Wednesday, October 24, 2007


No Agreement on Fundamentals

A long time ago, at Michigan State College, now renamed Michigan State University, I had a course in political science. The professor remarked one day that democracy as we know it is possible only if all political parties are agreed on certain fundamentals. We seem today to be in disagreement on fundamentals. Some of us are so afraid of terrorists and still so shocked by the terrible events of September 11, 2001, that we consider the danger of other terrorist attacks to be something that overrides all other considerations, such as the preservation of civil liberties and the preservation of a republican form of government. We are willing to grant to the Commander-in-Chief unlimited and unwatched power to do whatever he decides is necessary to save us from the terrorists.

Others of us are afraid of our republic turning into a dictatorship in the manner of the Roman Republic 2000 years ago. We fear the arbitrary power of a corrupt dictator more than anything Al Qaeda may do to us. We watch with dismay each new power that our Commander-in-Chief decides to grant to himself. Even though the Commander-in-Chief has a very low popularity rating among the people, the people seem to be nearly evenly divided between those who fear the terrorists or fear the dictatorship. Our representatives in Congress reflect this division in public opinion. The structure of our government makes it impossible for a nearly evenly divided Congress to constrain the Commander-in-Chief. Our constitution was constructed by men who distrusted government and wanted to make it as difficult as possible for their government to do anything. They didn't foresee a President like George Bush who would simply claim a power and ignore anything written in the constitution that would counter the claim.

The logical conclusion is very depressing. The American Republic will follow the example of the Roman Republic 2000 years ago. For the next 400 years or so we will have the Imperial Presidency. Eventually, like Rome, our civilization will collapse. Barbarians who believe in democracy will invade and establish their little republics. I wish I could live long enough to greet them.

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