I long ago came to the conclusion that whether or not I agree with the points made by an author, this should not be the guiding principal of what I choose to read. I find that, in fact, I learn the most when I read things I do not innately agree with. In reading the contrasting opinions of others, and for the most part with the intent of maintain an open mind, I can try to compare their journey of understanding, expressed in their logic, if it exists, and either validate, or repudiate, parts of my own logic—hopefully, coming to a better understanding and opinion myself.
What’s the problem?
I am not so sure that this is what people really do anymore! It seems to me more and more people are only interested in letting someone else tell them what to think!
Recently, I have seen a series of articles, from both sides, trying to answer the question of what is wrong with our political system. Each side is spending lots of effort, and ink (or electronic bits), explaining how the system is not working because the other side is conspiring to subvert the system to harm something or someone, or to benefit something or someone at our expense. They often formulate the basic justification as this is clear because we are not getting what we want from the system.
The problem for me, as I see it, is the entire premise is wrong! By starting with the logic that something is wrong because we (pick either side in the argument) are not getting what we want, may be logical but it is not accurate on two levels. First, the assumption that the system is designed to give us something that we want in the first place, is not a correct assumption. Second, the idea that the system is designed so that whatever the majority wants is to be provided to us by the government is also not true.
System is working fine
The reality is that our political system is still, for the most part, working as it was designed despite the slow erosion of some of the original checks and balances over the past seventy-five years. If you doubt this premise, read any of the biographies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, or Franklin and it will quickly become quite obvious that this was the design.
No, the system is still working just as it was intended. The problem is not the system. Although, if we do not begin to understand the impact of the gradual changes we have made, soon this may not be the case. The problem with the system is we are now starting to get what we want, and compounding this problem we have been for the last fifty or sixty years. We are, in every corner, probably right or wrong, getting too much. No, it is not the system that is the problem it is:
- The changes we have allowed to be made to the original system have weakened the checks and balances on our own greed and avarice
- What we expect that we are due from the system has grown exponentially as we have gained more from the system
The system is being changed
Our system was designed to be based on part-time citizen politicians directly subject to the impact of the laws and policies they create, not a ruling elite political class exempt for their communities day to day trials and tribulations. At the very beginning of the implementation of our new form of government, in April of 1789, the grand design of our form of government showed the promise of its innate slow and difficult process to sort out where power and responsibility resides and to make difficult the ability of the federal government to pass laws that affect us. Rapidly, the two competing philosophies, which I believe are inherent in mankind, congealed into two political parties. The federalists, who advocated a strong federal government authority to foment consistency, rapid growth, and strength, became one pole, and the republicans, who were concerned about the rise of a tyrannical aristocracy or hereditary monarchy developing a predatory system reducing the rights and prosperity of citizens through taxes and needless, unwanted, regulations who advocated for government controls closer to the people at the state level.
While for over sixty years our education system has taught more, and more, that we are a democracy, and that we are by nature a nation where it is the majority that rules, this was specifically and unequivocally not the government that the founders created. We were, and to some extent remain, a constitutional republic. The difference is; in a democracy people have a direct control through their vote, and in a constitutional republic the control is indirect through the election of officials who are supposed to weigh the will of the people against what is best for the country and consistent with the constitutional republican principals of our government as they make law and policy.
System is still fine—For Now!
Today we are clearly migrating away from some of these fundamental principals in two areas:
- We now, as a people, no longer understand the benefits of the constitutional republic and many if not most simply believe we are a democracy, and
- We have inadvertently allowed the creation of a stronger federal control by stimulating the creation of a full-time professional political class—potentially, just the kind of tyrannical aristocracy that Jefferson and Madison were so worried about at the beginning of America.
The question we all need to answer is: is this what we agree we truly need? If so, then we will have to accept the consequences of a pandering democratic machine continually taking prosperity from the individuals and granting it to the majority in exchange for the continuation of their livelihood as a full-time professional politician and the continual erosion of the original system of government and its checks and balances.
If this is not what we agree we need then there are some very had choices and changes we will need to consider to recover the checks and balances and once again return to the constitutional republican form of government we had.
Still up to us to define our system for a while longer
The good thing is it is still up to us for a bit longer. The more we continue the erosion of the checks and balances inherent in our original constitutional republic, the more we become a democracy. At some point we will slip beyond the edge and soon perhaps there will be no going back short of another costly and divisive civil war.
And the answer is?
So the answer to the question that headlines this article, “What is wrong with Politics?” is nothing at the moment, but stay tuned!
(Tom Loker served as the Chief Operating Officer of Ramsell Holding Corporation. Prior to joining Ramsell, Mr. Loker was the founder and senior partner of Wild Tiger Holding Company and Thomas Loker Consulting. Visit his website at www.loker.com and his blog at tloker.wordpress.com.)