Friday, June 29, 2012


I often think about the “shape” in which we find our country. It seems that our elected officials are little more than squabbling brats. They have lost the art of compromise and diplomacy.

Arizona passes some tough laws on immigration and the opposition takes it to the Supreme Court. The SCOTUS upheld the law and the President decides he doesn’t like that so he in effect, defies the SCOTUS. The congress passed a law, the affordable care act and the opposition takes it to the Supreme Court claiming it is unconstitutional. The SCOTUS declares it constitutional and immediately the opposition takes it to task to repeal it.

I guess that is democracy in action but it seems like we are headed down a rabbit hole.

 So what is democracy? The dictionary defines it:

  1. A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives-
  2. A state governed in such a way
  3. Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members
  4. The practice or principles of social equality
In a some what dated article, I found this definition:

“The concept of democracy is often expressed in terms of “thin” and “thick” definitions. At its most fundamental (or thin) incarnation, democracy is synonymous with popular sovereignty or majority rule: a system of governance in which the people choose their leaders by casting votes. Also known as electoral democracy, this definition describes the processes by which a government derives its authority or mandate. But, most agree that this is only one piece of the equation. What the government does with this mandate, how it rules, and the outcomes that are produced must also be factored into a (thick) designation of democracy. Thus, what we know as democracy in its ideal form generally also includes governance by rule of law and the protection of civil liberties, or liberal democracy. Though how these two basic components of democracy – electoral and liberal – are represented may differ, it is widely accepted that a truly democratic system of governance must comprise both. The extent to which it does so will determine its quality and durability. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, without liberal democracy, electoral democracy is “nothing more than mob rule where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”

Electoral democracy is the process by which leaders gain public office; liberal democracy results when clear limits are placed on what they can do when they get there.”

Two of these seem to be at odds:

  1. Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members
  2. The practice or principles of social equality

How can we have majority rule and equality? Do we really have a country where the majority rules? i.e. the electoral vote  Do we provide equality for all members of our society. i.e. Gays and Lesbians, Transgender … atheist?  Are we working on it? I think so.

In spite of what John Adams said in 1763 our democracy is not perfect it seems to be better than anything else out there.

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
John Adams

In my humble opinion, where we seem to have gone awry is in the power department. As I began this rant I was appalled that the SCOTUS has been so “dissed” but as I conclude I think another John Adams quote sums it up.

Sep. 5, 1763 - from a letter published in the Boston Gazette
Unbridled passions produce the same effects, whether in a king, nobility, or a mob. The experience of all mankind has proved the prevalence of a disposition to use power wantonly. It is therefore as necessary to defend an individual against the majority (in a democracy) as against the king in a monarchy.


Donna said...

This is a comment on the SCOTUS ruling that you mentioned as part of the uproar all around us.

Chief Justice Roberts ruled that the healthcare mandate was unconstitutional relative to the commerce clause. That is very important because the commerce clause was "Obamacare's" underpinning. This important recent SCOTUS ruling makes it clear that Congress cannot make American citizens purchase anything. Ever. That notion is now --officially and forever-- unconstitutional. As it should be.

Next, the recent SCOTUS ruling states that the only thing Congress can mandate is a tax, which means that from now on proponents of universal anything, including healthcare, will have to bandy the term 'tax increase' about when they speak of whatever it is they want ot universalize. (An interesting note ie that opponents of "Obamacare" have called it a tax from the outset while proponents, including Obama, have declared endlessly that it was NOT a tax. Just a penalty.)
It is of strategic importance that that when the Democrats who argued in front of the Supreme Court for purposes of this ruling were asked about that term "tax," they said, ‘hey, a penalty or a tax, either way.’ That was their chance and they did not take it--- so it is now the official law of the land that universal healthcare is a tax, and proponents of the Affordable Healthcare Act must defend the concept of tax increase when speaking of healthcare legislation.

Moving on. The recent SCOTUS decision also struck down as unconstitutional the idea written into the AHC Act that the federal government could bully states into complying with universal healthcare by taking away EXISTING funding if a state opted out. Now a state can decline participation in "Obama-care" without its current medicaid etc being taken away, and this is going to be a serious problem for universality. Are we going to have 10, 12, 25 states not participating in “national” health-care? If so, then suddenly, it’s not national, is it?

Ultimately, the Roberts decision has supported states rights by limiting the federal government’s coercive abilities. This is good. We are supposed to be a group of 50 sovereign states who united for the stated purposes of existing tranquilly together, defending our adjoining soil together, and having the same currency.

Neither states not individual citizens can be forced to purchase products or services under the commerce clause now.

Healthcare-wise, in the face of this ruling, it is not going to matter which candidate gets elected, or if Congress decides to repeal the healthcare law this fall or not: universal healthcare is likely to be optional by state now, and citizens will be able to vote with their feet whichever way they are so inclined - move to a state with it if they want it, or move from a state that has it if they don't. This is in perfect sync with the spirit of our Constitution.

We are all getting used to these new thoughts, that's all. Forgive us the hullaballoo!

Interested said...
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Interested said...

Is it really unconstitutinal for Congress to make Americans puchase anything? It seems that they do mandate the purchase of a passport. Is that different because you don't have to buy it if you don't travel? Maybe. We are all required to have a social Security card, isn't that the same thing? I don't mind the government mandating anything that makes our life better.

I really hate the fact that states can opt out. Seems to me we will be facing the same thing we have with immigration..every state trying to make their own laws. Some things should be equal for every US citizen no matter the state they reside within.

My opinion.