By George Noga
Return to Government We Revolted Against in 1776
America’s problems and peril are in direct proportion to its deviation from the framework and principles of the 1787 Constitution which created a constitutional republic and not a democracy.
The original constitution was and still is pure genius – the best blueprint for governing a free people that ever existed and that may ever exist on our planet. America achieved its ne plus ultra throughout its first 150 years during the time it generally was governed well within the confines of its constitutional box.
Under the 1787 Constitution, individuals casting votes in a federal election, as in the one just-concluded, were not the sine qua non. We now have come to overvalue our vote (in federal elections) due to the original denial of votes to, inter alia, women and blacks. As regrettable as that was, it was ineluctable given the zeitgeist.
As Edward Crane of CATO propounds, the subsequent struggles for suffrage led these formerly disenfranchised groups to vastly overvalue the vote; the notion glommed on them that with the vote they could do all kinds of things. But this was a chimera and never part of the grand constitutional architecture. Under the gestalt of a constitutional republic, the vote at the federal level never was intended to be vital.
“Direct election of senators destroyed the basis of federalism.”
In 1913 the 16th (income tax) and 17th (direct election of senators) amendments passed. The income tax eventually led to the ability to finance a government of a size and scope never contemplated by the founders.
Perhaps the greater evil was the direct election of senators which utterly destroyed the basis of federalism. Until 1917 senators were elected by state legislatures for the explicit constitutional purpose of representing the states and to vouchsafe their rights from the federal government. Absent the 17th amendment, it is inconceivable Obamacare could have passed or that our republic could be on the verge of bankruptcy.
Congress, as originally designed, was intended to take active responsibility for all laws including rules and regulations issued pursuant thereto. Instead Congress has morphed into a body that oversees (and loosely at that) a gaggle of bureaucrats and rule makers and takes no responsibility for their output.
It has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of regulators to harass our people and to eat out their substance. If that sounds familiar, it is. That was one of the reasons cited in the Declaration of Independence for our revolution.
The judiciary also has transmogrified in ways never intended. This has occurred not only because of judicial activism beginning with the Slaughterhouse cases but due to longevity – which never was contemplated in 1787. Again, a senate composed of members beholden to the states would be loath to ratify appointments to the Supreme Court to judicial activists.
“The House of Representatives should be chosen by lottery.”
The problems are clear enough, but what about solutions? I kinda like Leonard Read’s suggestion that the House of Representatives should be chosen by lottery every two years. Regarding the Senate, why not go back to the original Constitution and have the states select them.
William Howard Taft, who served both as 27th President and 10th Chief Justice, was fond of saying every town with 5,000 people contains a Supreme Court Justice. I am fond of a different solution. Justices should serve staggered 18 year non-renewable terms. There would be a vacancy every 2 years and each president would predictably get 2 appointments per term.
There was an enchanted time when ordinary Americans read, understood and cherished the Constitution. Davey Crockett once was campaigning for reelection to Congress when he came upon a man (Horatio Bunce) plowing his field. Crockett timed his arrival for when the farmer would be near him at the end of the row.
Crockett introduced himself whereupon Bunce promptly said: “I know who you are Colonel Crockett, but I shan’t be voting for you.” When Crockett pressed for an explanation, the farmer told him he once had voted contrary to the Constitution. Upon Bunce’s explanation, Crockett agreed and vowed never again to breech it.
“We are technological titans but political and economic cretins.”
We now may be technological titans but we are political and economic cretins. We have gone full circle and become the very type of petty and intrusive government we revolted against in 1776; only this time it was not imposed by a foreign power; we did it to ourselves.
We have destroyed the best form of self government devised since man walked upright and we will reap the whirlwind. Reprising Kipling’s words: “As surely as water will wet us and fire will burn, the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”
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