I happened to catch a recent interview between a Tea Party Congressman and a reporter. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get the names of either.) The Congressman defended the decision to shut down government if that’s what it took to stop the hated “Obamacare” by saying that government had “no business” being involved in healthcare. When the reporter asked the obvious follow-up question, “what does that mean for your position on Medicare?”– the Congressman looked at her blankly and responded “What’s your point?” He rather clearly had no idea that Medicare is a government program.
Americans are electing to office people who are totally ignorant of the world they inhabit and the Constitution they claim to revere. As “Red George O’Malley,” a frequent commenter here, aptly put it, they are prisoners of their own ignorance.
Recently, I was asked to develop a “quick and dirty” quiz that might test the actual civic knowledge of some of the folks who are so vocal about government and political life. My guess is that readers of this blog would do well on that quiz–and far too many of our elected officials and vocal opinionators wouldn’t. It’s ten questions: see what you think. (Answers are at the end.)
1. The American Constitution was based largely upon principles of “natural rights” and John Locke’s “social contract” theory. Those ideas came primarily from (a) the bible; (b) English common law; (c) Enlightenment philosophy; (d) James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.
2. The first ten Amendments to the Constitution are referred to as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights (a) is the source of rights that government has granted to American citizens; (b) is a list of human or ‘natural’ rights that the government is prohibited from infringing; (c) was included in the Articles of Confederation; (d) all of the above; (e) none of the above.
3. Checks and balances were intended to limit concentrations of government power. They include (a) the three branches of government; (b) federalism; (c) judicial independence; (d) all of these; (e) none of these.
4. Freedom of Speech is (a) protected by the First Amendment; (b) protection against government censorship; (c) intended to protect unpopular views, even when majorities of citizens believe those views are dangerous; (d) all of the above; (e) none of the above.
5. The phrase “separation of church and state” refers to (a) the assault on Christianity by liberal judges; (b) the rule that Churches are tax exempt; (c) the operation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment; (d) all of these (e) none of these.
6. The Fourth Amendment was an outgrowth of anger at searches by King George’s soldiers under what were called “General Warrants.” The Amendment (a) prohibits government from conducting searches without ‘probable cause’; (b) has been held to require individualized suspicion; (c) forbids government from conducting ‘fishing expeditions;’ (d) places the burden on government to justify a search; (e) all of these.
7. Equal Protection of the Laws requires government to (a) treat all citizens the same; (b) treat similarly-situated citizens equally; (c) protect citizens against discrimination by other citizens; (d) all of these; (e) none of these.
8. The Deficit is (a) the national debt; (b) the difference between what government takes in and what it spends on an annual basis; (c) calculated without taking entitlements into account; (d) all of these; (e) none of these.
9. The Debt Ceiling (a) is the amount of money the country is authorized to borrow; (b) allows the U.S. to borrow what is necessary to pay amounts Congress has previously spent or authorized spending; (c) has generally been raised by large, bipartisan Congressional majorities; (d) all of these; (e) none of these.
10. A scientific theory is (a) scientists’ best guess about the way a natural phenomenon works; (b) a systematic methodology based on the accumulation of empirical evidence; (c) based on Darwinian ideology; (d) a rejection of religion.
Answers: 1(C); 2(B); 3(D); 4(D); 5(C); 6(E); 7(B); 8(B); 9(D); 10(B).