As anyone who has read my past contributions knows, I am pessimistic regarding the near-term prospects for our Republic. However, the optimism generated by the Tea Party and the GOP sweep in the House got me to thinking — assuming we really did want to fix this mess, what would be required?
The easy answer is obvious to most; we simply return to Constitutional government. OK, but what would this actually entail and, better yet, how would we ward off an almost immediate turn back to the old ways, as happened soon after Reagan left office?
The analyst in me knows that, before you set out to solve any problem, you must first understand what the problem really is. Otherwise, you end up forever treating the symptoms with no real improvement. Following is my own analysis, regrettably NOT followed by a sure-fire solution:
In 1887, Lord Acton famously observed: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” While I don’t disagree with Lord Acton’s analysis, I propose to look at the situation from a slightly different angle. My observation is that power attracts corruption, much like a magnet attracts iron filings. The stronger the magnet, the greater concentration of filings attracted to it. Likewise, the greater the concentration of governmental power, the more corruption it is bound to attract. And, the greater that power will seek to become because corruption is addictive to the corrupted.
Therefore, my conclusion that the “fix”, were there to be one, would require a massive decentralization of power, from the federal government, back to the states and localities. In other words, putting the federal government back into the “box” whose dimensions are clearly stated in our Constitution.
So, my reasoning has brought me right back to our original easy answer without addressing the important question “how do we do that”. As said above, I have no good answers. But I do suspect there are some obvious BAD answers, and I think first among them is the notion that power will somehow decentralize itself. I find nothing in human history to support this notion.
The notion itself seems rooted in the idea that we simply need to send better, more dedicated people into the halls of power. Sounds nice but it overlooks the corrupting effect of power itself. I, for one, do not believe our Republic is being brought to ruin because we elect and re-elect corrupt politicians, although we certainly do enough of that. Instead, I believe the ever expanding power of the federal government corrupts virtually everyone and everything it directly touches. This includes those in elected office, the bureaucracy, and those the federal government seeks to regulate, subsidize or bail out. To expect such a system to fix itself is akin to expecting a pack of vicious dogs to check themselves into obedience training. It just is not going to happen.
Now, while I don’t have a good solution, Thomas Jefferson had one way back in 1776 when he said, in the Declaration of Independence:
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
As we should know from the subsequent history of our Republic, “throw off such government” did not mean peacefully voting in a new set of scoundrels to replace the old, it meant rejecting the current government, by force of arms if necessary, then establishing a government better suited to the freedom and prosperity of the people it presumed to govern.
Sadly, for all our advances in such areas as medicine and technology, we have not made similar advances in our understanding of governments or economics. So, here we are back in a mess similar to 1776 where we are being ruled by a power that pays little, if any attention, to the will of the people it rules. And, make no mistake about it, today we are ruled more than we are governed!
What does this all bring us to? I suggest that the remedy, should we dare to risk it, is the same as it was in 1776; that we must throw off our current government (that is, render it null and void) and establish a new government in its place – even if that new government be based entirely on the original founding documents. And that we do this with the full knowledge that it too will eventually become corrupted for the simple reason that governments are nothing but groups of people. Since people are organisms, anything made up of people must also be an organism. And, as we all are destined to learn first hand, organisms are prone to all manner of corruptions, a condition that intensifies as they age.
Should we start with guns and pitchforks? Hardly. We would find ourselves hopelessly out gunned. Perhaps a Constitutional Convention would be a good beginning. I know that many people fear this based on the notion that what the convention produces might bring us to ruin. I reject this on the grounds that not doing something like that WILL bring us to ruin – we are well on our way already. I find I much prefer the possibilities with “might” to those with “will”.
Troy L Robinson