Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The American Constitutional Crisis Is Upon Us
In his Politics, Aristotle wrote, "Man by nature is a political animal." He added that man becomes the worst of animals when he is separated from law and justice. The Founding Fathers understood this, both philosophically and in practical terms, and so they enshrined in the US Constitution this fundamental aristotelian principle. And if the American Constitution is the finest example of democracy - rule by the people - and of republicanism - the elimination of aristocratic and ecclesiastical privilege in favor of popular political rule, the Constitution has one unavoidable flaw. It depends on the good faith of everyone participating as citizens and leaders. But, as Lord Acton remarked in the late 18th century, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," which brings us to the current frightening spectacle of corrupted power in the American federal government. While the Constitution distributes power equally among the three branches of American government, since the Second World War the executive branch headed by the President has rapidly outstripped the judicial and legislative branches in both its size and its influence on the American political process. And this has unbalanced fundamentally the power distribution contained in the Constitution. Today's horrifying parade of executive branch bureaucrats and their political managers ignoring constitutional absolutes - such as equal treatment before the law, being responsive to Congress, protecting America's diplomatic interests, and preventing the excessive use of police power against American citizens - is the direct result of the granting of powers to the office of the president without being able to monitor or control their uses. And Aristotle would easily have predicted the outcomes -- dead Anerican diplomats, efforts at the unconstitutional seizure of firearms, harrassment of peaceful citizen groups who seek to defend constitutional rights, attempts to tamp down first amendment rights to freedom of the press. These bureaucratic power grabs have headline names - Benghazi, Gun Control, IRS Illegal Acts against Non-profit Groups, AP Phone Record Seizures by the Justice Department. They are the symptoms of a political system dangerously beyond the control of law and justice. The President's executive branch cannot correct this constitutional disorder. Only Congress and the courts can correct it. And they must do so - now and together - if constitutional America is to survive. And, Congress and the courts will need the undivided attention and help of all American citizens, Democrat, Republican, of all colors and ethnic backgrounds - supporting Congress in its attempts to find the truth and set the nation afloat again. What America faces now requires that men and women of good will do all they can to save their precious human experiment in freedom and democracy. Aristotle got it right when he said in the third century BC, "If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."