People Being Governed Without Their Consent


This story from Griggs County is pretty amazing. There’s been an on-going fight there over what to do with the local court house. County officials want to rebuild. Locals don’t want to spend the money to rebuild, and they want to preserve the historic court house which is one of the oldest in the state.

The county has held three votes on plans to rebuild the court house, and voters have defeated them three times. But now county officials are moving ahead with plans to rebuild, claiming it’s legal as long as they use existing revenues.

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks

I don’t live in Griggs County, and I don’t know much about their court house (though I would probably come down on the side of preserving the historic building), but there’s a fundamental issue here about governance.

America was founded upon the principle that the people should be governed only with their consent. Which is to say that the government ought to be responsive to the people. This is why we call those who work in government public servants. They are to serve the will of the people.

Which isn’t to say that the people are infallible. Voters often get together and do very stupid things. But we enter a danger zone when local officials begin ignoring what the people say.

We elect leaders to make decisions, and the county officials in Griggs County probably do have the authority they claim, but sometimes what’s legal isn’t what’s right. When you put a question to the people, and they give you an answer, the proper thing for elected officials to do is to live by that answer.

The people of Griggs County, apparently, want to make do with the court house they have. Maybe that’s the wrong decision, but even if it is the leaders in Griggs County ought to be listening.