We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, July 29. 2009
Our Constitution begins:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
From the earliest days of our Republic, we’ve considered and argued ways to improve its representation of citizens. We are a Republic, of elected representatives, not a direct Democracy (except in some states with direct initiatives to be voted upon).
In either case, legislation voted upon by legislators or directly by voters, the complexity of the issues at hand and of the language to express it, compounded by the number of pages of fine print, the confounding interactions, and the many unknowns, makes the task of understanding and judging often Herculean, Solomonic and Einsteinian all at once.
The strength, wisdom and knowledge of Hercules, Solomon and Einstein are simultaneously required when considering thousands of pages of tiny-type recasting 1/6th of the US economy and 100% of the health care received by 100% of our citizens. Put health care legislation together with the rushed economic legislation of the past 6-months, and we’re talking about 1/4th of the
We’ve toyed with various adjustments, some legislated and some voluntary (usually obeyed only at the convenient whim and self-interest of elected representatives) to increase the deliberation and independence of legislators, and allow the public time and information to weigh in. For the most part, they’ve failed or been inadequate.
Not that they will be the ending solution, I’ll propose some more to bolster our and our legislators’ ability to make sounder decisions:
1. All members of legislative committees, entrusted by other legislative members with the detail evaluation of legislation, must attend all open and closed door meetings. That leads to wider and more careful deliberation. This duty is paramount over prestigious memberships in too many committees to be able to perform adequately in each.
2. All legislation must be publicly published on the Internet in full at least several weeks before detail hearings, to allow even minimal familiarity by those affected, the more knowledgeable, and by the public who has the right to transparency in order to know.
3. All legislative committee hearings must hear from an equal number of experts chosen by each political party, regardless of the weighting of party membership on the committee, to increase the likelihood of more information and views being heard.
4. All the members of each legislative committee must vote and publicly explain their vote.
5. All legislation funding or affecting more than one agency of government must either be broken down into its components for separate votes or be held for vote in the next biannual Congress once the public vote weighs in indirectly on the information received from hearings and legislators’ positions.
Yes, these reforms may slow some legislation, but experience with untoward consequences of haste and shadows makes that a positive result. Yes, these reforms will shift the workload of legislators toward deeper involvement with the details of legislation, the benefits of that being evident. Yes, true crises may require quick action at times, and if so there’s nothing to stop wise legislators from breaking such legislation into more carefully constructed and deliberated parts.
Yes, we can have a more perfect
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The reason "a more perfect Union, more perfect Republic, closer to Democracy," will not happen is because we are not perfect. Perfect makes this concept impossible. Nice thought however.
"In order to form a more perfect union..."-- meaning the very human desire to strive for perfection, though it is impossible.
We can try, that's all.
I agree with Mark Steyn that passing partially written, unread 1,000 page bills signals the death of representative democracy. It is an indication of something fundamentally wrong. The system has to be pulled apart, limited in scope and policy-making pushed downward to local levels.
I"d like to add one I've mentioned before -
All laws [and regulations, rules, etc.] shall expire no more than eight years from passage [or first implementation]
If they're good, re-pass them. If they are not, let them die. Maybe something like the telecom tax passed to pay for the Spanish-American War will not take ninety years to go away. Bonus: keep the Congesscritters so busy defending/attacking past law they'll be very careful before adding to their workload with junk.
Not that it would be effective: doubtless it would be reduced to a couple of minutes a day reading out the numeric designations and taking a yes-no voice vote for renewal. And whar it would do to the Executive branch might be even worse. Still...
I'll second teqjack's suggestion and add one of my own:
No member of Congress, nor any member of their staffs, nor any federal government employee outside of law-enforcement or active military duty, shall be exempt from any laws or regulations the congresscritters pass.
If it is valuable enough to be renewed, and they can join us in living with the consequences, then I believe we'll have less onerous laws and regulations.
QUOTE Usage note:
A few usage guides still object to the use of comparison words such as more, most, nearly, almost, and rather with perfect on the grounds that perfect describes an absolute, yes-or-no condition that cannot logically be said to exist in varying degrees. The English language has never agreed to this limitation. Since its earliest use in the 13th century, perfect has, like almost all adjectives, been compared, first in the now obsolete forms perfecter and perfectest, and more recently with more, most, and similar comparison words: the most perfect arrangement of color and line imaginable. Perfect is compared in most of its general senses in all varieties of speech and writing. After all, one of the objectives of the writers of the U.S. Constitution was “to form a more perfect union.” See also complete, unique. :
Events are increasing exposing that there are bugs and backdoors in our political operating system known as the Constitution. This has happened in the past and the proper correction was allowed for in the original source code.
What we are seeing will need to be corrected by amendments to the Constitution. Doing it through Laws and/or Executive Orders would only be a temporary stop-gap kluge solution.
This lets me trot out my two items for Congress and states could do something similar.
1. The sponsor/primary author of any legislation must identify the Constitutional warrant for the legislation.
2. The bill may come to a floor vote only after a quorum's worth of members have passed a written exam on the bill's provisions, and only if a quorum's worth of those who passed the exam are present to vote on it.
#2 definitely agreed. #4 would depend on implementation.
I'm awfully wary about #3. It would lead to a lot of false choices and non-stop grandstanding for the media and constituents.
I don't really see how #1 or #3 really change anything. If people want to make the best decision, they tend to seek out all the information they can. If they have pre-judged something, they are probably not going to actually listen to other ideas and consider them seriously. You can't make people listen (nor would you want to).
Bah, this was in response to the posting, not you Geoff. Sorry about that.
This post IS in response to your post Geoff. :-)
I don't think #2 (testing) would ever be possible. Who would make up the test? You'd have to form a committee just to determine the test questions. Can you imagine the fallout if a bill is passed because a member of the opposite party missed an ambiguously worded question? And just because you can answer some factual information doesn't mean you understand the intent of the bill. More importantly, it also doesn't help with the far more pernicious aspect of laws, the unintended consequence.
I stand to be corrected Knucklehead. Excellent point. Language takes different meanings as time marches on. Thank you for your observation and correction.
Maybe in order to have a more perfect Union, a more perfect Republic, we should have elected officials who have mores, accountability, and the integrity that comes with the position of being elected officials. These attributes seem to be extinct in our government officials.
Your suggestion #1 would yield some very interesting waterboarding of words. The US constitution is, in the original, a mere four hand-written pages. The twenty-seven amendments are generally only a few sentences - eight or ten more than two short paragraphs and only 3 or 4 of those are anywhere near a half-page of modern type. Maybe another 4 or 5 pages total for amendments.
The whole thing, with useful commentary, wouldn't be more than 20 pages with plenty of whitespace.
How have they tortured 50,000 or more pages of federal code out of that? Yeesh.
My point exactly. I think most of the Farmers are libertarian more than conservative in our politics. I would say the Constitution gives the Feds no role in requiring people to have pensions or health insurance (there go Soc Security and Medicare), to prop up farm prices or bring down consumer prices (good bye Cash for Clunkers and Government Motors), or even to promote a healthy lifestyle (entire Department of HHS, except Public Health Service). I don't think even states should decide which adults may have sex with which genuinely willing adults (people in roles that give them coercive power are a different story, e.g. corrections officers).
Morally, many Farmers would be called conservative. I am opposed to promiscuity and adultery as moral and practical matters, but I want legislators to stay out of it. I find that I am glad when Bruce finds his real love with Bob or Janet with Julie, and I can't behind any effort to denigrate them for who they are.
It's the fundamental problem of democracy - legislators bribing electors with their own money, and electors voting themselves state handouts. It's always the same - though the manifestations are enormously different in different countries - and always will be.
I believe that the only way to solve the problem while maintaining democracy is to separate the powers of taxation and general legislation by electing two separate legislatures - one solely to legislate (without the power to tax to pay for it - so the voters can only elect them on their legislative promises and record) and one solely to raise taxes (without the power to spend any of it - so the voters only elect them on their taxing intentions).
How we get there from here, of course, is another question.