Updated: Jun 7
The great American experiment in democratic government was launched in 1789 with trepidation, but high hopes. However, our federal government now appears to be morphing into an American Tragedy. We must take action to stop this decline.
The Great American Tragedy
What Went Wrong?
The great American experiment in democratic government, which was launched in 1789 with trepidation but high hope, is in serious decline and may not be salvageable. Yet in its first 150 years, it was wildly successful: our economic engine generated national wealth on a scale far surpassing anything achieved by any other national government in history; we struggled with and put an end to the national scourge of slavery (which is still rampant around the globe); we expanded citizenship to all major segments of our society; we played a key role in the defense of democracy against threats from autocratic dictatorships in two world wars and several regional conflicts, and we established a social safety net for our more disadvantaged citizens. So why are we so distraught today with a political system that is virtually dysfunctional? In the past 50 years, volumes have been written describing the alarming state and progressive decline of our political affairs. After such a stunning series of major successes, what went wrong?
Money Dominates Key Activities
It turns out that the seeds of our decline were planted as a direct result of our stunning success. Our record-setting economic innovation and growth generated enormous national wealth and high living standards for the country, and pockets of this wealth are now used by special interests to undermine and destroy the pillars of our republic. Consider, for example, how we allow billions of dollars to move around the country to hot spots in our elections, distorting and corrupting the election of our political leaders. Or how lobbyists lavish money on Washington to secure legislative and regulatory favors for special interests. Money, not prudent behavior, rules.
The Toxic Twins and More
But even as we deplore these developments, let’s not forget the role played by human nature: the toxic twins of hubris and love of power also have starring roles in this saga. Officials often feel they possess superior intelligence and look at their fellow citizens with disdain. Their love of power is on full display in their daily activities in government. After we elect our political leaders they travel to the seat of our national government in Washington DC; when they cross the beltway around this citadel, they enter a parallel universe that the American public has little or no understanding of. It is a world of bare-knuckle fights and amoral verbal attacks on the opposition, with lies rolling off the tongue without hesitation to achieve a desired political result (that the people may in fact oppose). This culture has largely captured presidents, congressmen, and bureaucrats of all stripes. It is not hyperbole to call it a national tragedy. It is truly an alarming state of affairs that is characterized by hyper-partisanship and bitter rancor between the two major political parties. What started as the great American experiment in democratic government is morphing into the great American Tragedy.
What’s to be Done?
We can talk about and debate the state of the pillars of our republic (such as personal freedom, the rule of law, free enterprise, private property, and others), but what we desperately need are actionable reforms, not more rhetoric. We need to create a place where we can establish a protected haven for civil discourse, a place where the motivations are not to expand and hold political power but rather a place where truth and justice are held in high esteem. Yes, we can do this, but it requires that the people rise up and take command of the process. The president will not do it. Congress will not do it. The bureaucracies will not do it. The judiciary is not structured to do it. So, how then do we proceed? With the help of our state legislatures, we must call a convention of states (pursuant to Article V of the Constitution), and approve a simple, non-partisan constitutional amendment that will set the stage for this metamorphosis. (We have a suggestion on our Act 2 website . . . we call it the Accountability Amendment.) After 38 states have ratified the new non-partisan amendment, we will have launched a counter-attack against hyper-partisanship and the disgraceful conduct of our power-hungry national officials.
A Serious Flaw
As praiseworthy as our Constitution is, it has a serious flaw: It assigns responsibility for enforcement of the law to the president. But why would any president (or his Attorney General) choose to attack his own administration with an enforcement action? Obviously, they rarely do, so this serious gap in law enforcement must be fixed. But the good news is that in the act of fixing it we can create a special place that starts us on the track to introduce and nurture the changes that can ultimately transform our federal government into a functioning, effective, respectful institution that operates with collegial spirit. The days of hyper-partisan fights and uncivil behavior should soon be over. Adopting the Accountability Amendment can be the trigger that puts all of this in motion.
Our Magical Place
And where will this magical place be? Not in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of the federal government. That leads us to consider the states, where we could create a new organizational unit that is under the direct management of the states. This unit would enforce the law against government officials and be the home for agencies that are prone to abuse by partisan officials (like the IRS). It would be a bastion of non-partisan activity. It would become the watchdog of the federal government.
Then we could say with conviction that the American experiment lives on! The American Tragedy would have been averted.
By taking this action, we will enjoy the fruits of our glorious republic. We will demonstrate to the world that democracy, properly structured, can succeed. And we will once again be the beacon of freedom for oppressed people around the world!