Constitutional crises threaten when a single authority can direct all three branches of U.S. government. At present, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell can prevent or promote an appointment to the Supreme Court, stop any legislation, and enforce a party loyalty system that blindly follows the President. This dangerous power structure is maintained by the political supremacy of money and by our addiction to social media, both of which feed the pervading public sense of disempowerment. When feeling disempowered by the elite, the disenchanted multitudes may seek self-identity by welcoming a fascist governance. And fight for it.
The threat of crisis is intensified by outdated aspects of the constitution. The founders developed the Constitution while seeing an agrarian economy, slowly advancing technology (e.g. the woodstove), and an endless countryside open to occupation by white men. However, now I see the constitution and first twelve amendments as a compromise that united slave states and free states into one nation. It protected 19th century individual freedom of white men and property, but today it doesn’t “promote the general welfare” as promised in the preamble. The constitution still fails to define where “general welfare” begins and private dominion ends. The Constitution doesn’t protect individual freedom in today’s complex social system, a network that imposes thousands of connections on each individual—connections that can be manipulated by a few entities, including smart computers. Today’s “freedom” does not offer equal opportunity.
Money now buys political power, a process formerly called corruption. This creates a deliberate positive feedback that gradually concentrates money and influence into political and economic monopolies. It costs millions to run for congress, and the big contributors expect a payoff. Banking has escaped much needed regulation. Banks, drugstores, retail, and information are each evolving into a few influential chains.
Any system with unrestricted positive feedback will self-destruct.
That’s a fact. Examples: 1) A sound system with the microphone in front of the loudspeaker. 2) Political allegiance to money in a democracy. Self-destruction of democracy starts with the suppression of questioning. That’s when reporters, academics, writers, and scientists—those who ask questions in public—lose credibility, lose their jobs, or go to jail. That happens in Israel, Turkey, and Russia. It’s happening here. Social media have replaced investigative reporters. Claiming global warming to be a hoax, the President selectively reduced funding for, and reporting by, the earth sciences.
In our enduring political war, lying has become a virtue.
The constitution presumes each voter is aware of the choices and the consequences. The modern voter lives in a perplexing complex system in which unintended social problems emerge—like traffic jams, climate change, or cell phone addiction—each problem without a unique cause.
Our current political polarization prevents a reasoned discussion of the boundary between private rights and public benefit. Both are regarded as sacred values, which are moral beliefs not subject to negotiation as is the price of a car. We use slogans instead of discussions to treat issues like private land versus open space, private medicine versus public health, private wealth versus public poverty, and private pollution versus the common environment.
If you can’t talk about it, you are powerless to change it.
Social developments—economic collapses, epidemic drug addiction, and poverty within plenty—issues like these emerge as though prevention were impossible. Our current political system cannot deal with this complexity. The constitution deals with specific protections but does not explicitly state that
the function of government is to protect what’s common.
If our current three branches of government can’t protect the commons and police each other as intended, another mechanism is needed. How? We’ll speculate in a coming post.