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Monday, June 26, 2017

Restoring Balance And Harmony (Part Two)

(Editor’s note: The first segment of this multi-part series discusses in part how we arrived at the greatest concentration of wealth disparity in American History. In Part Two, that discussion continues.)

Popular government devolves to the national level as the arbiter of important questions due to no particular virtue of the federal system.  However, a unique benefit of local government is that mistakes typically do not imperil national security.  This enables local governments to act as crucibles of experimental democracy.  With local grassroots support, the most successful of these experiments can serve as a model for federal reform.

But national lawmakers, in particular, seem to be crying out for help with the difficult task of legislating transparently in the public interest.  The finger may rightfully be pointed at the corruptive forces of money, used to prostrate honorable public servants from acting in the public interest.  Special interests for private gain have effectively accomplished this through the transformation of legislative office from a position of public trust to an individual prize.  It is said that the main role of a legislator these days is solely to insulate corporations from complying with the laws.  Society’s unrest naturally follows.

Meanwhile, a coefficient of legislative inertia and weakness is to some extent the expansion of executive and judicial power, which is compelled to fill the void.  Left to their own devices, these complimentary branches in a system of checks and balances sometimes overreach into the legislative sphere, throwing the separation of powers into harmful imbalance.  Allegations of imperial presidency as to one branch and judicial activism as to the other foster mutual mistrust, distracting from the primary mission.

It has taken a significant amount of time --- and stealth --- to amass a record level of wealth concentration.  Corruption of the legislative “umpire” has carved out a chasm which appears to be morally indefensible.  This confounds the quest to complete our great unfinished business, which calls upon our economic system to provide a fair shot for the many.

As applied to its lawmaking body, America simply has been unable to come to grips with the self-interest component of concentrated economic power on the human condition.  Put another way, what has Congress, the legislative branch, done to ameliorate wealth disparity and insure a level playing field?  If the answer is “nothing,” then it becomes compelling that something has to change.  Consider it a moral issue which can no longer be secondary.

But no matter how diligently we strive to create a more perfect union, collecting things and changing money remain the great motivation which obscures life’s true purpose. Sideshows in the political process have a tendency to swallow substance, reducing important questions to a partisan, smallness debate on the proper size of government --- not on whether government actually works.

At the same time, entrenched status quo interests spread dollars around systematically, muddying the water so that change becomes all but impossible. To check this, we must move beyond a traditional analysis affixed to economic cycles of boom and bust, war and peace. To progress meaningfully from one stage to the next in an upward course, we must aim higher.

Then how best to do this? One might say, “If the lawmakers don’t perform, throw them out and replace them at the next election with those who will perform.” If only apportioning equality of opportunity more equitably under the law were to be so easy. Those monopolizing opportunity would never agree to change the myriad of laws necessary to do so. And the monopolizers have sufficient power to ensure that these laws would never be changed. Therefore, it is folly to attempt changing these laws through present means.

Rather, the way to end the indignities is to unleash the ordinary citizen’s power to put them to an end.  That power comes from the ballot box.  Consequently, if the ordinary citizen’s vote to elect lawmakers accountable to the public interest is strengthened, the ordinary citizen will then be liberated to do the rest himself.  Do this and equality of opportunity is bound to improve over time.

How then can the ordinary citizen’s vote be strengthened to reasonably check the self-interest component of the federal lawmaker?  How can the ordinary citizen participate more effectively in the management of his and her government?  Put another way, since concentrated economic power rules, how can we limit big money in politics?  How can we re-direct emphasis away from the traditional measure of American success on a strictly material basis, moving the ancient principle of service back to the political center?

(Editor’s note:  Do not despair!  The next segment in this continuing multi-part series considers some practical solutions.  Yes, we can do this!)

-Michael D'Angelo