Did the Founding Fathers Screw Up?

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation," Franklin Roosevelt declared as he campaigned for the presidency in the spring of 1932. "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."

Most of the experiments Roosevelt tried to rebuild the economy once he took office encountered fierce opposition. But his closing admonition -- try something -- transcends our political particularities. It's an affirmation of a specifically American common sense, a statement of our national inclination to action, an affirmation of the pragmatism that remains the country's signal contribution to philosophy. In times of trouble, try something. Who could be against that?

Yet, three years into the worst recession since Roosevelt's time, a countercurrent, every bit as American as our bias for action, has swept over us. Twenty-five million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, and the average duration of joblessness stands at record highs. Consumers are too deep in debt to consume; our producers produce and our investors invest abroad. To remedy all this, the federal government today tries ... nothing.

Washington has ground to a halt, paralyzed by a political division deeper than any we have seen since the days when Abraham Lincoln warned that a house divided against itself cannot stand. "Nothing" also isn't doing much to commend the American way to other countries. Much of the developing world now sees China and its model of capitalist authoritarianism as more efficient than the creaky workings of democracy. Nations still marvel at the United States, but today, it's our gridlock that draws the world's wonder.

It shouldn't. The current impasse between the Republican House and the Democratic president and Senate has only highlighted what is a chronic -- indeed, constitutional -- condition: Just as the American people have a bias for action, the American government has a bias for stasis. Governmental gridlock is as American as apple pie.

Those who defend our system concede -- indeed, exult -- that it places roadblocks in the path of major policy shifts. When the nation faces a genuine crisis, they argue, our government invariably rises to the occasion, as it did in Roosevelt's time. Unfortunately, that's a selective reading of our history. One hundred and fifty years ago, our government was not up to the task of holding the union together. Today, as the Great Recession grinds on, the different branches of government cannot agree on a course of action.

The root cause of all this inactivity is our peculiar form of democracy. While most democracies are governed by parliamentary systems, our Founders opted for a presidential system, which they consciously booby-trapped with multiple veto points to impede decisive legislative action and sweeping social change.

In America, for instance, presidents take office, but they don't form a government, as prime ministers do in virtually every other democracy. Presidents can form no more than an executive branch. They appoint cabinet members, sub-cabinet officials, military commanders, ambassadors, and the heads of regulatory agencies. They don't appoint congressional leaders; often as not, their party may not control either or both houses of Congress. Indeed, the White House, the Senate, and the House have been controlled by the same party during just 8 of the past 30 years. Even when the same party holds Congress and the presidency, the system still fragments power.

Presidents and congresses are elected not merely independently but at different times and by different electorates. After a midterm election in the United States, no members of the House and only one-third of the senators hold their seats by virtue of having won them in the same election that brought the president to power. The president and the Congress each have separate but equal claims to power and legitimacy. Thus a government divided between a president of one party and a Congress of another, political scientist Juan Linz observes, can reach an impasse for which "there is no democratic principle on the basis of which it can be resolved."

That's why nations with presidential systems, not parliamentary ones, Linz continues, have been more prone to military takeovers, which occur most frequently when civilian governments have reached just such an impasse. The United States is the sole presidential-system nation to have avoided this, Linz concludes, chiefly due to "the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties." Were our parties not so diffuse, were they ideological and uncompromising, our normal bouts of gridlock could escalate into a crisis -- which is precisely what's happened since the Republican Party was captured by the Tea Party. In a parliamentary system, though, the Tea Party would likely be a separate party, just one among many, like Le Pen's ultra-nationalists in France, that could be excluded from the governing coalition.

What makes parliamentary democracy more responsive, and more efficient, than presidential democracy is that its executive and legislative branches are unified. A party's legislative candidates all seek office in the same election on the same platform. The winning party's leader becomes prime minister, either because his party has won a majority of the parliamentary seats or because his party forms a bloc with another party or parties that together make up the majority. All power to both pass and administer laws under this system resides with the parliamentary majority.

To be sure, this unification of power can come at a cost. In a presidential system, it's easier for the branches of government to check the misdeeds of other branches, as Congress did during Watergate. In parliamentary systems, the capacity for swift and sweeping mistakes is every bit as great as the ability to do good -- something that the austerity budget of Britain's current Tory-led government demonstrates with each passing day. Parliamentary systems can fragment power, too, especially if, like Israel's Knesset, they are filled with small, factional parties that win seats because the minimum vote threshold for legislative representation is so low. But for all the imperfections of parliamentary democracy, it is the system that nearly all democracies have chosen, including the nations of Eastern Europe that could and did comparison shop once the Soviet empire collapsed.

The reason for such near unanimity becomes clear when we look at America's difficulties in achieving universal health insurance. Writing shortly after President Bill Clinton's failure to secure passage of a national health system, political scientists Sven Steinmo and Jon Watts argued that what made national health insurance so much more difficult to enact in the U.S. than in other democracies wasn't a greater level of opposition but our form of democracy. "Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, business interests and conservative political forces generally fought bitterly to prevent national health care insurance in every country in which national health care policies eventually emerged," they wrote. But control of the legislature by parties committed to national health guaranteed that the plans were enacted nonetheless. Britain's national health program, Steinmo and Watts noted, emerged from negotiations among the bill's supporters -- cabinet ministers of the Labour Party government, which had been swept into power in 1945. That's a far cry from Harry Reid's agreeing to strip the public option from the 2010 health-reform bill to win Joe Lieberman's vote.

While Labour needed only a majority of Parliament to enact national health insurance, progressive reform in our system requires the alignment of both houses of Congress with the president, the appeasement of committee chairs, and, since the Republicans began insisting upon it, a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. Roosevelt took office with a huge popular mandate and a massive congressional majority. His plan, though, to include national health insurance within Social Security -- a position that commanded widespread support -- fell victim to powerful Southern Democratic congressional committee chairs, who threatened to derail Social Security itself if he insisted on it.

By the time Barack Obama became president, the Dixiecrats had migrated to the Republican Party. Even though Obama's Democrats, purged of Southern reactionaries, had large majorities in both houses of Congress, the Southernized Republican Party invoked the demand for a 60-vote supermajority at every turn, a hurdle that neither the public option in Obama's health-care reform nor stricter bank regulation in the Dodd-Frank bill were able to clear.

Other reform presidents with popular mandates and control of Congress didn't get nearly as far as Roosevelt and Obama. In 1949, Southern Democrats, angered by Harry Truman's desegregation of the armed forces and other moves toward racial egalitarianism, killed his plan for national health insurance, though Truman had just won election -- and the Democrats had retaken both houses of Congress -- running on that issue. During Jimmy Carter's presidency, the Democrats' multiple plans for health insurance were thwarted by the ongoing struggles between Carter and leading congressional Democrats. Bill Clinton's campaign for universal health coverage also fell victim to internal Democratic disputes and the Senate's 60-vote threshold.

Absent a near national consensus on a broad program, wrote Lloyd Cutler, who served as White House counsel for both Carter and Clinton, "it has not been possible for any modern president to 'form a government' that could legislate and carry out his overall program. Yet modern government has to respond promptly to a wide range of new challenges. Its responses cannot be limited to those for which there is a large consensus induced by some great crisis."

The problem, Cutler concluded, was the Constitution. More bluntly, the Founding Fathers got it wrong.

 

***

 

The men who drafted our governing document came to Philadelphia in 1787 to establish an effective national government, something that the Articles of Confederation had plainly failed to do. However, they brought with them two distinct but interconnected fears, which ultimately kept them from achieving their goal. Disproportionately drawn from the de facto aristocracy of pre-Revolutionary America, they feared that a new class of leaders -- the farmers and artisans who were increasingly represented in state and local governments -- was elevating parochial concerns over the general good in the business of lawmaking. Among the delegates, writes historian Sean Wilentz, "fears of a tyrannical demos were pervasive." By entrusting the election of the new Senate to state legislatures and that of the president to an electoral college, they meant to populate the new national government with (and by) men like themselves.

The other fear that suffused the drafters' deliberations was that of faction. By "faction," James Madison, the Constitution's primary author, wrote in Federalist No. 10, "I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed [sic] to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

In England, nearly to the end of the 17th century, factions had risen and been put down generally by force. By 1787, however, the factions in England were peaceable, if still embryonic, political parties, whose nonviolent nature had not yet rendered them respectable, and most certainly not to the Constitution's drafters.

Factions naturally arise, Madison wrote, and cannot in a democratic republic rightly be suppressed. The task of government thus became "controlling [their] effects." A minority faction could simply be defeated by majority vote. But when the faction was a majority? That was trickier. For that, Madison and his fellow drafters turned to Montesquieu, the French political philosopher (the "oracle," as Madison termed him in Federalist No. 47).

Montesquieu's remedy for the scourge of majority sovereignty was a separation of governmental powers into competing entities that could check one another. Were the executive power to be chosen by the legislature, he wrote, "there would be an end then of liberty." This was a curious assessment, since in England, which Montesquieu claimed as his model, the emerging executive power, the prime minister, was already a creature of Parliament. (Montesquieu was more interested in reporting on what he thought should be rather than what actually was.) In Montesquieu's vision, the checks were everything, while action was a sometime thing at best. The triumvirate of king, lords, and commons, he wrote, "would naturally form a state of repose or inaction. But as there is a necessity for movement in the course of human affairs, they are forced to move, but still in concert."

But suppose they are forced to move -- say, by the necessity of raising the debt ceiling -- and can't get themselves in concert? What then? Repose? Recriminations?

To the Founders, writing in the shadow of Montesquieu, power -- no matter how democratically won and exercised -- had to be fragmented. "In republican government," Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, "the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions ... will admit." If that slows down the legislative process, so much the better. "In the legislature," wrote Alexander Hamilton, the most important drafter of and advocate for the Constitution after Madison, "promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit."

Mr. Hamilton, meet Max Baucus.

Just four years after they had co-authored the Federalist Papers, Hamilton and Madison had become leaders of the new nation's two rival parties -- respectively, the Federalists and the Republicans. From denouncing the evils of faction, they had moved on to heading up America's factions. They had, however, left in their wake a government with so many divisions of and checks to power that they came close to stifling majority rule.

 

***

 

America has paid a price for going first -- for drafting its Constitution a half-century before the commitment to majority rule and the idea of universal suffrage (which meant universal white-male suffrage) became widely accepted. Institutions established to protect both the aristocratic phobias and the slave-holding interests of late 18th-century America -- the Electoral College, the state-based Senate -- have outlived purposes that have long since been forgotten. Yet they govern us still.

No region has been more defined by a fear of majority rule than the South. As the interests of the increasingly industrial North and the Southern slavocracy grew more divergent in the 1830s, the South's political and intellectual leader, John C. Calhoun, put forth the theory of nullification. According to Calhoun, national legislation could not take effect unless it cleared an insuperable hurdle: ratification by legislatures in every one of the states. Majority-rule governments, Calhoun insisted, are inherently oppressive -- a viewpoint that the aged Madison indignantly rejected, writing that it would "overturn the first principle of free Govt."

Calhoun's immediate concern was tariffs that would disadvantage the South, but his deeper concern was slavery, which he feared a Northern majority would one day try to abolish. Anti-majoritarianism came naturally in Calhoun's South Carolina, one of only two states (the other was Mississippi) in which slaves outnumbered the white population. Repressing majorities has long been the linchpin of the white South's politics -- obstructing majority rule through the claim of states' rights, suppression of black (and now Latino) voting, control of congressional committee chairmanships, and the filibuster. It's worth noting that the filibuster emerged as the Republicans' favored tactic only when the Republican Party became centered in the white South. In their efforts to use all the tools of divided government to negate first Bill Clinton's and then Barack Obama's majorities, Republicans have inherited the spirit, if not the theories, of Calhoun.

So what to do? A constitutional convention to rewrite our governing document would unleash every bat in America's political belfry. More modest changes, though, remain in the realm of the possible, and others, while not on anyone's agenda now, might be put there with some proselytizing.

The two reforms with the most support -- ending the filibuster and abolishing the Electoral College -- would do nothing to curtail the fragmentation of power within the federal government, but both would limit minorities' ability to reduce the sway of majorities. Another reform that would create a more representative government would be to change the timing of elections and the terms of congressional office. Presidential contests draw far more votes than midterm congressional ones: From 1984 through 2008, turnout in presidential elections has ranged from 53 percent of eligible adults to 62 percent, while turnout in midterm elections from 1986 through 2010 has ranged from 39 percent to 42 percent. If House members were given four-year terms coterminous with the president's, they would be answerable to the same larger electorate. This, of course, would also be true of senators. These wouldn't be parliamentary elections -- the candidates for president, senator, and representative would still be elected separately -- but at least our elected officials would all derive their power from the identical and most broadly representative electorate.

Although the federal government can't go parliamentary, why can't the states? Maintaining two legislative bodies at the state level has been pointless for the past 50 years, ever since the Supreme Court's one-person, one-vote decisions; those rulings required state Senate districts, once apportioned by geographical unit (such as counties), to be apportioned by population, just as lower-house districts are. Talk about duplication and waste in government! Nebraska has long had a unicameral legislature. There's no good reason why 49 other states shouldn't follow suit. Nor is there a reason why at least a few more compact and homogenous states -- Vermont? Oregon? Utah? -- can't go one step further to a parliamentary system. Two and a quarter centuries after the Philadelphia convention, America should be ready for some small-scale experiments in majority rule.

In the age of globalization, governmental systems are pitted, inescapably and willy-nilly, against one another. Over the past decade, it's grown harder to argue that American democracy has been delivering for its people as well as China's Leninist capitalism has for the Chinese. By the measure of economic growth, a smart authoritarian elite beats a self-negating democratic republic four days out of five. The world looks at us and sees only contentious repose.

Americans angered by the failures of our political system should be angered at the failures of our governmental system as well. The problem isn't that we're too democratic. It's that we're not democratic enough.

Comments

Good way to start a war.

I would say our Constitution is also to protect minorities from the majority, that is why we are a Republic, because what is a majority if not mob rule.  We are a nation of the rule of law (or so we used to be, illegal wars, counterfeiting (FED), Patriot Act).  The "try something" is not a very good thing.  We have tried a lot with this recession and none of it has worked, so why do we not go back to what did work.  Freedom.  Remove the shackles on businesses and lower taxes (i prefer a 0% federal income tax).  End the wars that weaken and put us in debt.  You want to know why American companies are not hiring and there are no jobs?  We have a 15 trillion dollar debt.  Who pays that debt?  Big oil?  Big Corps.?  No, people pay taxes.  So inherently, the debt is saying, look we spent 15 trillion dollars of the futures money to save the present to give the future a better outcome....  hmm.

Amazing that everyone seems to agree. God bless the Fathers and the so perfectly dysfunction system they've devised in order to protect liberty.

Nice, but I think you underestimate the prominence of the filibuster in today's gridlock. The Senate was already antidemocratic enough, being the body composed of an equal number of state representatives, regardless of their state populations. Additionally, the Senators were supposed to be chosen by the state legislatures and therefore a little smarter than the average bear - or at least another step removed from the spectacle of popular elections (The Seventeenth Amendment was probably a mistake). The Founders NEVER intended that a supermajority of the state representatives be required to pass any meaningful legislation. The recent Republican obstructionism is unprecedented. So, no, this is more than the gridlock that is built into the constitution. The filibuster has ruined Barack Obama's presidency and is making our future darker and darker every day.

ineedabeer, Rolling back government is, broadly speaking, what cause the economic crisis in the first place. In a word. deregulation enabled the crisis to occur. You free market types must have slept through the past five years. I really don't know what you could possibly be thinking.

Thank GOD for the intelligent comments!!! Reading this article almost made me LOSE MY MIND!!. If this person likes the parlimantary system, I'll buy his ONE WAY ticket to any foreign nation of his choosing. Not only was our gov't SUPPOSED to have gridlock, it was supposed to be limited in what it could at all. We have allowed WAY too much overstep in that category, but at least the gridlock has kept it from getting worse that much faster. A good step in the right direction would be Ron Paul.

Well, not sure if my previous post will go through, but I'm glad to see the comments telling this guy he's wrong. We are supposed to have gridlock, and supposed to have limits on the gov't, regardless of what they (the legislators) may vote in. If Meyerson hates it, I'll pay for his one-way ticket to another country of his choice. (As long as he gives up US citizenship).

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

"By the measure of economic growth, a smart authoritarian elite beats a self-negating democratic republic four days out of five. The world looks at us and sees only contentious repose."

That is one of my most evil things I've ever read. Ask Socrates about your beloved majority rule. It's mob rule and can be very dangerous. The majority is not always right, particularly when it comes to respecting individual rights. A majority can NOT vote to take $ from one class of citizens and give it to another. A majority can NOT violate my right to life, liberty and the persuit of happiness. The governments ONLY role is to protect these rights. Nothing else. That is why they made it hard to do anything but that. All your talk of modernization and globalization is sickening. Have you no respect for timeless principles and our sovereignty as a nation? I am not my brothers keeper. And I don't want our gov to play that role. They can do a lot to help improve the US economically...by simply getting out of the way. Don't tread on me. If you're so impressed with economic planning and authoritative rule, than move to China mr Ellsworth Toohey!!!

Dear Mr. Meyerson:
While certainly the economic growth of America may not currently compare to that of China, to say they are better off than we economically is tantamount to saying that a small company with a 500% growth rate (with revenues jumping from $1M to $5M) is wealthier than a company of $100M that only increased 5%. And considering their thousands of years head start over America, It’s about time they started catching up.
It is also false to present the idea that communism is the cause of China's economic growth, when it has in fact been their incorporating some of America's Free Enterprise ideas into that government. The opening of trade with America (and other freedom loving countries) probably didn’t hurt either.
More generally speaking, modern economic growth, wherever it may be found (or found on break for the moment) has been due to the democratic freedom of men to think, fail, profit and succeed as they see fit and for their own benefit. It has been the introduction of freedom and democracy in the world that has propelled us more (economically and otherwise) in the last two or three hundred years than the previous history of mankind. It is that freedom of the people (not government) that has allowed nearly everyone on the globe to benefit from its rewards. The only exception to this rule is when governments like that of Sudan, Libya and Syria suppress those freedoms.
I strongly disagree that government accomplishing more will save us. What is inherently wrong about that idea is the precept that ordinary citizens can't get along without government intervention in our lives at every corner. I am afraid that practice and thought has led to the increasing masses in this country and others that can no longer provide for themselves. If the government did less, a lot of our perceived problems would fix themselves. Because they would have to. Without the side-effects of lost freedoms, over-regulation, increased tax-burdons and an over-indulged public debt.
Finally, Mr. Meyerson,  I take exception to idea that economic growth is the factor by which we as a country should be happy. If it were, then it is fair to point out that historically speaking (although currently in a slump), America is still far ahead than any other free country in the world - certainly light years ahead of non-free ones – including China. But, again, assuming growth was the final measure, and assuming (incorrectly) that America is still not a powerhouse, given the choice, I would take American freedoms over Chinese economic growth any day.

The dims always want to change the government when they don't get what they want while the republicans are always about returning to the constitution. The clear problems we face from our government are born from the fact that it has grown so big. Why elect mayors and governors when we have this huge fed government that is taking over our lives now. Why are they telling cities and local what to do at every turn? This is our core problem and until we tame the federal government we will continue to face this debt.

We are not a "democracy" we are a republic.  Is anyone ever going to get this right?  Even Obama doesn't seem to know the difference as he consistently refers to America as a "democracy".

Listen to Mark Levin's September 29th broadcast and learn why Mr. Meyerson is wrong, wrong, wrong.  God bless the United States Constitution.

Woodrow Wilson in 1908, followed by like-minded critics throughout the twentieth century, and now most recently by modern thinkers and writers such as Fareed Zakaria in “The Debt Deal’s Failure”, in Time magazine last month - have deplored the paralysis, the dysfunctions, the ineffectiveness of the American way of governing. Washington’s inability to do the basic, necessary work of governing was of great concern to Woodrow Wilson, for whom the “separation of powers was the central defect of American politics” according to Jeffrey K Tulis in a 1987 book. Another respected writer, Theodore C  Sorenson, in his 1984 book, wrote: “Almost no one in Washington ... doubts the urgent need to reduce sharply the $200 billion annual budget deficit. But how? “ The failure to answer that question has produced consequences: here’s an email I recently received.
Why the US was downgraded...
• U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
• Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
• New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
• National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
• Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000
Now let's remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s our “own household” budget:
• Annual family income: $21,700.
• Money the family spent: $38,200.
• New debt on the credit card: $16,500.
• Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
• Total budget cuts: $385.
This pretty much makes it clear, don’t you think?
According to a very recent Gallup poll, “a record-high 81% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, adding to negativity that has been building over the past 10 years.”
The system is broken. There is at present no will to change the system. Predictably, America will become an increasingly unattractive country in which to live as a result.

Note to Comments Moderator:   My comment from 2 days ago seems to have been removed by mistake. It was apparently the best rated comment here (and my highest "like" quotient on Disqus to date!), received numerous replies in both agreement and disagreement, and is both cited and quoted in several other comments. It also meets in full the comment rules of  "constructive, respectful dialogue", and refraining from "incivility ...  personal attacks and name-calling". 

The only possible problem I can see is my use of the word "screw-up" in the first line, which merely refers to Mr. Meyerson's own title and words. 
 
So I am re-posting my comment here, verbatim (and if possible I'd really like to get all those "likes" back :-) ): 

What Meyerson describes as a screw-up I see as enduring proof of the Founders' genius. The Constitution established a government of limited, enumerated powers, operating within a system of divided powers, not only laterally among the branches of the federal government, but vertically as well, in the relationship of the federal government to the states.  Among many other positives, this has made possible the enormous diversity, richness and individuality of organic cultures, communities and states across an entire continent and beyond. For a group of people who had just fought for and secured their own independence from an all-powerful, faraway monolith capable of controlling every aspect of their lives, it would have been quite anomalous for the Constitutional Congress to institute an all-powerful centralized monolith capable of controlling every aspect of American citizens' lives because a simple majority so decrees. Because they chose not to, the American people and polity have, in the main -- and certainly with fits and starts along the way -- grown and prospered with the ingrained expectation of personal freedom and regional independence.  The problem is not that the federal government today is incapable of doing anything; it is that the federal government continually tries to do too much, and invariably, of late (certainly since the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1998), does a miserable job of it. Mr. Meyerson may believe that simple majority rule would solve all our current problems speedily and without fuss.  It would also mean, however, that the citizens of New York City's 5 boroughs alone -- numbering 8.2 million -- would essentially be in charge of deciding how citizens in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, both Dakotas, and Alaska, with Vermont and Delaware thrown in for good measure (altogether numbering 7 million), should live their lives and run their communities.  Perhaps some New Yorkers believe that should be their prerogative; the citizens of those other 8, mostly farflung states certainly disagree.  I, for one, stand with the latter.

"...above all, try something."... Well, that "something" has gotten us into some serious troubles over the years. The Social Security System was "something", as is "the Stimulus". What Mr. Myerson proposes is to switch to a knee-jerk-reaction system. No thanks, the last thing we need is a government that can quickly spring into action to shred the last liberties we have remaining. Mr. Myerson, just because changes you'd like to see happen don't come quick enough for your liking doesn't mean the system is broken. It simply means that the government is trying to do more than it should.

So instead of having to convince an even greater percentage of the population to vote into power in both houses of Congress and the Presidency, resulting in the means by which to make drastic and permanent changes in policy (usually to the empowerment of the government and disenfranchisement of the individual), this guy is proclaiming that the Founding Fathers missed the target and we should thus change our system so as to allow for a lower threshold to take us towards greater government/bureaucratic tyranny.  Why not, government has proven time and again they are so much better at doing things than free enterprise and the marketplace.  Oh, one little itty-bitty thing he neglects to mention about most of his 'totally freaking awesome' Parliamentary systems - they allow for a recall and dissolution of a government by a no confidence vote when the majority party/coalition overstep their mandate and lose the support of the people.  Because our system doesn't provide for such an action on the part of the people as a check to government overreach, our Founding Fathers created checks-and-balances w/in the co-equal branches.  I agree that there are some political scientists referenced on this page who have missed the mark, but I'm much more inclined to say it's the modern one's rather than those of the 18th century.  Almost 225 years old and still going strong; not such a bad track record - unless you're a liberal hack.
Live Free or Die!

This is
an extremely well written piece of Leftist propaganda.  Gee, the founders
were wrong. How dare they create a system which led to the highest mean
standard of living in human history! The nerve of them creates a system
to guarantee the protection of a citizen’s inalienable rights.
 Not surprising, Harold never refers to irrefutable and incidental facts,
which unequivocally prove the idiocy of the very proposals he wishes had
been successfully forced upon the American citizenry.  Yes, Clinton's Health would have been great!  Obviously not as wonderful as ObamaCare, which
was slammed through congress in its original far-left progressive
ideological form?  ObamaCare included
no:  comprehensive debate, compromise, opposition
amendments, alterations or changes.       I am so excited!  Just think, soon we will be federally mandated
to participate in a National Healthcare system! Even better,
ObamaCare will be far more expensive than the status quo and offer demonstrably
inferior healthcare treatments and services then are available today.
 I really look forward to Obamacare’s new pharmaceutical company tax
structure.  Thank God, it forbids these
companies from deducting R&D, unless it's specifically permitted by the
appointed board of smart people in Washington DC.  The ObamaCare board
obviously has more insight into what potential new drugs are best for humanity.

Why
should the United States be #1 on the planet for new drug and medical
device patents?  It's not fair that 80% of these patents come from
America. Why the hell do humans deserve medications which improve their quality
of life?  Just because heart burn Gastro
medications, Viagra etc., are purchased and used by millions of
people around the world – these folks can live without them!

It's so
rich that the author Harold, cites how easy it was for Great Britain to
impose Social Medicine on its population.  What he forgot to mention is
that in 1945 Britain had been mercilessly bombed into submission by the Germans
since 1940.  It also slipped his mind to mention that the Labor Party deceptively
sold socialized medicine as a temporary fix and claimed it was
not intended to replace England's free market health care system.  He also failed to report how once socialized
medicine was embedded by Labor into the fabric of the
British society, it became impossible to dismantle it.

 

I wish no
ill will to anyone, however, does anyone seriously believe that if Harold
Meyerson were to contract a serious, fatal disease like cancer and the drugs
which provided him the best chance of survival, were not covered by his government
health care plan (as is currently the case in all nations with socialized
medicine (i.e.) Canada, UK etc.) that he wouldn't spend every penny he had to
come to American and seek treatment?  Oh
wait, what about the specious liberal claim that they're looking out for poor
people?  It's seems the only poor people
they are looking out for are poor people with money, who can afford to travel
to other countries for treatment; for currently
 impoverished Americans are covered by Medicaid which is required to
provide all commonly prescribed FDA approved drugs to treat patients suffering
from potentially fatal diseases.

 

This is
an extremely well written piece of Leftist propaganda.  Gee, the founders
were wrong. How dare they create a system which led to the highest mean
standard of living in human history! The nerve of them creates a system
to guarantee the protection of a citizen’s inalienable rights.
 Not surprising, Harold never refers to irrefutable and incidental facts,
which unequivocally prove the idiocy of the very proposals he wishes had
been successfully forced upon the American citizenry.  Yes, Clinton's Health would have been great!  Obviously not as wonderful as ObamaCare, which
was slammed through congress in its original far-left progressive
ideological form?  ObamaCare included
no:  comprehensive debate, compromise, opposition
amendments, alterations or changes.       I am so excited!  Just think, soon we will be federally mandated
to participate in a National Healthcare system! Even better,
ObamaCare will be far more expensive than the status quo and offer demonstrably
inferior healthcare treatments and services then are available today.
 I really look forward to Obamacare’s new pharmaceutical company tax
structure.  Thank God, it forbids these
companies from deducting R&D, unless it's specifically permitted by the
appointed board of smart people in Washington DC.  The ObamaCare board
obviously has more insight into what potential new drugs are best for humanity.


Why
should the United States be #1 on the planet for new drug and medical
device patents?  It's not fair that 80% of these patents come from
America. Why the hell do humans deserve medications which improve their quality
of life?  Just because heart burn Gastro
medications, Viagra etc., are purchased and used by millions of
people around the world – these folks can live without them!


It's so
rich that the author Harold, cites how easy it was for Great Britain to
impose Social Medicine on its population.  What he forgot to mention is
that in 1945 Britain had been mercilessly bombed into submission by the Germans
since 1940.  It also slipped his mind to mention that the Labor Party deceptively
sold socialized medicine as a temporary fix and claimed it was
not intended to replace England's free market health care system.  He also failed to report how once socialized
medicine was embedded by Labor into the fabric of the
British society, it became impossible to dismantle it.


 


I wish no
ill will to anyone, however, does anyone seriously believe that if Harold
Meyerson were to contract a serious, fatal disease like cancer and the drugs
which provided him the best chance of survival, were not covered by his government
health care plan (as is currently the case in all nations with socialized
medicine (i.e.) Canada, UK etc.) that he wouldn't spend every penny he had to
come to American and seek treatment?  Oh
wait, what about the specious liberal claim that they're looking out for poor
people?  It's seems the only poor people
they are looking out for are poor people with money, who can afford to travel
to other countries for treatment; for currently
 impoverished Americans are covered by Medicaid which is required to
provide all commonly prescribed FDA approved drugs to treat patients suffering
from potentially fatal diseases.


 


News flash to Harry: We're not a democracy, we're a representative republic a form of government that has apparently worked pretty well because many "democracies" have melted down well before they got to the 235 year point. Also, how's that "unification of power" business working out in Venezuela?

"...But his closing admonition—try something—transcends our
political particularities. It’s an affirmation of a specifically
American common sense, a statement of our national inclination to
action, an affirmation of the pragmatism that remains the country’s
signal contribution to philosophy. In times of trouble, try something.
Who could be against that?"

The implication being that the change should result from governmental action.

I could be against this.

This is the basic premise of Progresssivism-its underlying assumption, along with the selfless efficiency[when done right!] of government.

As a Conservative, I subscribe to the belief that change and adaptation can come from many other sectors than the government. Indeed, because of its coercive power and self interest, government actions and changes should be minimal and incremental at most. The law of unintended consequences reigns here, and these are magnified when they result from governmental iniatives as opposed to individual actions.

Thus starting from this premise, I think the Founders did an amazing job in creating a self-limiting Federal government. And watching it be eviscerated by Progressive actions scares me to no end.

You see, its all about your underlying premises and assumptions.

Given that this magazine clearly has progressive ideas as its raison d'etre, I find it curious that most of the comments are from people who are apparently not progressive. Personally, I find Mr. Meyerson's article to be enlightening and well-supported. I wish there were a big enough majority to experiment with his ideas, particularly a willingness in the Senate to remove "holds" on appointments and fillibusters on any legislation that does not meet a minority-determined purity test. I do not believe even our "de facto aristocratic" founders intended complete obstructionism by a minority, but instead as checks on majoritarian despotism.

The founders didn't screw up, the US Senate did as it fails to do its constitutional duties and allows the minority to rule because of an abuse of the filibuster. The DEMS lost the House because they failed to recognize the real money and power behind the phony people's revolt in the TPARTY and the republicans have gained control of the state legislatures because of the failure of the SCOTUS to uphold the constitution for the well being of the people in the CITIZEN'S UNITED CASE. They declared corporation a person with full rights of citizenship and NO RESPONSIBILITIES. The next war, we should just give all the corporate logos a gun and let them hit the field of battle.

I agree that we need to widen our constitutional imaginations and think
more seriously about democracy, but I'm not sure Meyerson has his history quite
right. Its not that the constitution puts in gridlocks to power-
its that it uses a gridlocks system in some quarters to build enormous
power in others (defense, namely, then and now). I see just as much need
for more fragmentation as there is for less. Britain might be a
parliamentary democracy, but it is just as gridlocked today as our
system is, and where it isn't- its instituting massive reforms that few
support and about which no one can do much of anything besides not go to
class for a few days. The even more appropriate example for comparison
would be the EU, which is more like a presidential and federal republic,
and which imposes neoliberal fiscal programs and protections of
established interests whether constituent populations approve of them in
votes or not. Power is a more insidious thing than Meyerson
appreciates.

I agree with just about everything in your article except I think that it was Thomas Jefferson who developed the notion of "nullification". As I understand it during the debate concerning the constitutionality of the now defunct Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson put forth the idea that the states could refuse to recognize acts passed by the federal government that they deemed were outside of the powers granted to it by the Constitution. This was offered as a compromise for those advocating out right succession.

"Above all, try something” (i.e., try anything, and never do nothing). But doing nothing is often the best course.

Unless you run the government, and the government runs the economy. Then
the inherently slow democratic process encumbers the economy.
Meyerson's solution: less democracy.

My solution: less government.

The author of this 'piece' could haves summed it up with the phrase, "I like dictators.",

Our government doesn't seem to be working very well because we have long gone beyond the boundaries placed on the government by the constitution. Now we have a huge number of people who are demanding that the government return to it's proper constitutional place. Since we've not been following the rules, the demand by many to follow the rules is causing the system massive problems.

The author just can't handle the fact that people are not willing to simply accept the dictates of the left.

After living in a parliamentary system for 35 years, I agree entirely with this article. Electing a government rather than a president, along with a set of separate representatives, gives a political party of any stripe a chance to show whether its policies will actually work during its term of office. If its policies don't work, throw the party out at the next election.

And, of course, parliamentary governments also face the ultimate check
on their powers in the procedure known as the vote of no confidence, which will precipitate a new election whether or not a government has finished
its term.

In the atomised American system, parties seem have to given up even on a party platform, which used to give voters a much clearer idea of what they were voting for or against.

It's worth mentioning that most European countries, except Britain, use a system of voting usually called PR [proportional representation]. In practice, this usually minimises the big swings you get in a first-past-the-post electoral system and means that larger parties often have to make compromises with smaller parties to form a voting block. This puts the brakes on massive changes without making it impossible for a government to make any progress on enacting its policies.

But if PR impairs the ability of the larger parties to enact all their policies, it also guarantees a more representative result. If 5% of voters have far right or left wing views, or if they're passionately exercised by some single issue, it is possible for the make-up of a legislative body to reflect the actual percentage of support for such candidates under PR.

In this country, people often vote for candidates they dislike in the major parties because they're afraid of throwing away their vote on an unelectable candidate. In a PR system, your vote can be transferred to the larger party if your first choice candidate is eliminated, so your vote is never wasted. (I'm talking here about the single transferrable vote, the system used in Ireland where I've spent most of my life.)

On a point of information: the Republic of Ireland is both a republic and a democracy. Is there any reason this cannot be so in the United States?

I do not understand the article can someone explain what this article is saying?

If the founding fathers owned laptop computers, our republic would have been designed and constructed in a completely different way. Such advantage could yield a much more functional result if we choose to employ it. We the People now possess the ability to communicate  globally, electronically, instantaneously for the first time in our history. 



If we focus our ability we can coordinate human governance more quickly and representatively than ever before. We just haven't collectively realized the power of completing our social evolutionary skills yet. Humankind is only just beginning to understand the advantages of coordinated communication on a global level.



For humankind to avoid global extinction, there has to be timely agreement as to the danger we face, and what the priorities are.  Time is the limiting factor in the equation of survival, so yes in fact we must do something soon. The window of opportunity is closing on our chances for achieving sustainablity within a functional Natural Order. 



Resolving the most fundamental problems first will eliminate problems caused by underlying imbalances. Once the most profound changes are made, the deepest shift in consciousness will follow and the decision-making process will evolve in response. 



I happen to think that a shift in values is the most time-efficient and cost-effective way to solve most of mankind's problems in the least amount of time. Our money is based in toxic, evenly distributed, finite resources. What else could we achieve, but wealth disparity and synergistic collapse of environment, economics and the human social order?



I attempted to clarify my reasoning on why ending Cannabis prohibition is "The Fundamental Challenge of Our Time" in 1998, finishing the paper on the same day that the United Nations globalized the so-called "drug war."  The Fundamental Challenge was mailed from The Hague by registered post, to the United Nations High Commissioner in Geneva (under the 1503 procedure), the Clinton White House, and Mr. George Soros at the Open Society Institute, on July 4th, 1998. No one responded.



As yet, the rationale has neither been challenged, nor widely referenced, though the 25 page document was laboriously translated into the Dutch language and embraced as the manifesto for the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. In essence, it's conclusion is that the world's most nutritious, healing and industrially useful agricultural resource is both unique and essential, therefore beyond the rightful jurisdiction of any court.

expand my understanding even more about why Cannabis is both unique and essential, and why the end of prohibition merely requires public reassessment of the world's most nutritious, healing, agricultural resource,to achieve a sudden polar shift in values before next Spring 2012. 



"Essential civilian demand" is provided for in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR 44/334(f))as part of the coordinated response in time s of emergency. This is where the OWS movement needs to focus. Number one in the minds of the American public on all of the websites set up to respond to the questions of the American people, ending marijuana prohibition is related to virtually every other problem we are challenged to figure out.  If we don't figure out climate changes, particularly increasing UV-B levels, then it won't matter what problems we do somehow manage to solve.



Essential  civilian demand is easily the most direct way to coordinate a reversal of value, from petroleum and nuclear being desirable forms of energy and hemp being banned; to fossil fuels and nuclear being recognized as poisonous to the planet, not worth it. The environmental and economic consequences of prohibition make it tragically unfunny despite the plethora of bad jokes.   



Got to go...comment if you care to, or discuss this further after reading my blog.




#



References



1. Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/...



2. 44 C.F.R. PART 334—GRADUATED MOBILIZATION RESPONSE

Title 44 - Emergency Management and Assistance,

§ 334.6 Department and agency responsibilities. (f)

http://law.justia.com/cfr/titl...



3. "The Fundamental Challenge of Our Time"

http://fundamentalcoot.blogspo...

4. Cannabis vs. "Global Broiling": An Inconvenient Priority
http://californiacannabisminis...

“Democracy is not a fragile flower. Still it needs
cultivating. If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual
growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take actions to assist
the campaign for democracy.”

--Ronald Reagan

The constitution made a gridlock for a reason. Our forefathers wanted it to be difficult for the president to do things. The more power you are trying to give the president, the more he becomes a like a king, which is what we were trying to stay away from. The constituition should never be changed.

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