As the founder of Citizens for Self-Governance, I’m sometimes asked, “what exactly is self-governance?” Our nation was created by people who, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, were “free and who mean to remain so.”  They weren’t about to give up their liberties to an overbearing government.  After all, they revolted against a king to earn the right to live free.  The government was necessary only to protect the citizens’ natural rights to life, liberty and property and was to act only in areas where the people intentionally granted authority. Additionally, decisions are best made as close to home as possible, where people take care of themselves, where people protect themselves, and – yes –where people even behave themselves.

Though it’s hard to define what self-governance is, America recently saw footage of what it is decidedly not. Rarely does one image or video capture the attention of the public at large like the one of United Airlines beating down and dragging a passenger off the plane.  If you didn’t see it, here it is:

United Airlines had oversold tickets to a flight – apparently a common and very frustrating practice which allows the airline industry to maximize profits and minimize passenger comfort. When they offered more money to travelers to give up their seat, no one took them up on their offer. Apparently – newsflash – people who book airline travel have somewhere to be. When the airlines randomly selected four people to remove from the plane, one of them, Dr. David Dao, refused to move because he needed to see his patients. The airline forcibly removed him. The video and photos of him being dragged down the aisle with a beaten face has been seen by millions.

“Self-governance” broke down in many ways. First, the airline could’ve simply offered more money until passengers believed it was better for them to accept their offer than go on to their intended destination. (A person visiting their in-laws might use it for an excuse to be late, if the price was right.) No matter how high the airlines had to go, the sum would’ve still been dwarfed by their current public relations nightmare. Second, the doctor had every right to be furious. Air travel inflicts a certain indignity well before the airlines bump you off the flight for which you have purchased a ticket. However, he had no legal right to the seat. The only power he had was that of victimhood, his the ability to start screaming like a child in order to garner public support. Third, the cops sent to remove the man from the plane had the right to use force when he refused to obey orders. But people in a self-governing society have to be able to take assessment of a situation and show both common sense and restraint… even if they are acting within their power.

In response, the CEO of United Airlines issued a hamfisted apology. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” he wrote. “The euphemism “re-accomodate” took on a life of its own on Twitter, as people speculated it meant “being forcibly dragged through a plane while screaming.” The CEO’s second communication seemed to blame the doctor for defying officers. However, on this third try, he took “full responsibility” for the situation.

As David French wrote, “All too many people govern themselves and others in the following manner: Once they determine that they have rights or authority in any given context, they are relieved from any greater moral responsibility. They can act imperiously. They can be outraged. They can be unreasonable. After all, the law or justice or morality is on their side.” French was appealing to Americans to try using the Golden Rule in their interactions with others, since “Twitter thrives in a culture of pettiness, unreason, and malice, but our nation surely does not.”

In the absence of self-governance, the government moves in. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, called for an “investigation” into the rough treatment of the troubled doctor via Twitter. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, used her Twitter account to advocate for a Passenger Bill of Rights. Though it’s good our representatives are responsive to public needs, politicians are not Mom and Dad. They probably could not come up with any legal solution to prohibit the breakdown that occurred on that United flight. However, even if they could, “who decides” is a much more important question than “what’s decided.”

Since then, United Airlines reached a settlement with Dr. Dao, though they did not disclose the settlement’s financial terms.  Good for them. We don’t to look to the federal government to solve our interpersonal relationship problems with the airline industry. According to the founders and the constitution, we should govern ourselves and take care of our own problems. Hopefully, after seeing that sobering viral video that so encapsulates what’s wrong with our nation today, we can finally start acting like it.

Image Credit: Screen cap from video

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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