I am a structural determinism. I believe that the way things are structured largely determines the outcome. I believe that the inherently inert structure of the Federal Government has allowed it to endure. The Framers wanted a government which was capable of action, but could not act except in times of great consensus, which practically meant great urgency or peril. They built a structure which was to lay lightly over the state governments and allow the government closest to the people do most of the work.
Over time we have evolved away from that, partly due to the needs of a larger more complex society and a more tightly integrated economy, much to our individual detriment.
I have this theory of the United States Constitution that three amendments to the Constitution substantially changed the nature of our country and concentrated previously diffuse power in the Federal Government. In one case this was I believe substantially aided by the interpretation of one of the amendments by the Supreme Court. I've told a few friends of this theory and one encouraged me to write about it. Today Seemed a good day for it.
Most of my theory is based on the change in the relationship between the Federal Government and the States.
The first major change was as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment, the applicable portion is quoted below.
The Fourteenth.The Fourteenth amendment was intended to insure that the former Confederate states could not impose restrictions on the newly freed slaves. It ended up going much much further.
Section 1.All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Supreme Court interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment as it applied it to the states and extended the effect of the First Amendment to the States. The First Amendment was unique in that it previously applied only to Congress, and therefore only to the Federal Government. Prior to the Fourteenth amendment, or example, the states were free to establish a religion (which many of them had at the time of independence) or impose restrictions of the freedom of the press or speech. Although most states had similar guarantees in their own Constitutions this amendment allowed Federal Judicial Constitutional review (something not actually in the Constitution and assumed by the Judiciary by judicial fiat), to the states for the first time.
I think the unintended consequence of this action is the extension of Federal Judicial oversight into areas the framers never imagined. Things like public prayer, abortion, marriage, capital punishment and more.
The Sixteenth.The Sixteenth gave Congress the unfettered power to lay an all encompassing tax on all residents. This tax was so enormous in its effect it gave the Federal Government the power to coerce the States into all sorts of things. It allowed the States to forgo raising taxes directly as the Federal Government, aided by inflation, economic expansion and Income Withholding to tap a tsunami of cash, which could then be used to bribe the states into all manner of things, some good and some not so good. Additional revenue was necessary to support the national government but the previous restrictions on Federal Taxes served to keep the government small and tending to its own business.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
The Seventeenth.Previously Senators had been selected the state legislatures.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.
Losing the anchor to the State legislature, and insulated by long terms in office every Senator became an Independent Operator. Their long tenure and the lack of accountability to anyone except, occasionally, the voters allowed Senators and the Senate to pursue their own agendas for much of their terms. The primary effect was to deny the states any direct participation in the National Government.
Article IThe Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
Interesting that both the Sixteenth and Seventeenth amendments were ratified in 1913.
"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk