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Constitutional republicanism 101

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Many people lack either knowledge or respect for the basic structure of the American political system. If you favor legal abortion (as I somewhat begrudgingly do) then you are naturally supposed to favor the Roe v Wade decision- no matter how dubious the constitutional basis. Rick Santorum is up on the chopping block for daring to suggest that maybe the Supreme Court shouldn’t just declare a right to homosexual behavior.

These people are either ignorant or immoral, or perhaps both. The US government was designed not just to put everything to a vote (there are numerous purposefully UNdemocratic elements to the constitution), but to maximize our liberty. The specific listings of the Bill of Rights are not even the most important part of this.

To that end, they constructed all kinds of checks and balances to keep one group from gaining too much authority. There is the issue of federalism, pitting state against federal government. This very important aspect has been largely destroyed first by the Civil War, then the 17th Amendment. They set the legislative branch against the executive. They set the democratically elected House of Representatives against the legislatively appointed Senate.

A lot of careful thought went into setting up popular input while trying to avoid mob mentalities and wrecking the whole system over the passions of the moment. There’s the house versus the senate. There are appointed courts, and lists of things that NO branch or element is allowed to do.

Few people care about all that crap now, though. If they want something, they want it, and right NOW. The courts should just declare that the government HAS to give them money. Congress should just pass a law that you can’t say mean, hateful things.

For my part, I think that the taxation of income constitutes a great sin. It may be the biggest one bad move in the history of the republic. It BADLY needs to go.

I recognize though, that there aren’t any good shortcuts here. I don’t want some judge to just unilaterally outlaw the income tax. If one judge can just decide to eliminate it, another can just decide to double it- and jail anyone who protests. If the dreaded IRS is to be subdued, it will have to be done through the proper legislative processes.
However, if any branch of government can just do whatever it thinks is “right” without consideration of their proper authority, then we’ve all got a mess. You might get what you want this time, but wait until the other side comes into power and see what you get. I predict you won’t like it.

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  • Hear, hear! This is a problem with both the Republicans and Democrats, too. Power corrupts, and despite all of the checks and balances set up, yankee ingenuity found a way to get around them. Jefferson himself set the stage, Lincoln took it to a new level, and look where we are now!