The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘United States Constitution’

POLITICIANS AND STATESMEN

If you read this earlier post, https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/be-afraidbe-very-afraid/, you realize that a great number of us Americans who will cast our votes this November are singularly uninformed regarding essential facts concerning  our country’s history and of current political events as well.   While my proposal to require a periodic “political literacy test” to determine whether people were sufficiently informed to vote is one which is DOA, nevertheless it has merit.

Who among us would go to get our car repaired by an auto mechanic who says, “I have never worked on your make or model – but let me take a whack at it?”  I know I would have the key in the ignition and be out of his repair shop so fast it would make your head swim.

Amendment XXVI to the Constitution which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 came about, in large measure, as a response to the War in Vietnam.  The slogan, “Old enough to die but not old enough to vote,” seems reasonable enough on the surface.  Of course, that same logic would suggest that if a person is reasonable (responsible) at age 18, that should carry over to other activities from which we still restrict them – such as consuming alcoholic beverages.  It doesn’t.

If you review the video from the earlier post you realize that age (or lack of it) does not necessarily imply reason or knowledge.  Most of the people who were interviewed were obviously far older than 18.  And they were completely uninformed about things that most of us older folks learned in grammar school.

We follow and are informed on things that interest us.  That is human nature.  I have friends who can cite the batting averages that a particular player achieved twenty years ago.  This is a subject that interests them.  Frankly, my interest in MLB waned when the Dodgers left Brooklyn and if you were to ask me who is in the running for division titles this year, I could only say, “It’s probably not the Cubs.”  I’d have to look it up.

My lack of interest in baseball, fortunately, doesn’t have major repercussions on the state of the country or the state of the world.  But a lack of political awareness does have implications – because it results in our electing people to important positions who, in many cases, not only should not have been so elected, but who have demonstrated that they do not have the sense of being about the people’s business and should be replaced by someone more dedicated.

The stranglehold in which the Congress has placed itself – waiting until after the election before they address the country’s business – is simply unacceptable, I hope to members of both the major political parties.  We did not hire you nor are we paying you to sit around and do nothing.  But that is exactly what we are getting.

Although the rule of law as expressed in the U. S. Constitution is our fundamental governing document, it appears that, particularly under the current administration, it is viewed as something which can be invoked when it suits our purpose and ignored when it does not.  Amending it should always be undertaken with the greatest sense of gravity.  But being mindful of that, I believe that there is a fundamental flaw within it which is contributing to our current morass.  That is the length of office for someone elected to the House of Representatives.

When the Founding Fathers crafted the Constitution, they envisioned that only people who were motivated by love of country would choose to serve as our elected representatives.  For one thing, it meant that they would have to take leave of their businesses and livelihoods. They also had to endure a long trip on horseback or coach in order to represent those who had elected them to serve.  It was a part-time job – not a lifetime annuity.

If you review the terms of the people who served in the early Congresses you will see that most of them served one or two terms.  This was the norm rather than the exception.  They undertook the responsibility in much the way that people who were subject to induction in the military did.  It was an obligation but not necessarily a lifetime commitment.

We know that the Congress will not do anything to address our serious problems before the election this November.  In fact, they’re going on vacation.  In some respect, I understand (though I adamantly disagree with) their thinking.  They don’t want to make waves before they get re-elected.  Unfortunately, when and if they do get re-elected, they’re almost immediately thrust into the next cycle of that process so they can again use that excuse as a reason to do nothing.

There is a simple solution to this problem – and the second one that deals with this idea that being a member of Congress should be a lifetime benefice.  That solution is to lengthen the terms of the members of the House to four years and to limit their ability to run to two terms.  In order to provide some continuity, we could divide the House into two cycles where half were elected every two years.

Of course, any Constitutional Amendment before it can be ratified by the states has first to pass through Congress. (Although the Constitution does allow that the states can call for a Constitutional Convention, it has never happened).  I would be curious to see how many of our Representatives would view this proposal from the viewpoint of a politician – and how many statesmen would stand up and vote for it, recognizing that they were called on by the people to serve to the best of their abilities – but not forever.

I’m guessing this idea would die with a whimper – and considering the attitude of the leadership in the Senate, I doubt it would even get a hearing there.  That might just explain why our problems are neither getting addressed nor resolved – something I hope that my informed readers will consider when they go to the polls on November 6th.

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“ON LIBERTY”

If I were forced to choose a term to describe my political philosophy I would select the term, “Liberal.”  However, that is in the sense in which that was defined by John Stuart Mill in his essay, “On Liberty.”   I think that within today’s re-defined terminology that would translate to Libertarian.

“On Liberty” has been continuously re-printed since it’s initial publication in 1859, attesting to the significance of the message it conveys.  The essay is relatively brief and should be something that everyone who votes in the November 6, 2012 election should read before they cast their ballot.  Sadly, I know that will not be the case.

There are several essential ideas which Mill states clearly in his essay.

“Over himself, over his mind and body, the individual is sovereign.”  Mill goes on to talk about how the “Tyranny of the Majority” can attempt to force their will on the individual and how this is endemically contrary to the nature of men joining together in a political union.

Before those of you reading this ask, “Does that mean that people are free to commit murder or do anything else that we view as contrary to our view of living in a lawful society?”  The answer is resoundingly, “No.”

Mill goes on to describe the “Harm Principle” which addresses this issue.  “Neither the state nor any other social body has a right to coerce or restrict the individual unless (my emphasis) the individual causes harm to others.”

This is a message not unlike that which the Founding Fathers incorporated in The Declaration of Independence and framed in the Constitution of the United States almost a century earlier than the date of publication of Mills’ essay.  It is a message that established America as the world’s first great modern democracy.  It is a message that has increasingly been overlooked, ignored and blatantly violated. 

It is a message which needs to be revived with the support of all of us who live in this land and call ourselves Americans.

There are now five remaining contenders for the highest post in the land, President of the United States.  There is only one who has been consistent in supporting the principles that the Founding Fathers established and which Mills echoed in his essay.

I will leave it to you to figure out who that candidate is and to do the intelligent thing if you are in a state with an upcoming primary or caucus and are eligible to voice your opinion in it.  You really owe it to yourself to do the right thing.  If you don’t take the responsibility to do that, who do you think will do it for you?

THE 28TH AMENDMENT

“The President and Vice-President, the members of the Cabinet, the members of Congress, the members of the Federal Judiciary, all who hold position within the Federal government whether elected or appointed or who are paid for their services by the Federal government shall be bound by every law which is passed in Congress and by every Presidential Executive Order without exemption or exception.”

I believe that the only reason the Founding Fathers didn’t put this in the Constitution originally was that as men of conscience it never occurred to them how their marvelous creation could be taken over by small-minded and self-aggrandizing people.  Or that the people who fought for their freedom from tyranny would ever allow it to happen..

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