Founding Fathers Version 2.0
Founding Fathers Version 2.0
October 5, 2010
I’ve been thinking about the practicality of a new American revolution, and wondering if there’s any way to do it without shooting people.
The American government has proven itself unable to govern, as evidenced by the fact that there’s no plan for closing the budget deficit. If we had two rational and competing plans from the major parties, or even one imperfect plan, I would consider that some form of government. But no plan means we’re effectively ungoverned.
You might argue that the government is mostly working, and the budget deficit is just one wrinkle that will get ironed out in time. But given that we’re in a budget death spiral that will eventually derail every other function of society, I would say that all we’re talking about is a timing issue. By analogy, maybe your brain can remain conscious for a second after your head gets chopped off, but as a practical matter, you’re not less dead.
It’s no surprise that our system doesn’t work. It was designed hundreds of years ago, and it gradually worsened over time, just like everything else that was designed hundreds of years ago. It’s the ultimate legacy system, bloated and hopelessly in need of replacement. And now, thanks to the brainwashing that all American kids get about the magic and wonder of our political system, and the near Godliness of our Founding Fathers, we’re unable to see the system itself as entirely broken. Instead, we assume the problem is that the people within the system are corrupt or incompetent. Or maybe the problem is the Tea Party, or the crazy Liberals, or anything but the system itself. There’s plenty of blame to spread around, but a good system should be excreting the crazies instead of embracing them. Why can’t we have that system?
If you want to bring a social gathering to a full stop, suggest that the Chinese system of government is the best model for our modern age. Contrary to popular belief, their system is not a dictatorship, because the top guy only keeps his job if the guys below him think he’s doing it well. It’s more like a corporate structure in which smart and knowledgeable people choose the best within their ranks based on ability. You can fault the Chinese leadership for a lot of things, but you can’t fault them for being impractical. They have a political system that, as far as I can tell, puts science over superstition. And over time, I would expect their human rights issues to improve simply because doing so is smart government.
[Disclaimer: What I know about China would fit in a very small Tupperware container while leaving plenty of room for a sandwich. So if you disagree with my characterization of China’s government, please correct me in the comments below.]
Obviously a bloodless revolution in America wouldn’t get far with a slogan such as “Be More Chinese!” And our government is too constipated to make incremental improvements in itself. I’ve already ruled out killing people. So how can you get there from here?
Suppose, just as a mental exercise, a new set of geniuses, call them the Founding Fathers Version 2.0, hold a convention and come up with a new form of government that fits the challenges of the modern age. Then, after a lengthy public debate, a constitutional vote is held in which every citizen can decide on keeping the old system or moving to the new one. If the new one wins, a transition plan is drawn up, and the move is made over maybe five years, so there is limited shock to the system.
Let’s agree that this scenario is hugely unlikely. But can we afford to not try it when the alternative is no government at all? What would Thomas Jefferson and my cousin John Adams say if they were here today?