Monday, February 20, 2012

If its Monday, it must be about the separation of powers.

I have nothing to write about, so be warned.  This is one of those posts - I have no idea where it will go.

I walk a lot with the dog, and lately I've noticed the dog pays a lot more attention to vehicles when they approach, especially from behind.  I'm not sure why that has started, and I'm not sure how to stop it. 

Yesterday it snowed.  Today the snow is gone.  Just the way it ought to be. 

I find as I get older, more and more people get seriously ill, and more and more people die.   I don't like it.

I dont think Pickles the Dog understands the thermal properties of sun shining through a window.  But she knows it's warm - she's as bad as a cat for seeking out the sun.

I can't remember the dream I had last night, but I know I had it.

I am currently reading "The Death of Ivan Ilych" by Leo Tolstoy.  Many, many pages devoted to a description of a person dying a painful death.   He sacrificed his life for a drawing room.

A drawing room, of course, is not a place where one would expect to find crayons, at least not in a solidly middle class household in 19th century Russia.

Today is president's day, so now I shall expound on government:

The systems of checks and balances set up by the founders to replace the Articles of Confederation after the Revolution has ensured that the United States is a relatively conservative place, politically.  I don't know if that was their intention or not, but I wouldn't put it past them.  These were very intelligent & very wealthy people, for the most part, and I give them credit for knowing what they were doing.

I dont pretend to understand British politics, but it seems that in their Parliamentary style of government, whatever the House of Commons, lead by the Prime Minister, says, goes.  There does not seem to be a separation of executive and legislative powers.

In the USA, that's not the case.  The legislature, in the person of  the House of Representatives & the Senate, have to agree on a bill - which in and of itself tends to moderate things.  The President has executive powers and can veto a bill, and it's not easy to override.  But even if a bill comes out of Congress and the President signs it, it can be challenged in the courts and the Supreme Court can potentially overturn it, and it seems they have pretty much the last say.  The only way to override the Supreme Court is to amend the constitution, a process that takes quite a bit of effort and time, and involves not only the US Congress, but the State legislatures.  Its not often that amendments are attempted, and almost all of them fail.  Which I guess is as it should be.

With our system government, it seems like a miracle that we have anything like Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or anything in place to protect workers, but we do.  Its not surprising at all that we don't have a national health insurance, that we are only one of two or three nations on earth that don't use the metric system, and that there is no large scale nationwide mass transit network. 

I'd love to be able to take the train from Valdese to Asheville, spend a few hours & come back, but I can't.  Railroad passenger service between small towns and small cities just doesn't exist, and that is not an accident or an oversight. 

Economically, though, we're a giant, even now, even in these times.  The country generates enormous wealth. 

Militarily, we're also a giant, an extremely powerful nation able exert its power pretty much anywhere on the planet it takes a notion to.

Part of this is due to our size and location, but a lot is due to the fact that the USA is fairly conservative when compared to most other industrialized "western" nations. And that is because we have a system of government that makes change difficult. 

The founding fathers set up this system of checks and balances in the Constitution in order to protect against "tyrants".   When they thought of a tyrant, they were thinking specifically of King George III, and what they considered the unfair control of markets & taxation.  And when the USA finally became independent, it ultimately set up a system of government which which separated the various functions of government and was quite radical in the 18th century.  I think it's still quite radical today.  But whether it was intentional (I tend to think it was), or an unintended consequence, an abrupt radical change on a nationwide level is generally not in the cards.  The checks & balances, the separation of legislative, executive & judicial powers installed to keep too much power from residing in one person, insures that it doesn't happen.

I suppose.  I'm just thinking.

No comments: