Are the Checks and Balances in US Representative Democracy Enough?
The checks and balances of the Founding Fathers include (1) the Constitution itself, and (2) the three "equal" branches of government. But the big trick they had up their sleeves was that the (3) representatives in the House were elected, not appointed and there was a huge electorate to make sure that bad representatives would not be reelected.
In other words, they believed that the American people would weed out the bad guys (representatives who did not represent the people) so the bad guys could not corrupt the government. A fly on the wall of our United States government today in communication to the founding fathers would not be bringing good news about the effectiveness of the electorate. We, the citizens, have clearly failed the early fathers of our country or we would not have all these bums running the country.
These three notions of checks and balances were intended to keep the representatives of the government serving the people and not serving special interests. If this were the case today, however, I would not have been challenged to write this article. The simple solution is to throw all the bums out. A few doses of this and our government would be substantially cleaner but it still would not be sanitary. But, it would be a great start; would it not?
In the inimitable words of John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, a 19th century English Historian also known as 1st Baron Acton, but commonly known as simply Lord Acton:
"... Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
That point of course is that even as the new broom sweeps clean, over time even the new representatives of the people, once they sense their real power, shall be corrupted by it. That's why government will never be sanitized completely. Additionally, as you can see from the high esteem that Congressmen in both houses demand and accept, it has become common for ordinary citizens to sanctify office holders and revere them as if they are far more worthy and of much greater stature than the ordinary citizens who elected them to the office.
Thus, throwing the bums out runs the risk of a new pack of bums, but lesser skilled. It is necessary but not the only solution. The other solution is actually even more difficult to come by. Remember, nothing in life worth having is easy so, this won't be easy but it is doable.
Another of the symptoms that helps work against the checks and balances of government's power is that de facto, unimpeded, the government is beginning to behave as an oligarchy. As a reminder, an oligarchy is a government run by only a few, most often the wealthy. Look at how corporations are lining up at the public trough hoping to convince the powerful to repay the past favors. WHen you have control over all that giveaway money, (your money and mine I might add) you are very powerful indeed.
Providing billions to corporation and having so few rule so many was never the intention of the Founding Fathers as they drafted the Constitution. So, another solution since representative democracy is not working is to implement aspects of a Direct Democracy. It would be just what the doctor ordered. It is fully in line with our U.S. Constitution, which vests ultimate sovereignty in the people, to create a mechanism that would permit the people back into our government process. Through a constitutional amendment, for example, the people could gain the right to initiate national legislation (Initiative), create national referenda (Referendum) or demand the recall of officials who do not represent the people (Recall). Do you have anybody in mind?
When the amendment passes, these activities would be sponsored by various public groups, or through the local and state governments. Unfortunately, we have to trust somebody. These three pillars of a direct democracy (initiative, referendum, and recall) are presently reserved for the states whose constitutions specify these rights. It would be a relatively minor addition to our political system to engage the public in having a role in setting the political agenda. With how far our representatives have hijacked our national government, the time to act is now.
We do get the government we deserve but it has lasted a long time -- over 200 years. It's not doing too well now and it helps to remember the words of the famous, such as French political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, who said a while before me that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Winston Churchill had his own view of democracy: The great Churchill, not even an American, and certainly not French, once put it, "Democracy is the worst of all forms of government except all the others that have been tried."
Consider kindly that any thought of the public as a whole being able to participate in the political agenda, with majority rule and one-vote-one-value, would send shivers down the spines of political operatives. The corporate owned media would go nuts. It would even appear to be a menace to all minority groups who today use what has been branded, "tyranny of the minority" to exercise a far disproportionate share of power through representatives.
So, now, in summary, we discussed two pretty good ideas for action today. Both are peaceful. The first of course is to never reelect another person, ever, for any reason, no matter how good they appear. Even if they have a great first term, if they choose to run again, they have the power bug and they need to be swatted down. The second thought is to start working with the folks trying to get the amendment passed so that besides states, ordinary citizens at the federal level can propose legislation. To learn more about Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, go to this site. http://www.ncsl.org/programs/legismgt/elect/initiat.htm. To learn more about the grassroots effort for US Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, go to this site. http://usirr.org/x/modules/xoopsfaq/index.php?cat_id=2
Don't let these ideas die or it may be Mother Liberty we bury next.