(Editor’s note: This is the first segment in a new two part series introducing readers to the
How frequent is the observation made that the team which appears to have the superior talent does not win the contest? …
… Primarily, the loser offers up the excuse that the players simply did not perform up to their capabilities --- like a team. Instead of a bus, it is said, they take 25 individual rides to the ballpark. Typically, in baseball as in representative government, the outcome is fatal to success.
In a democracy which exceeds 300,000,000 people, the objective of keeping the citizens content in the pursuit of happiness requires considerably more expertise. How does the American government keep the game and its players functioning so smoothly? How is the officiating kept separate and unbiased in a low key, unassuming manner? Wasn’t it always this way?
This question suggests the response. In 1787 the founding fathers were faced with quite a predicament. Flying under the radar would appear to have been rather impossible then, given the scope and magnitude of the crisis which was upon the young nation and their proposed remedial social science project. Today, however, this seems lost on the ordinary citizen. But it is worth remembering.
The young, fledgling democracy was in danger of failing, just 11 years into the experiment. Under
America’s then and first
constitution, known as the Articles of
Confederation, each state (there were 13 at the time) retained its own individual
sovereignty and the corresponding power to veto any law with which it happened to disagree. Given the diversity of regional and economic
interests, this meant that no truly uniform or effective law could reasonably
be enacted. An effective army could not
well be raised for national defense, nor taxes either levied or collected to
pay for it. Nor could the commerce of
the national economy be effectively regulated.
Unfortunately, the setting did not make provision for a team bus. Rather, there were to be essentially 13 separate cab rides to the ballpark, and social chaos was the potential imminent consequence. The experiment in democracy was in acute danger of failure, the patient on life support. Accordingly, there was an urgent sense to maintain a state of order and control, or as it has been couched in political terms, to preserve internal political stability.
But what if there were too much order and control? The corresponding fear in that instance was that the mass of ordinary citizens would be left with a one man wrecking ball, serfs to what we otherwise know as a dictator. The people of France were to learn this lesson painfully, when their popular revolution, corresponding in time more or less with our own American Revolution, degenerated into mob rule and then eventually the dictatorship of Napoleon. The French Revolution would later conclude with the anomalous result of the near ruin of
in continental military conquest and its people subjected to a military tyrant.
Either extreme presented the founding fathers with vexatious concern for the survival and continuation of the great American experiment in democracy. The situation was analogous to harnessing the desirable properties of light. On the one hand, the founding fathers viewed the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation as the futile attempt to illuminate the path with a flashlight which contains failing batteries. This light simply had neither power nor strength sufficient to provide even minimal let alone adequate illumination.
On the other hand resided the “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” comparison with the ongoing French Revolution, as described in Charles Dickens’ novel, The Tale of Two Cities. In that situation, the light of democracy had become so supremely concentrated in strength as to represent the immense power of a pure, unfiltered laser beam. That is to say, if anyone were to fix a gaze directly into the beam or somehow end up in its path, the result would conceive a wrecking ball of disaster.
(Editor’s note: The second and concluding segment in this two part series guides readers through the horns of the dilemma to its solution. What was needed was something in between the two undesirable extremes ...)