portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

government | human & civil rights | imperialism & war

Populist #11

Deficiencies of Our Current Federal System
Read Previous Papers here

In this series of papers, we have already seen the necessity of changing our federal structure to that of a Constitutional Democracy, by which I mean a form of government where the final check and balance on the power of the federal authorities is directly in the hands of the People with the Bill of Rights serving to protect the liberty of all citizens, as a defense against foreign powers, as the guardian of peace internally, and as a solution to the mortal dilemma of centralized power which has proven to be fatal to many representative governments throughout the world, and is currently showing its deadly designs in our own.

What remains uncovered in this segment of our discussion is an examination and understanding of the deficiencies in our current system of government. The level to which our national security, credit and dignity has sunk naturally forces upon us this question; are we to continue under this structure, which itself is responsible for allowing this; without a forthright examination; without considering changing it to the benefit of our future liberty, security, and prosperity?

Many have said that when we think about those who designed our constitution we should consider it venerable, and without hesitation; that they were the greatest wisdom of the times, and had no goal but the good of the people. I do not doubt all this, but the facts of how our nation has since then developed, as well as the facts of our current situation, should not be easily disregarded. To ignore the problems we faced in the past, those that we face today, and those that we will face in the future would be a great injustice to ourselves and generations yet to come.

In discussing points of such importance, furious invectives and partisan passions have no place; every citizen has an unquestionable right and duty to examine for themselves with a due diligence and forthrightness. At minimum, such a discussion on a wide scale will serve as a reminder to the federal authorities that the people are the true origins of their power. I am, however, convinced that such an examination of both our current situation and federal structure, by the people at large, will produce an intellectual revolution as great as that which brought us independence from Great Britain.

Although the politicians and well-known commentators of the day continually direct our concerns mostly towards items of economy or social structure, when considering the value of government, we should not inquire how our gross domestic product may be increased, or how the nation is to continue its worldwide influence and dominance, but rather, how our liberties, as American citizens, can be secured; for liberty itself should be the direct end, and supreme motivation of our government.

Perhaps I am simply old-fashioned in my undying attachment to liberty; as I have not moved on to the growing direction of dangerous new thought in our country; that liberty should so easily be given up in the name of security. It is to that old-fashioned American love of liberty that I direct my most ardent hopes; to prevent our continuance under a system of government that is destructive to our liberty.

Is it necessary for your liberty, that you should alter or abolish this government? If it is found to be a necessity, we must also be reminded that such action is our inherent right. This right was most eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, but was repeated by many of our nation's founders; three of which I find appropriate to quote here:

"The People were, in fact, the fountain of all power, and by resorting to them, all difficulties were got over. They could alter their constitutions as they pleased."
- James Madison

"The basis of our political system is the right of the People to make and to alter their constitutions of government."
- George Washington

"Each generation has a right to choose for itself the form of government most promotive of its happiness."
- Thomas Jefferson

Having introduced these concepts, I intend, to the best of my abilities, to move forward into a more detailed discussion of our current federal system. Although it will take considerable time, and a great number of these papers, a full examination is necessary in order to improve our situation, and prevent evils that we've experienced from recurring in the future.

Upon an initial review of our constitution and overall federal structure, I immediately find two glaring deficiencies; first, that it allows too easy an inlet for corruption and an abuse of power; and second, that it does not allow the people a great or easy enough opportunity to amend it for the preservation of their own liberty.

In regards to the first, we have always been told not to fear, because those in power, as our representatives will not abuse the powers we give them; either because it is natural that the most virtuous among us will rise to this place of prominence, or because these people will always have a fear of losing future elections by not pleasing their constituents. I may not be the most well-versed in history, so I will ask you, whether liberty has been most often destroyed by the depravity of the people, or by the tyranny of their rulers? Have our politicians, instilled with this supposed fear of losing future elections, more often sided with liberty or with personal interests? I do personally fear that the answer to both is the latter, and upon this it is plainly seen that the preservation and advancement of our liberty rests on the hope that our leaders will always be good, honest, and just.

Sadly though, this may be its greatest defect. What fools are we to trust the preservation of our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or evil? Show me a nation in history where the rights and liberties of the people rested solely on the hope of their rulers being good, without a subsequent loss of liberty! This is the current situation of the United States. There is no true responsibility in government, and the preservation of our liberty depends on faith; a faith that our leaders will always be moral and virtuous enough to make laws to govern and punish themselves.

In considering the second deficiency, which is the difficulty of the people to alter their own constitution, we are told that "The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress."

Because of the great numbers required to even propose an amendment, is it not possible, or is it not most likely, that just one-third plus one has often times prevented even the introduction of amendments necessary to the preservation of our liberty? It remains in probability that thirteen of the smallest States, through their Senators, that do not collectively contain even five percent of the population of the United States, may block the most favorable and necessary amendments. Worse yet, in these thirteen States, sixty percent of the people themselves may reject amendments. A simple majority in these thirteen states may block the approval of amendments; so that it is logical to conclude that less than three percent of the American people may prevent the removal of our greatest oppressions by refusing to approve new amendments.

A tiny minority has the ability to reject the most necessary amendments to our form of government. Is this the best structure for guaranteeing our liberty? It is a most horrifying situation. Is this the spirit of freedom? How different have we become from the ideals of those who created our structure of government that less than a three percent minority can prevent the good of the whole! If amendments are to continue to be left to just one-twentieth or one-fiftieth of the people of America, our liberty is gone forever! As our republic stands today, the application for amendments by the people themselves is in vain. The founders of your own constitution made your government changeable, but the power of changing it is gone from you!

I believe it will be found that the form of government which holds those entrusted with power to the highest level of responsibility to their constituents, and allows the people a reasonable ability to change its structure, is the best designed for freedom. It is this ongoing discussion as well as a deeper examination of the many defects in our current system that will be the basis for my next paper, on September 22, 2005.

In the spirit of liberty and prosperity,

Franklin

homepage: homepage: http://www.populistamerica.com

You've Made Some Good Points...but 08.Sep.2005 22:42

Gina de Miranda

Dear Franklin,

I've seen every shade of political persuasion over the last three years. While I completely agree that our current system is a mess and I have even written my own principles for change that include returning to the "dormitories" that we used to have for our Congressman and Senators, so (a) they would have to go home to their constituents (b) could not engage in sexual hanky panky without renting a hotel room and (c) had no private place to cut deals with lobbyists unless they rented a hotel room, I want to know who I am dealing with.

How do I know as a sincere and honest person that you are not the pop star formerly known as Prince in a new iteration? How do I know that this group is not actually a CIA front to catch unwary folks disaffected with the neoclowns? I have already dealt with a number of charlatans in the political arena and I want to know who I am dealing with.

If you're game to fess up and tell me who you really are...then I want to talk about your ideas.

PS: Just so you know 08.Sep.2005 22:44

Gina de Miranda

While I want the people to have the power, I also do NOT believe in the libertarian model which is frankly nuts and would result in chaos. I am not against taxes either. I want democracy and the ability to throw the bums out held BY citizens, but I want order as well.

interesting, but... 09.Sep.2005 01:23

Andy

Interesting to read, but I have to disagree.

You are saying the current system is broken. But your solution is to replace it with a system that, according to your descriptions, would be even more centralized. Your proposed system favors a top-down approach which is exactly what our country has already deteriorated into today. You want to dictate "liberty" to the masses from the top-down. The way the system was intended to work by our founders was from the bottom-up. The federal government was supposed to be weak and have almost no power over the states. Likewise the states were supposed to have only minimal power over the communities within them. You as an individual have the most influence in your own communities and cities first. You want change? That's where you would start. The next level would be your state. Want to change things that affect other communities within your state? That's where you would turn. And finally the last as well as LEAST important level would be the federal governmnet. Since it only has very few specifically enumerated and limited powers under the original constitution, most matters of your life or mine would be beyond its jurisdiction and would have to be handled by your state or mine. What the 49 other states do is irrelevant. If another state does something you would like your state to do as well, then you have to organize people in YOUR communities in YOUR state to make the change happen. You can't just go to the federal government and want them to "take over" because you think it is a good cause. Maybe the people in the other 48 states think it's bad. And that's their right. They cannot be compelled to go along just because 1 or 2 or maybe 20 or 30 other states think it's great.

The probelm today is that we have moved away from this truly constitutional ideal condition. Centuries of misinterpretations have moved our country ever closer to a centralized nation where the states are regarded as mere subdivisions or administrative extensions of the federal authorities. What we have to work on is get the country back to its constitutional rule as intended by the founders. That means curbing the power of the federal government and reaffirming the 9th and 10th Amendments along with the rest of the constitition.

This brings me to the next point in your article: You say that the amendment process is too difficult. I say: Good! That's the way it's supposed to be. If the amendment process was any easier it wouldn't have taken 200 years for our country to deteriorate into what it is today. Our constitution would have 100s of amendments by now. We certainly would have an amendment criminalizong flag-burning, one "defining" marriage, most likely one outlawing communism, and very likely one that would ensure that you be put in jail for writing your articles. No, the amendment process is fine. We don't need any new amendments. The constitution already has all the weapons we need. HOWEVER, what is broken is the process of how the constitution is interpreted and applied. Over the centuries, the Supreme Court has made too many faulty interpretations and is usually reluctant to reverse its wrong decisions of the past. For example, the 10th Amendment has been virtually anulled by absolutely twisted and completely unfounded (mis-)interpretations of the 14th Amendment. The Interstate Commerce clause has been abused and stretched in the most ridiculous ways to allow just about everything to be covered under federal authority (most recently in the medical marijuana case). And a misinterpreted decision in the late 19th century (I don't remember the exact year now) granted "personhood" to corporations - which could be seen as the root of about 80% of todays evils from corporate lobbying to special interest groups etc. - the foundation of today's Corporatism in America.

Some of us may have to do a little research that goes beyond the typical brainwash of our history classes. But the truth is out there. We all know what the founders' intent was when writing the Constitution. We also know what the intent of Congress was when it enacted amendments to the constitution. And I'm sure the Justices on the Supreme Court know it too. So it is a tragedy that the Supreme Court, lulled in by the trickery of lawyers, has the power to "interpret" the various provisions sometimes to a complete opposite meaning. If we could get a Supreme Court that knows the Constitution and has the guts to stand up for it and return it to its original meaning, we could remedy the mistakes of the past and the evils of today in a second.

For that we don't need to destroy our Constitution in order to save it.