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Can we count on living in a free, democratic country for the next foreseeable future? Does our Constitution guarantee our freedom? The Bill of Rights? Our electoral system? Congress? The President? The courts? The military?

Not one of these institutions, by itself, can guarantee or maintain our Liberty.
There is a balance of powers among our institutions, created by design.
Our system of government was designed in a way that not one of the institutions (and no person) could overpower the others.

Fortunately our system has worked for over 200 years, but we also know that every generation had to work, fight or even die to defend our freedoms.

Capitol

THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT
The genius of the founding fathers created "The American Experiment", supported by a Constitution that allows the people to govern themselves through several institutions and mechanisms that keep each other in check.

Indeed, "self government" starts with government of "self" and with individual responsibility. It is then delegated upwards, from the family to the local government, then to the State and eventually to the federal government.

The Constitution

We, the people, have agreed to delegate our power to our representatives in Congress, to our President and to the institutions and mechanisms that make government work. We call this representative democracy. We call the United States a republic.

The founding fathers used the concepts of "fragmented power", "de-centralized power" and "enumerated powers", as an insurance and protection against the temptation of tyranny, whether by a single person, or by an institution.

The framers of the Constitution protected us, the people, by fragmenting the power among three branches of government: the Executive, the Judicial and the Legislative.

Furthermore, they fragmented the power in such ways that no particular political faction would take hold of one of these institutions permanently, for example by establishing an election process for the House of Representatives (Article I and Amendment XIV-S.2) and the Senate (Amendment XVII), by establishing electoral colleges for the election of the president (Article II and Amendment XII), and by establishing the process of ordainment of the courts and defining their scope(Article III).

Bill of Rights

More recently (1951) another “power fragmentation” measure was introduced (Amendment XXII) which limits the number of terms a president can serve. Further fragmentation measures could be possible in the future.

The second concept protecting the people was de-centralization.

States map 

The Constitution de-centralized government power by establishing the federal and the State levels of government.

Further de-centralization has occurred over the years with the establishment of regional and city levels of government, as the nation develops and the population increases.

To reinforce de-centralization, the framers of the Constitution introduced a third protection: the enumerated powers of Congress. The federal government power is limited by Constitution (Article 1, Section 8), in order to maintain the powers of government as close as possible to the people. This was further reinforced as part of the Bill of Rights (Amendment X), to state that the powers not given explicitly to the federal government are reserved for the States and for the people.

This division and decentralization of powers also allowed for more localized government experiments at the State level and at lower levels. The people could choose different governments in different States, could assess the long term effects of specific government policies and could choose the government for their State that had the best record in other States. Failing that, people always had the option of relocating to a State with policies consistent with their principles.

A healthy economy, in addition to the removal of inter-State barriers, allows peoples' mobility; that is people can afford exercising their right to choose their place of residence.

The framers of the Constitution introduced further protections in the Constitution.

For example, they protected us, the people, against a hostile take over of the executive power by establishing the eligibility rules and the oath requirement for the office of the President (Article II), an Impeachment clause for the office of the President, vice-president and all civil officers (Article II, S.4) and they protected us from unjust treatment from a court, by establishing trials by jury (Article III, S.2).

They also introduced a requirement for the federal government to guarantee a Republican form of government to every State of the Union (Article IV, S.4), in order to balance the de-centralization clause and avoid State-level tyranny and secession. 

Swearing of the President

EMERGING PROBLEMS
Problems in our system of government were detected from the very beginning.
It is a tribute to the Constitution that, in spite of the problems and the nature of men, the American Experiment has survived.

Andrew Jackson

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.” - Andrew Jackson

Unfortunately the natural tendency of government to grow has now produced an enormously complex and oversized federal government, which has reduced the power of the States to determine their own policies, has reduced the freedom of the people across all of the United States to choose the government of their liking and has reduced the people’s personal freedoms. This growth tendency at the top levels of government goes directly against our constitution, Article I, Section 8. and against Amendment X.

The growth of the federal government has also contributed to an increase of the total investment in government, the cost of government paid by the people, which is now well over its optimum amount (See “Economic Optimalism”). This has reduced the ability of people and industry to produce wealth and reduced the ability of local governments to collect revenues in order for them to maintain citizens safe against criminals, to accomplish  local projects or assist the needy in changing their condition in life.

Seldom we have been so close to witness the failure of the American Experiment. In past times of crises, such as during World War II and during the cold war, the nation pulled together. We recognized and fought those enemies with unity of purpose. Many people today however, do not seem to recognize or understand the scope and magnitude of the current dangers to our Liberty.

It is not enough to elect better representatives, or better judges. When problems become systemic, different solutions need to be sought and applied.

Some people think of the Constitution as "unchangeable", while others think of it as "interpretable", or a "living document". Without going into boring legal details, we can say that the Constitution should be changeable, like other laws, but these changes should be rare and difficult (i.e.: should be supported by a great majority of the people).  That is why the amendment process is imbedded in the Constitution (Article V) and that is why, among other requirements, this process includes the requirement for three fourths of the States to approve any change to the Constitution.

However, it is not true that the Constitution is "a living document", because this would give more power to the courts than to the people's representatives and that would tip the balance of power between them.

When in doubt, the courts should interpret the provisions of the Constitution in their literal, original meaning, to the best of their ability: If justices of the court could interpret the law to their own liking, then the whole system of justice would fail. This is especially true with our most precious of the laws, our Constitution.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Having talked about possible problems, the good news is that the option of self-government through some form of direct democracy is now more feasible because of modern communication technology.

In addition to measures to re-establish a balance of power between our institutions, as initially intended, we can now achieve what has not been possible, for practical reasons, in the past.

In small countries, such as San Marino (the oldest surviving Republic) it is possible to call the people for a general assembly. However, in large countries even when a gathering of a million people or a petition of a million names is organized, at great cost of time and money, these represent only a fraction of the total population and often do not receive much media attention.

These methods have become essentially ineffective to make an impression on our representatives.

San Marino

How can we, the people, effectively communicate with our representatives on each of the many issues that affect our lives and our freedoms? How can we initiate ideas for legislation and give direction to government instead of the other way around?

We may need to conceive new direct-democracy ideas, which initially would be limited in scope, but eventually may represent the fragmentation measures that will help protect the American Experiment to survive and prosper for a number of years to come, in the exponentially developing information age.

If you are interested in these ideas, please check the rest of this web site and give us some feedback.

 

 
     
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