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During the 1700s, the English government consisted of a combination of a Monarch, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, with power being distributed among the three factions. Our present government system evolved from this model when defectors removed themselves from British dictation. Although the British government claimed to want democracy, they ruled as dictators.  

The House of Lords inherited their power, whereas the House of Commons were elected officials, much like our senators and other politicians are today. Before defecting from British rule, Americans were bound by the government and a system they hated. Their distrust of their rulers was one of the primary reasons for the declaration of independence in 1776. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were strong supporters of freedom and a new democratic government.

George Washington and Benjamin Franklin dreamed of a democratic society long before one was agreed upon by all the founding fathers. They were considered revolutionaries and strongly opinionated men that paved the way for our current form of government, where the people have a say in making the laws and play a big part in our government process.

Voting Rights and Public Opinion

 

In 18th century England, much of the population could not even vote, so most decisions were made unilaterally by the British Parliament. The public did, however, make their opinions known by ridiculing the Whigs and the Tories in newspapers, cartoons, pamphlets, and signage. Riots also sent a clear message about how people felt about decisions politicians made that affected their lives.

 

Riots and making fun of politicians has not changed in our modern times, but the rights of the public to vote have. Everyone in our current government has a say about new laws that they can vote on. They can also elect officials that support their causes and views or band together and make sure elected officials that are not acting within their best interests are ousted.

 

When the colonists broke from Britain, they formed small local governments with few politicians and put the power in the hands of the many, not the few. Our current government system is based on a combination of federalism and republicanism where power is shared by the federal government and local state government. Although there are some differences, the Constitution clearly spells out where the division of power lies so that no one entity becomes a dictatorship. The men responsible for democracy wanted to protect against the sins of the past.

The Common Man and Local Politics

 

In early colonist life, men had the right to vote, and states did have elected officials however other minorities such as women did not. Those initial discriminations have been corrected, and now all Americans, with a few exceptions have the right to vote and take part in government decisions if they choose.

 

If someone wants to be involved in politics, quite a few opportunities abound. There are a variety of positions within local government such as selectmen, mayor, town planning authorities, and municipal council where you can get started. If you have aspirations to work in the federal government, the place to start is small. You should first make your mark in local government and earn your stripes there. Moving up the ladder is much easier with a solid background in local government.

 

The freedom offered in a democratic society like ours is that any one person can get as involved as they want in our government to effect change. You don’t need to inherit any rights or be elected to any position to make a difference. Although as you move up into higher-level politics, you may have to gain public support, you can get involved easily without any specific knowledge or background. All you need is a passion for change and commitment to the system.

Taxation Then and Now

 

Taxation during British rule and even early on here in the states was disproportionate and somewhat unethical. Instead of funding new streets, government buildings or public safety improvements, a lot of the taxes went directly into the pockets of kings and queens. Tariffs were often based on whim and not a system of income and other regulated factors. The public had no say or control over where their tax dollars went.

 

During the early days of the colonies, a lot of tax money went towards protection and the militia to keep towns safe from natives and other enemies. Eventually, as our current system of democratic government took over, taxes and their use were more regulated and controllable by the elected politicians for each local area.

 

The state and the federal governments are required each year to produce budgets detailing where our tax dollars go. However, even with the democratic system, certain public interest groups and entities are still dissatisfied with the distribution of tax funds and routinely oppose government spending or government waste. With a country as vast and diverse as ours, it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to agree on how the money should be spent. That is why our system of checks and balances exists and why we as individuals have the right to elect officials that we feel will spend our money in the best way possible.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Although there are some drastic differences in the way our governments are structured and run from the 1700s to now, there are also quite a few similarities. Democracy has put the power back in the hands of the people where it belongs. However, that does not eliminate public outcry of unfairness, and rioting when politicians make decisions of which they do not agree.

Much like the rioting and political-bashing through the press during the 1700s, our news stations, internet, and social media observe freedom of the press and the people have the right to speak out and voice their opinions about the actions of government figures.

Despite critics’ views of our democratic system, it is at least more appealing than a dictatorship where the population has no rights to vote and their hard earned money goes into the hands of already wealthy dictators. As Winston Churchill has been frequently quoted as saying “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.”

About the Author:

Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.