e. magill's                        

The Unapologetic Geek

MAIN LIST        

Modest Suggestions for the Next American Revolution

George Washington
"The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government."
-George Washington

The time for a new revolution is fast approaching. Our government has gotten too large, too overbearing, and too ambitious to be trusted with the well-being of its populace. Blame for this condition does not rest in any individual presidential administration, act of Congress, or ruling of the Supreme Court; it rests in our own hands. Throughout our history, we the American people have slowly given more and more of our personal freedom to those we have placed in power, whether it be in the form of money, power, or the ability to pursue happiness. If we allow our country to continue on this course, it won't be long before we are shackled by the bonds of tyranny, the same bonds we fought and died to shake off over two hundred years ago.

The United States of America is founded upon beautiful and everlasting ideals, and our founding fathers showed impossibly brilliant foresight in making those ideals last for many generations. However, they and all who followed them were human, and thus there were a modicum of flaws--both major and minor--in the foundations of our humanist government. Over time, the major mistakes were corrected, even if it brought this nation to the brink of collapse. The minor mistakes, however, had time to fester out of sight. Today, those flaws are vast and impenetrable, but they were so gradual in their growth that most of us aren't aware of how dangerous and overwhelming they have become.

This is no longer the nation of our forefathers, but there is no reason why this generation should lack their rebellious and revolutionary spirit. The time will come when we must choose to form a new constitution or allow ourselves to become slaves to a powerful elite, assuming that moment has not already passed. Our constitution is a wonderful document and is the basis for the greatest nation this Earth has ever known, but it can certainly be improved. What follows are my modest suggestions for anyone out there who is of a like mind; these suggestions are general ideas where our new constitution could vary from the old, in an attempt to fix the minor flaws that necessitate the change. I am not advocating that we eliminate our current constitution, but that we rebuild it using the same beautiful and everlasting ideals of the men and women who founded it in the first place.

Discourage Major Political Parties

James Monroe
"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty."
-James Monroe

One thing many of our founding fathers agreed on was the inherent danger of a nation divided by partisan politics. In America today, the two major parties have taken complete control over our political system and have forced much of the populace to choose between two inconsistent ideologies. The bipartisan system currently in place is a poison to our representative democracy, for modern politicians answer to their parties before they answer to their people. In the highest levels of government, the people can no longer choose a representative who is truly fair, moderate, and independant, for the wealth of money, power, and influence wielded by the parties is overwhelmingly strong. We the people no longer get to choose the people we put in office, because the choice is made for us by party leaders.

This is the most important problem facing a reborn America. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most difficult one to address. We cannot abolish the freedom of assembly or the freedom to form organizations on ideological grounds. We also cannot restrict campaign finance without trodding on the inalienable rights of the populace. What we must do, therefore, is find a way to ensure that, once a person enters the political arena, he or she is no longer affiliated with or answerable to any political organization. Representatives cannot be pressured by party politics, as they ignore the best interests of the people the representatives are sworn to protect. There is no simple solution that I can imagine, but I include this among my suggestions for I feel it is too important to ignore.

Flatten Income Tax; Ensure that Only Individuals May Be Taxed

James Madison
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."
-James Madison

The American tax code has gotten ludicrously complex and unbalanced. With every passing year, the government finds more and more ways to tax its people, each more inventive and ridiculous than the last. Additionally, the juggernaut that is our tax code is so complex that there are literally thousands of potential loopholes that can be exploited. Whenever a law is passed to close one of those loopholes, it increases the complexity of the system and opens up even more. Any American who doesn't receive taxpayer dollars--along with many who do--agrees that the system of taxation needs to be radically simplified. Unfortunately, those in power will never truly succeed in doing it, because variable taxes are one of the strongest weapons in the campaign arsenal.

We need to destroy that weapon before it can ever be used in the new America. A flat income tax would ensure that we are all treated equally, regardless of our successes, failures, or circumstances, as would a simple sales tax. Ensuring that only individuals are taxed--as opposed to allowing the taxation of businesses, corporations, families, and the like--would keep things simple and fair, so that there would be no taxation without representation. All other taxes should be immediately and permanently abolished, with a special provision against so-called sin taxes (or excise taxes in general), a concept as un-American and counter-productive as anything I can imagine. This way, the amount of taxes being taken from the people is simple, easy to calculate, and impossible to conceal through beaurocratic sleight of hand. It also keeps the issue of taxation simple for political candidates; they either support higher taxes for everyone or they don't, with no equivocation or intellectual dishonesty.

Outlaw Central Banking and Discourage Deficit Spending

John Adams
"All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation."
-John Adams

Our current economic system is unsustainable; it will collapse catastrophically, and the only question is how long we have left. It has taken a couple of centuries, but our leaders have managed to take control of our economy, for better and for worse, and bend it to their will. We like to call this a capitalist society, but by definition, it is not. Pure capitalism is a system where the government and the economy are separate but equal, where market forces dictate the structure of a society as strongly as the individuals in power. It has been made clear over the years that pure capitalism, like any fundamentalist political ideal, would never work, but it is also clear that our current system will fail.

Our government, through various means and by way of the central banking system, can change the value of the dollar on a whim. If the government wants more money but doesn't want to increase taxes, it can cause inflation to take place, thereby creating money from thin air while devaluing the money in the hands of the people. This is one example of how the government adversely interferes with the American economy, and we can rip this power out of the government's hands simply by abolishing the central bank.

In addition, the governmental practice of deficit spending has spiralled completely out of control. Our government has mortgaged away the financial security of not only our children, but our children's children. A little bit of deficit spending in times of exigency is certainly acceptable, but over the last few decades, our leaders have been spending far too much money that doesn't exist. Our new constitution has to curb this and lay out very specific rules for when and how much the government should be allowed to spend over the line, and it should demand a relatively balanced budget every single year.

If we demand fiscal responsibility--true fiscal responsibility--from our government, we can build an economy that will never collapse under a cracked foundation. It may take us many years to dig ourselves out of our current financial mess, but it will be well worth the cost of avoiding an inevitable catastrophe. It will also allow us, in the long run, to end our debts with the rest of the world while increasing our interdependance, which can only lead to a more fair and equitable foreign policy.

Encourage Free International Trade

Thomas Jefferson
"Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto."
-Thomas Jefferson

Another major problem with our economy is the list of arbitrary restrictions placed on foreign trade. For instance, we cannot import prescription drugs from other countries, thereby ensuring that American drug companies have a form of monopoly on their product. The lack of competition in the market has caused a predictable and wildly uncontrollable rise in the cost of prescription drugs. This is true of many other goods as well.

Lowering the price of these goods is not the only reason to support free and open trade with the rest of the world, however; financial interdependance is the only proven means to, among other things, avoid military conflict. Rather than trade with hostile nations so that we can quell the hostility, we actually stop all trade, so that there is less incentive for both sides to find cooperative solutions. The single biggest reason why this world has not found peace is the insistence from all countries to avoid free trade. This is unacceptable, and our new constitution must address it.

Governmental intrusion into international trade does a disservice not only to the price of foreign goods and the fragile peace between sovereign countries, but it also prevents impoverished countries from receiving ample aid. Free trade would make for a more prosperous world for all, which would, in turn, make for a more prosperous America. Opposition to free trade only comes from those who seek to control the economy here and abroad or who don't believe in the people's ability to discern what is moral, and those are the kinds of people who become tyrants.

Demand that All Costs of a Frivolous Lawsuit Be Billed to the Plaintiff

Martin Van Buren
"Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude. The first is the resource of intrigue and produces only secondary results, the second is the resort of genius and transforms the universe."
-Martin Van Buren

This is a deeply litigious society. It has become American to sue for all manner of insults both real and imaginary, and it has become commonplace for people to demand accomodation while threatening to go to court. This practice has lead to skyrocketing medical costs, insurance costs, beaurocratic red tape, and lawyers fees. It has gotten so bad that the average person can no longer afford things like healthcare or hope to comprehend something as simple as a zoning permit.

If it were in the power of a judge to decide that a case brought before him or her is frivolous (and there could be strict definitions if the need arises), we could ensure that the costs of a frivolous lawsuit would be billed to the person bringing the claim to the court. This would be a deterrent against ridiculous litigation and the practice of suing repeatedly until something sticks. It would also protect entities that are targets of such unwarranted litigation, so that a company would not be financially burdened by unavoidable lawsuits.

The only exception that could be made would be that no suit filed against the government can be considered frivolous. The government should always be accountable to the people, regardless of the perceived pettiness of the complaint. The judicial system is a branch of the government, and therefore should not be allowed to pardon itself.

Put the Power to Elect Supreme Court Justices in the Hands of High Courts

Andrew Jackson
"There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses."
-Andrew Jackson

Checks and balances are a key concept in our constitution, and should remain so in the new one. However, one place where checks and balances are being woefully abused today is in the election of Supreme Court Justices. Partisan politics have turned a simple vetting process into a circus whereby justices are chosen, not for their impartiality, but for their ability to please political leaders. This is incredibly dangerous.

If justices could be elected by their peers in the highest courts in the land, the political nonsense surrounding their selection would be minimized. There could be more rules laid out for how potential justices are selected (or how they could be impeached by a supermajority in Congress, for example), but the core idea, that they are no longer selected by presidents and vetted by Congressional grandstanders, is what is important.

Make Certain that the Business of Government is Fully Open to the Public, with Few Exceptions

John F. Kennedy
"A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
-John F. Kennedy

Our forefathers knew that, in order for the government to be accountable to the public, it has to conduct the majority of its business in full view of the people. Over the centuries, however, there have been many leaders and administrations that have chosen to hide behind an impenetrable veil of secrecy, especially in the executive branch. In some matters, like those of foreign or military policy, such secrecy is justifiable. However, in all other matters, the business of government should not be hidden or mysterious.

In the new constitution, there should be provisions that ensure the openness of political happenings. Presidential administrations should be required to consult with an outside authority whenever secrecy is called for, and in all other matters, the actions of the administration should be recorded and made available to the public. There are already similar rules in place for the legislative and judicial branches, and if anything, they should be strengthened.

Restrict the Presidency to a Single Term

Abraham Lincoln
"Avoid popularity if you would have peace."
-Abraham Lincoln

Modern presidents tend to treat their first four-year term as an extended campaign for their second term. These presidents are often suspected of doing what is popular rather than what is right, and occasionally, those suspicions are completely justified. Popularity is a cornerstone of democracy, and being forced to answer for it is fine for state representatives, governors, mayors, and other political appointments. However, the hugely important burden of the executive should never be influenced by mercurial public opinion. The most difficult and controversial decisions should never be made in the court of public opinion--though our leaders should certainly be held accountable for the repercussions of their choices--and no office is responsible for as many difficult decisions as that of the presidency.

Therefore, the burden of presidency needs to be restricted to a single term. That term could be extended in the new constitution to five or six years, but once a man or woman becomes president, he or she can never be president again. We elect our presidents to do what is right, not to do what is popular, and we must therefore ensure that they do not waste time placating the masses.

-e. magill 05/18/2009

  • Let's Not Turn Away the Huddled Masses
  • The Most Untenable Position: Obama on the Supreme Court
  • The Problem with Balance: Why Both Sides is a Bad Strategy