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America, the intolerant

BY ANISH KOKA

Historically, the great tension between liberty and authority was between government as embodied by the ruling class and its subjects.  Marauding barbarians and warring city-states meant that society endowed a particular class within society with great powers to protect the weaker members of society.  It was quickly recognized that the ruling class could use these powers for its own benefit on the very people it was meant to protect, and so society moved to preserve individual liberties first by recognizing certain rights that rulers dare not breach lest they risk rebellion.  The natural next step was the establishment of a body of some sort that was meant to represent the interests of the ruled, which rulers sought agreement and counsel from, and became the precursor to the modern day English parliament and the American Congress.  Of course, progress in governance did not end with rulers imbued with a divine right to rule being held in check by third parties.  The right to rule eventually ceased to be a divine right, and instead came courtesy of a periodical choice of the ruled in the form of elections.  The power the ruled now wielded over those who would seek to rule lead some to wonder whether there was any reason left to limit the power of a government that was now an embodiment of the will of the people.

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