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Thursday, April 23, 2009

A New Era?

In the American Enterprise Institute's journal, the American, James. V. DeLong argues, in a long and thoughtful essay entitled "The Coming of the Fourth American Republic," the explosive growth of the federal government under the Obama administration may lead to our present Special Interest State, as he calls it, becoming so unwieldy and unmanageable as to precipitate its collapse. DeLong believes, because of our strong Constitution, unlike any other in world, the nation would survive the subsequent upheaval (which might or might not be violent--he cites earlier episodes of both in the nation's history) and eventually establish a "revised Fourth Republic with arrangements as yet murky to our present-bound perceptions."

This will not be a bad thing if it leads to vastly simplified and smaller government that stresses negative liberties over positive. The nascent but growing "Tea Party" movement seems to be calling for just that and, most encouragingly, seems to transcend party lines with Tea Partiers expressing weariness and disgust with Republicans and Democrats alike, considering both parties as little more than bloated and inefficient redistributers of wealth; differing only on whom will be the less than deserving recipients of their ill-begotten booty.

DeLong also writes,
two possibilities for change seem most promising. The first is a third political party that explicitly repudiates the present course and requires that its members eschew the legitimacy of the Special Interest State. This would require a certain almost religious fervor, but the great tides of history and politics are always religious in nature, so that is no bar.

This second would be more bottom-up. The Constitution has a residue of the original alliance-of-states polity that has never been used. Two-thirds of the state legislatures can force Congress to call a constitutional convention, and the results of that enterprise can then be ratified by three-quarters of the states. So reform efforts could start at the grassroots and coalesce around states until two-thirds of them decide to march on the Capitol. There is already a lively movement along these lines. On the other hand, the states are no paragons, in that the model of the Special Interest State reigns triumphantly there as well, so a few comments about pots and kettles could be made. Realistically, though, organization from the bottom up is a real possibility.
I agree. The Tea Party movement should concentrate on local government, where it stands half a chance of effecting change . A heartening example of this took place recently in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where an out-of-control school board, demanding a 10 percent-plus increase in local taxes and fees to pay for increased spending, was rebuffed by the city council when locals, including Tea Partiers, turned out in force at a city council hearing to oppose it. Instead of voting 6-1 in favor of the tax increase, as was widely expected, the council rejected it 4-3.

From the bottom up is the way to go for the Tea Partiers. If they enjoy success at local levels of government, it is all but certain they will continue their success at the national level.

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