Thursday, October 20, 2011

#293 / Police Power

In the United States of America, state and local governments have broad authority to make laws and regulations to achieve the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This authority, which is essentially the right to "govern," is called the "police power." It is a "plenary" power, and the federal government has a similar authority within its sphere. The "police power" has little to do with riot control. It doesn't mean "powerful police."

The whole "idea" underlying our system of government is that we, the people, can establish almost any rule or regulation we determine would be beneficial, as long as those rules and regulations are adopted through a due process procedure that lets all those who might be affected have an ability to speak out and be heard, and as long as the rules adopted do not, in some other way, violate the protections contained in the Constitution.

The plenary right of the police power - the power to enact rules and regulations that govern and direct our lives, both individually and collectively - has been delegated, in our system of government, to our elected representatives.

We are now confronting a situation in which the elected representatives who have been given the power to govern, and who should be using the plenary authority of the police power on behalf of the public, seem to be strangely unresponsive to the great majority of those within the public who look to them to advance their interests and to confront their problems. Our elected representatives (to use what is becoming a common rubric) appear to be more concerned with the 1% than with the 99%.

The various demonstrations taking shape around the country dramatize the fact that we "have a problem" with our government, and with the elected representatives in charge of it. It is a problem verging on system failure.

It is a sure sign that we have a problem with the proper deployment of the police power on behalf of the public when governments deploy powerful police against those in the public who are trying to be heard.

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