

by Professor Robert J. Barth

True Institution of Governments

It is very significant that our founders stated in the Declaration of Independence that “governments are instituted among men” for the purpose of securing unalienable rights. The first point is that the term “government” is in the plural. This meant that there could be a diffusion of power among different levels of civil government. Activities in certain geographic areas or different types of conduct could be “governed” by one government and other areas or types of activities could be governed by another government, and they would work in harmony with each other to accomplish the goal of securing unalienable rights. The beauty of this approach is that there is no concentration of power which tends to result in abuses in power.

The implementation of this philosophy of government has evolved to what we know as city government, county government, and state government within the same geographic area called a state. The division of authority among these different “governments” helps preserve accountability to the people and serves as a check on power among the different levels. Certainly, cooperation is encouraged and is sometimes necessary depending on the need, but each level of government has it owns jurisdiction and its own people to implement the policies enacted into law within that jurisdiction. Plus, there is an additional check on power by the separation of the legislative power, the executive power, and the judicial power. The separation of powers, along with the different levels of governments, is all for the purpose of securing unalienable rights. (The division of authority between the state governments and the national government involves additional principles.)

The second significant point about the phrase “governments are instituted” is that the people are to create or establish the form of governments to which they would subject themselves.  Governments were not to be created by using physical force to dominate and control the people, as is the case with tyrannies, whether by dictators or oligarchs.

To institute governments required a process to determine what forms of government would best protect unalienable rights. In 1776, local governments in the colonies had already been established with some degree of autonomy from the British Crown. Thus, there was sufficient experience to know that it was efficient and wise for the people to elect honorable, respected, and wise men of integrity who could be trusted to act in the best interests of the people. This representative form of government is called a “republic” because it presupposes the people as the source of governmental power, delegated to elected people of integrity, for the purpose of making decisions and laws in the best interest of the people by securing their unalienable rights. Sometimes this could mean that an elected official might need to take a stand against a trendy or popular movement that was destructive of those ends, even if it seemed to be against “the will of the people.” Our founders understood well the dangers of pure and representative democracies. While the selection of government officials uses the democratic process of elections, America was not intended to be a democracy. It was designed to be a representative republic with people of integrity in leadership.


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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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