The USA — a City on a Hill?

5 min readOct 1, 2022


Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

We say that the USA is a City on a Hill. It refers to the United States as a beacon of hope for the world and dates back (in US history) to John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His hopes were to establish that colony as a Puritan City upon a Hill and this influenced the governments of neighboring colonies, and later ended up being used as an epithet for the entire United States.

But are we?

The foundations for a City on a Hill are ultimately solid. Some engineering work has to be done to overcome the slopes and slants of the hillsides, water needs to be irrigated away in channels for when there are downpours, and careful planning, discussion and decisions must be made for guiding that city well into the future. Legally, this is a city with a pretty good and obvious foundation.

That is not what we see in the United States.

Congress does not show us a City on a Hill, but rather portrays a modern day Venice. Each new home, each new rule and regulation must be extracted from a muddy soil. Judges have to rule on each and every new case brought in front of them, just because no one is able to tell right away what the foundation of the nation is.

In Venice, wooden slabs and poles are driven into the ground to make the muddy soil sturdy enough to carry homes, streets and people. Without that engineering marvel, all would sink into the swamp.

  • So, why do we call ourselves a City on a Hill?

Because the US Constitution is an Enlightened document. It is that beacon of hope. Nevertheless, our legal system is mostly based on English Law, or as we say today on Case Law.

Looking at our neighbors to the North, we can discover what we are doing differently than what they are doing. While also an Anglo nation, only the English-speaking provinces of Canada use English Law.

In Case Law, each and every case is judged by itself as if it were a new building for our lovely Venice. Older jurisprudence is used as guidance.

Yet that is not what the French-speaking Canadians have. They have Napoleonic Law — also known as Enlightened Law. Enlightened means that it is not based on what a judge has declared but on the entire legal ensemble made into the long-lasting and profound foundation of their provinces. Like a City on a Hill, it may rain sometimes and some good engineering is required. Yet unlike Venice, Canada does not have to prep the muddy soil for building a single home.

Because the French-speaking Canadians must have their laws be based on laws that are always in agreement with one another, the national laws of Canada must follow the same high standards, even when the English-speaking provinces can have their Case Law as much as they like for themselves.

With seeing our neighbors to the North for what they have, we can look at ourselves a little better. While mostly using Case Law, we do have the United States Constitution. It is an enlightened document in that it did prep the soil for the entire nation. It is not Venice; it is not London. It is Washington, D.C. We have an enlightened document in a sea of Case Law.

A sea of Case Law can make us seasick of course. When time and time again we have to prep the muddy soil for yet another building, it becomes possible to start seeing the US Constitution as if it were Case Law itself as well. When all buildings, for instance, have a marker from the alphabet, a, b, c, d, etcetera, then seeing “1” may not be recognized as a number but as a letter. When what is prime is no longer recognized as prime then the judges can end up ruling as if the US Constitution were Case Law. An attitude wrapped in a simple mistake can make a world of difference.

  • In one system, the judges are the ultimate rulers. They declare what is under water and what is above water in Venice.
  • In the other system, the foundation itself declares plain and clear what is going on in a City on a Hill.

And that trivial difference makes a world of difference indeed.

Let’s have a closer look at the claim that Local Revolutions grassroots organization is making, that local government must offer elections using the proportional voting format because it is the only clean voting system there is. They are pointing at the US Constitution, and declare it enlightened.

The Ninth Amendment

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

[There is no right enumerated that gives the States or local governments the option to deny or disparage what belongs to the people, voting-wise. Voting should be based on equality, in process and in outcome. The government officials’ hands are empty, while providing us voting systems in which discrimination is fully baked in. The scam is that they are overstepping their powers, not following the US Constitution. Yet when judges ignore the Ninth Amendment, consider it trivial, then elections can be held as they are today.]

The Tenth Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

[Among the entities given powers, we can see immediately that cities and counties did not receive such empowerment in the US Constitution. The People’s realm is first in line at the local level because they do have a directly established empowerment. Even when the State created that secondary level of local government within their realm, they have an indirect empowerment. They cannot hand over US Constitutional powers to the local levels. Yet when judges ignore the Tenth Amendment, consider it trivial, then the State can tell us we don’t have a right to the cleanest voting system for our local elections. That is like a landlord walking into your home and telling you that you cannot cook Brussels sprouts in your kitchen.]

The Fourteenth Amendment

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privilege or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

[This is very clear: The State cannot make Proportional Voting verboten at the local level; the States are overstepping their power, because they are taking away a privilege where it is not their right to take a privilege away; they are not allowed to dictate what is verboten for local elections.]

Obviously, we are entitled to elections free over overbearing governmental manipulation. We should have full political freedom in our own cities and counties.

Unless we live in Venice and the judges get to decide what is above water and what is not.




Structural Philosopher