Cookie Consent

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Mixed Constitution

Aristotle, as many of us know, said that of the three types of government, any one could be either wonderful or horrible.  A monarch could be very good if his unlimited power were to be used for the public welfare, but if he were a tyrant, there could be no greater nightmare.  An aristocracy could use their wealth and education to benefit all, or simply to benefit themselves.  Pure democracy could either be noble and benefit all (if its practitioners were in control of themselves), or base and self-destructive (if they worked to the least common denominator). 

Because of these good characteristics, my friend M. Tullius Cicero called for the mixed constitution, something that was a little of all three.  Wisely, the American founders took the advice of Tully and Aristotle, and gave us a Constitution with three elected bodies.  The President was the executive--an elected King, if you will.  He would do the thing that kings used to do to so great an effect--make foreign policy.  Madison et al also gave him the right to approve (with exceptions) laws made by the other, parliamentary bodies.  The first of these parliamentary bodies created by Mr. Madison and the boys at Philadelphia was to be a purely democratic element--Congress.  Congressman would serve shorter periods, so that they would be in touch with the old vox populi.  Since spending money is the most dangerous thing any government does, Congress would be entrusted with that.  So for aristocracy, the Senate was created, a wise body of old lawyers who would be elected by state legislatures for longer terms. (That is, before a huckster named Lorimer made the process seem inherently corrupt, and there was a Constitutional amendment to change to popular election.)  The bailiwick of the Senate is confirmation of Judicial appointments of the President.  Of course, the Senate also ratifies House bills, but in analog to the House of Lords, it is the role in counterbalancing the President's power that is the Senate's raison d'etre.   The President, House, and Senate are supposed to be the mixed constitution of the United States.

No comments: