Friday, September 6, 2013

Farmer on the Founders and "Gridlock"

In this article, The Prophecy of a Do-Nothing Congress, John Farmer discusses "gridlock" and what he sees as its historical roots: 

In short, the possibility of gridlock has always been a part of our governmental DNA, put there by Madison and his friends.

Farmer explains how the constitutional framers did it:

The policy-making arms of the federal government they fashioned — separate legislative and executive branches — were designed to make attaining consensus a feat of some political legerdemain.

The framers can be excused, said Farmer:

Remember, they were in life-or-death rebellion against an all-powerful monarchy, victims of its heavy-handed rule from afar and determined that the new government they were creating could never repeat the excesses of their English overseers. 

Thus, "They meant to keep the federal government on a tight leash." But:
Though they saw the peril of partisanship run amok, Madison and his pals could hardly have imagined today’s world with all its complexity. If they had, it’s hard to believe that, wise as they were, they'd have left us so potentially dysfunctional a federal system.

I left these comments:

The Founders understood perfectly well that they could not "imagine . . . all the complexities" of some future world. That's why they devised a system based on enduring universal truths, or principles, which could be applied to all issues at all times, "complexities" notwithstanding. Those principles are laid out in this country's philosophic blueprint, the Declaration of Independence. They drew those principles within the context of thousands of years of historical experience. 

The Founders understood that man's nature as an autonomous, rational being of reason and free will required individual freedom of action within the social context, so long as those actions didn't physically interfere with the same freedom of others. This freedom depended on the recognition of certain unalienable individual rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—which in turn required a strong government with the power to make and enforce laws but limited to protecting those rights. They sought to place the rights of man outside the scope of the state's law-making powers.

Human nature hasn't changed, and neither have those principles. What has changed is that America has largely abandoned those ideals, giving us a government that the Founders feared—one in which the governing faction can violate the unalienable rights of the people. A government that allows that kind of factional power is going to foment just the contentiousness we have today. When one faction's agenda can run roughshod over the rights of other factions, what result can one expect? What does one expect when one faction wants to engineer a federal takeover of healthcare or regulate an entire industry out of existence; or when another wants to impose a religious social agenda on the country? Certainly not compromise, for the stakes are too high. Who wants to compromise away their rights to their lives, liberties, and property—and thus the ability to pursue their own goals, values and happiness?

The Founders were themselves not fully consistent to their principles in fashioning the constitution, which opened the door to the growth of statism and the undermining and erosion of our unalienable rights. But, the federal system is not the cause of today's "gridlock." The abandonment of the Founder's principles is the cause. 

Related Reading:

The General Welfare Clause

Free Speech vs. Freedom of Speech

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

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