Saturday, October 20, 2007

What's excessive?

Yesterday evening, while I was at work, Instapundit posted a follow-up piece on the actuality vs our perception of the failings of government. Prof. Reynolds provides an example from his academic history that employs a trivial-seeming incident to illustrate a systemic problem. He stops short of promulgating any corrective action however. Do you remember that old saying about wise men and fools? Something about daring to tread?

Watch this!

The problem is essentially unresolvable working within the existing governmental structure. There is no incentive to alter the present arrangement for those who are direct beneficiaries of public largess and a positive dis-incentive to dismantle the arrangement for those who achieve their social/political goals through it's exercise.

The US government's appearance of malfeasance stems from the discord between the ringing phrases used to announce it's arrival on the international scene and the reservations it simultaneously imposed to determine which of it's then-newly declared citizens actually exercised electoral control over it.

Without attempting to rehash the arguments of each restriction, sufficient to say that the very presence of restrictions virtually guaranteed their abuse by someone at some point in the ordinary course of events. That being the case, the choice then comes down to either jacking up the penalty for being abusive (which has it's own limits and degradations of social order - see our present Drug War, for example), or removing the restriction entirely from the political equation. Since this is the option our intervening forebears have chosen, it falls to us to make their selection function in some semblance of the original proposal.

You know, the US Constitution?

The problem is fundamentally one of structure. Our national political edifice was never intended to extend nearly so broadly into state and local affairs as it has come to do. That it does so is at least in part the result of the lack of a commensurate alteration of the executive authority the original structure put in place.

By restricting the franchise to those who had a vested interest in limiting the actions of the elected, the Constitutional framers sought to create a stable dynamic balance between the competing interests within our national society. The subsequent removal of the restrictions to franchise, without altering the executive arrangement as well, created the appearance of executive excessiveness much in the current political news. Which authority isn't actually excessive, only lacking the intended restrictive balance originally provided.

While I enjoy discussion of the US Constitution, I recognise that the process is essentially pointless beyond the furtherance of my and others personal education. Whatever resemblance there may be between the Constitution itself and the present day government it is said to empower resides solely in our conscious effort to maintain that illusion. I knowingly contribute to that maintenance mostly because the alternative is so friggin' scary. I've been in country's that no longer exist. I'm willing to do, or at least put up with, some pretty unpleasant things to avoid such an eventuality in my own.

But not anything. Which is another topic for another day.

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