Sunday, August 2, 2009

Too big to pass: the death of American democracy?

This blog from Powerline, ostensibly about health care, but applicable to pretty much anything Congress is doing these days, is right on the money. The title is "Too Big to Fail" and it gets to the heart of one of the biggest problems with Congress today: members of both parties failing to live up to their most basic responsibilities as legislators. They don't read the bills they vote on. They don't think about the issues independently - they either do what their party, favorite lobbyists, or constituents tell them to do, rather than having a set of ** gasp ** core principles that they are able to clearly articulate to the electorate and use as guides for evaluating the various legislative proposals that come before them. Principled leadership is for suckers. To whit:

So I would propose a simple, bright-line rule. In recent months many observers have said that if a company is too big to fail (i.e., in a pinch the government will bail it out), then it is too big to exist. I think there is a lot of merit to that idea. Here is my corollary: if a bill is too vast for a Congressman to read and understand, it is too big to pass. If a Congressman can't read the bill, he shouldn't vote for it. The appropriate response to any such legislation is: just vote "No."

Abso-freakin-lutely. We are watching the destruction of representative democracy before our very eyes. The innovative vision of representative democracy that enlivens our Constitution has been hollowed out by a government that is so big that no one individual can possibly understand its component parts in a coherent way, which makes it possible for those who understand any one corner of the vast bureaucracy to set up a lucrative little empire based on doing so - be they legislator, bureaucrat, lobbyist, journalist, etc. Aggregated, these little empires grow and distort our government in ways that would horrify our founding fathers. The best hope for saving it is the promise of modern communication and social networking as tools for citizen activism. These tools have the potential to create mechanisms to absorb, comprehend and start shaping these complex systems in a way that individual citizens, acting alone or even in localized groups, cannot. On the plus side, technology moves faster than bureaucracy so innovation is on our side; liberals have embraced these technologies to advance an anti-freedom party and agenda, but the conservative side is starting to catch up. Will it be enough?

UPDATE *8-3-09: Mark Steyn at NRO agrees:

Rule by anonymous technocrats is a form of tyranny, however benign.

See the whole thing here.

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