The absurdity of trusting checks and balances

A friend of mine, the Rough Ol' Boy, writes up Ezra Klein's piece on the madness of the health care debate and Will Wilkinson's response. All are worth reading, but I'm highlighting R.O.B.'s conclusion here:

But I think Klein actually does make a salient point about political systems in general, but it proves far more than he wants it to. I Klein is correct when he writes that

[a] healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship.

But of course these institutional checks are the entire basis for our political system–think the Bill of Rights, federalism, checks and balances, etc. And, when push comes to shove, they don’t work. If you put a huge amount of power into relatively few hands (i.e. form a government), it will be abused no matter how much you attempt to safeguard it. Klein probably wasn’t aware that he was arguing for anarchy, but he was.

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It is a problem of scale

One doesn't read of social/political unrest in Monaco. The country is physically to big and to populated to govern responsibly. And that's why talk of a one world government is crazy.


I thought I had that typo where I omitted "think" right before the block quote fixed last night, but I guess I didn't. Oh well, it's fixed now.

In response to Bill: yes, scale has a lot to do with it for reasons that I outlined here. Nevertheless, any monopoly organization is likely to be both more inefficient and abusive towards those it serves than would competitive institutions, no matter how small the geographic area it serves.

Checks and balances are a myth

. . . for various reasons.

First, we are ruled by case law, secret signing statements and secret executive orders.

Second, we are ruled by the Supreme Court. That's the way the Constitution was written. The writers could have given Congress control over the Court with a super majority of both houses but they didn't.

Third, we are ruled by the people who own both of the political parties, whomever they are. They have been controlling the country at least since Lincoln's War. Nothing since then has slowed the transfer of real assets from the working class to the old money ruling class.

Second, we are ruled by the

Second, we are ruled by the Supreme Court. That's the way the Constitution was written.

I'm not so sure about that. It would be more accurate to say "We are ruled by the Supreme Court (to the extent that we are) because that's the way the Supreme Court decided it to be."

Because the Constitution permits it

As Chief Justice John Marshall said, "The Constitution says what we say it says."

For example, when the Constitution was written, "state" meant "sovereign nation." The US was The United Sovereign Nations of America. The Supremes decided that "state" means "province" and that's the way it is.