Street Fighting Man--A Rock and Roll Epistle
By Richard Girard
"Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet boy,
'Cause the summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the streets boy;
But what can a poor boy do, but to sing for a Rock'N'Roll band:
'Cause in sleepy London town there's just no place for Street Fighting Man, No!"
Rolling Stones, "Street Fighting Man;"
Beggar's Banquet, 1968
A republic, especially when it takes some form of a democracy, direct (which Thomas Jefferson called the purest form of a republic--if impracticable beyond a township--in a letter to Isaac Tiffany in 1816) or representative, and laissez-faire capitalism are not mutually complimentary systems.
In fact, the two of them are mutually antithetical systems.
John Adams, (in Novanglus No. 7, March 6, 1775) stated, "They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men." This means that a republic is defined by its laws, especially by its Constitution, and by the limitations imposed explicitly and implicitly by that Constitution. In the case of the U.S. Constitution the prohibition against Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto laws (Article I, Section 9, Clause 3) are examples of explicit limitations on the government. The application of the Bill of Rights through the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment are examples of implicit limitations on the governments of the states.
I mention the Equal Protection clause specifically because of one of the other essential properties of all republics: a large degree of equality among the citizens of the republic, both in terms of protections and duties.
As Thomas Jefferson--writing in his Commonplace Book--states, "[As Montesquieu wrote in Spirit of the Laws, [Book] VI, c[hapter] 2:] 'In republican governments, men are all equal; equal they are also in despotic governments: in the former because they are everything; in the latter because they are nothing.'"
I also believe that there are implicit duties placed upon all citizens by our Constitution. A primary example of these is our duty to serve on a jury if we are called. If we have a right to a trial by a jury of our peers under the Sixth Amendment, then it is logical that we have a responsibility to be a member of a jury should one of our peers be placed on trial.
All of these duties and other limitations are necessary to the proper functioning of a republican form of government. While the lex majoris partis (majority rule) may be at the heart of any republican government, our Founders and Framers--avid readers of the histories of Athens and Rome--understood that unscrupulous demagogues could take advantage of a tumultuous situation and, scapegoating some segment of society, impose a tyranny against them. As James Madison so wisely discerned, a republic requires checks and balances; not only against the government itself, but against any potential tyranny imposed by either a majority or a minority of its citizens.
Laissez-faire capitalism completely lacks any sort of duties, checks or balances.