Turning from Sin to Politics

Summer Politics
A variety of interesting candidates populate the edges of the nascent presidential campaign. Congressman Ron Paul seems to have captured the hearts of the discontented libertarians with his platform of doing away with most of the federal government and retreating into an island America insulated from the global economy. It reminds me a bit of the “destroy the village in order to save it” mentality of the Viet Nam War. But more interesting to me is former Senator Mike Gravel who is running on a platform of returning the government to the people through some sort of grassroots process that sounds like a national initiative that would have to be authorized through a substantial rewrite of the Constitution. His complaint is a simple one, and one that many would agree with. Congress and the Executive Branch are broken and not likely to be easily fixed. Public policy is the playground of well-heeled interest groups and big business. So why not put the power directly into the hands of the people who vote. I live in a state that permits initiatives to be put before the electorate provided that enough signatures can be solicited. Does it work? I don’t think so for several reasons. Sadly, not that many people actually vote. That’s a serious problem. It’s also true that just about any crackpot idea can generate enough signatures to get on the ballot and then be publicized in a way to avoid close examination while appealing to the most selfish interests of those who do vote. The result can be, and has been, a succession of laws that cripple local and state government, short change those most in need of help, and impose on the community conditions that most would rather not endure. The genius of representative democracy is that it allows time for reflection, encourages a vigorous give-and-take between competing interests, and provides a filtering mechanism for crackpot ideas – not that some of them don’t sneak through now and then. If anything needs to be fixed, it is the American non-voting public through whose lack of “patriotism” we could lose everything.

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