Massive Do-Over

I have been thinking and reading about political issues like congressional seats for Utah and Washington DC, where America currently stands on abortion, and the complexity and complaints about unfairness in our tax system. I’d love to write a post about almost all of these topics, but then I got to thinking – what if we just started over.

Pretend that we put a freeze on federal law and started a constitutional convention to rewrite our government from the ground up. We would rewrite the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. All federal agencies would be scrapped although the military and others employed by the current agencies could probably expect that many of them would have similar opportunities under the new system. We would appoint a fresh slate of leaders – no consideration of when their terms would have ended under the current system because we might not even have the same positions available in the new system.

Now I’m not saying that we should do this, I’m asking what might happen if we did.

My own suspicion is that we would keep the structure of a bicameral legislative branch as well as an executive branch and a judicial branch. Beyond that, what would be said of issues like abortion or who has what kind of representation? What new balance of power would emerge between federal and state governments? At least two Constitutional amendments would disappear (because they cancel each other out) but would more go? What social issues might show up as new amendments?

Help me out here – what do you think this would produce? Does it differ from what you think it should produce?

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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Comments

13 Responses to Massive Do-Over

  1. JM Bell says:

    I would make the Poet Laureate a Cabinet Level Position.

    (no I wouldn’t, I can’t stand any poetry aside from Robert Burns)

  2. David says:

    So – am I to understand that you mean to keep the Presidential Cabinet?

  3. JM Bell says:

    Sorry, yeah. However, I’d make the cabinet have to reflect the percentages on the popular vote per party reflection in numbers. So if it’s 60 / 40 in the popular, it’s 6 of one and 4 of another and some third party thrown in for spice, etc. etc.

  4. Peonicus says:

    Yeah, it’a a nice thought, but the country would dissolve because we wouldn’t be able to agree on anything. The government might dissolve, but the lobbyists wouldn’t go away.
    As to what would happen IF we did this. I think we’d still retain the 3 branches of government, and the balance between State and Federal would probably remain the same. The judiciary may be reined in though, I wonder if we’d retain the stare decisis approach or maybe we’d move to a civil law system where each judicial opinion is independent of the other.
    Seems to me that democracy is the best way for people who can’t agree with each other to get along. The biggest problem is simply that the people we have in office are for the most part perceived as untrustworthy. The system we have is fine, just the people running it are the problem.

  5. David says:

    JM – that would certainly make the Cabinet a very different body. Perhaps they would be forced to discuss things more than they do when all the members of the Cabinet basically agree.

    Peonicus – do you really thing that the balance of power between federal and state would remain the same and that the judiciary would be reined in, or do you think they should? I agree that much of our problem rests on the perception that our officials are not trustworthy. Is that a result of our system, or our society? Do you see a way to change that?

  6. Mushtaq says:

    My thinking is if you did dissolve an institution, there will be one invariably replacing it after an brief interval of shattered hopes and anarchy. Such things are feasible only in the hands of charismatic leaders or an ideologically bound oligarchy, but are foreign to USA, and which makes her unique this way. Like Peonicus said, much of the trouble in governmental enterprise comes from breach of trust that the voters invest in their leaders, The system is not necessarily badly conceived or formulated, but despite the highly advanced system of checks and balances, I believe there is a much more important factor that the founding fathers did not consider that important. They lived in an age, where there were no institutions like Amnesty International, World-Watch or for that matter the You-Tube.

    And that I believe is the element of public monitoring of these personages. Traditional Media has been biased, sometimes even explicitly toward one or other ideologies (political parties), in fact some of them are mere mouth pieces or organs of the parties, and invariably holding opposing views. Holding different views or holding opposite views are two different things. You hold different views on different subjects, some of which may be better represented by the democrats, whereas as others by the republicans. The algebra of Yin and Yang that is manifested in party politics won’t permit it other way. The dichotomy and taking opposing position is imperative to grab the power. And Power is what they want. True it may be often rationalized as welfare wishes for all, but quite often it is not letting the other party impose its agenda. And where true religious beliefs or just religious bigotry is involved, this need for power becomes highly charged with emotions. I think a true Christian would not want to incur the wrath of God, if he forced to have a woman a child, even if she did not want it, did not want the pain or any other suffering involved with it, that no single man on this planet has ever known, but has always controlled! Let the woman decide it. And that would be true Christian. Politicians who oppose this and at the same time swear allegiance to Christianity are actually swearing allegiance to powerful Churches not to Christ or to their female citizens. It is something that democracy can not eliminate. No new institution, no reshuffling of powers between states, the fed or the judiciary will remove issues of such kinds from public domain. Nor any amount of enlightenment of the public, who generally resemble pack wolves.

    What however could have an new kind of influence in making the great vision of the founding fathers more akin to reality, is I believe an semi-institutionalized economically independent monitoring body, that monitors these untrustworthy humans, mandated with public trust. Media not in the hands of a few, but many. Enter You Tube! You Tube users are predominantly pluralistic, here you can probably find views and opinions that are not scribbles in black and white only and that have the potential to monitor the public figures in more fearless way than the traditional media.

    Like I have written somewhere else, if your corrupt politician buys a house in an remote area, there is a good chance, you might see it on you tube. No news magazine would think it economically viable to send a correspondent to such remote location or to monitor the personage. It would have remained a secret in Pre-you tube age. Today, these folks will know the kind of car you drive and the restaurants you visit. And if it is tax-payers money, God help your career!

    No doubt, without our envisioning new re-ordering of judicial or legislative powers, alone a monitoring of their abuse will probably lead to a new structural changes in the institutions that have sometimes unintentionally fostered the misuse of public authority and public funds. Quite possible that a certain species of politicians will be legends of the past.

  7. David says:

    Mushtaq,

    You bring up an interesting point that I had never considered before. I am well aware that we live in a different world than our Founding Fathers lived in, but I had never considered what a fundamental difference the ubiquitous and diverse media sources of today create from the time of the founding.

    On the other hand, we cannot afford to assume that such a robust and diverse system of independent monitoring will always be in place. In other words, we have to build a system which will still have checks and balances in the event that our current capacity to engage in the kind of widespread monitoring – as represented by YouTube and the blogosphere – were to fall apart for any reason.

  8. Mushtaq says:

    Dave,

    Sorry for the late response to your comment. I of course did not mean to say that the these new possibilities of relatively less partisan monitoring from people with a multifarious pluralistic social perspectives and with less divested economical interests or dependencies make the constitutionally legitimated institutions of checks and balances as well instances of judicial and federal control redundant. I assert however, they must have a flaw, if anybody is thinking of tempering with them. If they really did function well, there would be no need for our debate. Obviously this need is a assertion of the inadequacy of such institutions.

    However I will repeat here, what I said earlier. I suspect you will have certain structures invariably re-forming themselves. There will always be groups of individuals with divested interests (Lobbies and lobbyists) and they will invariably seek and find a loophole in the system, no matter how fool proof you try to make them.

    But despite that I am ready to continue with your suggestion toward a hypothetical model of such new instances. However this a field where I would need a lot of time, to understand the institutions in their present state, which unfortunately I do not have. Therefore I can express my suggestions here as a layman only, and that I hope that is something you are willing to consider worth debating about.

    However I am afraid, it is something, I suspect that appears at first glance fully abstract, and may also reflect the rather vague responses to the theme from your visitors, including mine, at least so far.

    Why not concretize it?

    Let us take an issue(any issue!). You could do that? Find and show us, how and where such issues are traditionally resolved. The structure and function of the concerned institutions and the constitutional backbone, the relevant paragraphs and the interpretations in the constitutions and the judicial realm. After we have a more encompassing knowledge of the structures that are involved and the functions that are brought upon the play in the resolution of this one specific issue, we could here start finding the weak points and perhaps like Gandhi did once with the British Constitution, show their contradictions or exploit them for more humanistic reason (i.e., reasons that are the fundamental backbone of all modern constitutions worthy of their name). We could try expose their failure to guarantee basically that very thing that they proclaim to have been created to guarantee, assuming we find such paradoxes, which I no doubt will find in some cases And after exposing and finding faults in a pluralistic perspective we can start to theoretically amend them. And this could I believe involve a modification of the concerned institutions. Such a methodology could give us something, that we could dissect, analyze or look through in a microscope or through varied schools of thought, and of course with our emotions and feelings (implicitly the most important aspect in political game) rather than only abstract thinking.

    Or perhaps more to your liking, start with some (any) specific institution. It rights, powers and possibilities of abuse. Historical facts concerning its abuse in the past, the reasons, and the consequences. How historically the abuse was punished or made fool proof for against misuse.

    Both such methodologies would appeal to me, rather than just building a hypothetical model from a scratch to replace an existing one without any concretely expressed reason to amend the latter.

  9. David says:

    Mushtaq,

    You make a good point – if we want to make a lasting change in the existing institutions we had better make a solid case for why the change is necessary or desirable.

    As I look back at what I was trying to get at I realize why I did not make such a case – I don’t think the system should be fundamentally altered. If anything it should be returned closer to its original state. The reason that I asked the question was because I recognized, as you pointed out earlier, that we live in a society that is very different from the one in which the constitution was originally constructed. I was curious what we might have constructed for a constitution if it were the men of 21st century America making it rather than the men of 18th century America.

  10. Mushtaq says:

    Dave,

    Yes, I would not want to make here any drastic changes either. Although I am not a conservative, I well believe that such a legacy is a culmination of a long arduous historical process that has withstood the test of time and is moreover legitimized through its historicity. I may add _ in most cases anyway. And I am convinced that I am not exaggerating. And the exceptions? Well they could and ought to be a matter of debate.

    Secondly I am glad that the founding fathers were in fact the older generations. They doubtlessly had much more holistic views concerning the nature of man (woman). Our modern thinkers I suspect would show here, in tune with our times a perceptible bias toward the consumer and media oriented and unfortunately very reductionistic view of mankind, which may be only a passing fad in the evolution of human societies in general.

    So now, are you talking now about some kind of specifically modern corruptions of the original intentions and aims of the founding fathers or do you think some of their views may have become redundant?

    I however definitely meant to say, that new methods of public monitoring could theoretically make some of the proposed institutions in the original manifest redundant, and thereby enhance the extant constitution and not that the constitution in itself was outdated, which I believe in certain aspects it will never be, especially in its proclamation of the sanctity of the individual freedom _ just one of the gems of all those treasures kept here in one of the most foolproof vaults of all countries! The occasional breaking in (a la Watergate) just generally prove the rule.
    I have however some other views, which are not matter of debate here, they do concern the fundamental concepts of what drives the human beings. And here I believe that a brave citizenry is more important as a political, religious or national ideal rather than a freedom guaranteed on a silver plate. Or through institutions. You have to fight for your rights. No one will present it to you!

    Each day! Every week? Every morning!

    Why?

    Because, there will be always people out there who will want too rob you of that?
    And in some brazen cases they will use just that institution you created and bend it to their means. The more centralized the power instance, the more danger of misuse.
    Of course the founding fathers were aware of it, as was Solon, their great teacher!

    Nothing like a brave citizenry here!

    And that implies not just some agreements between the educated elites of a nation but more a grass root enlightenment of the public!

  11. David says:

    I’m think you’re right that we have new tools at our disposal which create some redundancy in the structure of the government. I am not sure that I am ready to trust those new tools to replace those mechanisms that are now redundant. I am not yet ready to rely upon the new tools.

    I think you are even more right about the need for a brave citizenry. I would rephrase that as a proactive and informed citizenry. Human nature is such that I must be prepared to defend what is mine even if I have created institutions to defend it for me. I am ultimately responsible and, as you say, there are those who would abuse the systems that were designed to protect us.

    That is why federalism is so important – it was the mechanism that most directly opposed the concentration of power in a central location – and it has been nearly forgotten by many complacent citizens.

  12. Mushtaq says:

    Dave,

    I agree _ in a unspecified general way to your perceptions,
    Now tell me something else, at first glance maybe a bit off the mark.

    What do you think is more important?

    Wholehearted engagement for anything?

    Or a proper behavior within a specified context?

    Mind you I am not saying, engagement for a cause, nor behavior toward other human beings?

  13. David says:

    That’s tough question for a generalized answer. I think that proper behavior and wholehearted engagement each have their place. If the question is asking which I would lean towards in an unspecified context I’d have to go with proper behavior because that is generally the safer course.

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