2011-11-24 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY jamurphy@jamestownlawyer.com

Now that the special congressional committee tasked to reduce the deficit has failed to do its job, we are drawn to consideration of long-term changes that might eliminate the paralysis of the legislative branch of our federal government.

There are, of course, those who, perhaps from cynicism, or perhaps from a principled libertarian position, consider that governmental inaction is better than action. I once heard a wise colleague say that the legislature should only be in session for one day each term. This person’s considered opinion was that we have enough laws, and that we do not need more.

But, in the real world that we live in today, most citizens rely upon the government to play a practical role in dealing with the ever-changing demands of the modern world. Under our system of checks and balances, and a government of three separate branches, each having some ability to checkmate the other two, that requires a legislative branch that is able to act.

And productive action in a group requires consensus, and compromise.

If the roadblock to all action created by divided government continues, and as the consequences of governmental inaction become more dire, perhaps we should consider a major change in our form of government. That would be away from checks and balances, and toward a parliamentary system, where the majority in the representative house of the legislature forms the executive branch. In parliamentary system, when the executive branch of the government no longer has the support of a majority in the legislature, a legislative election occurs, and the party gaining majority status creates a new government. The likelihood of an impasse is substantially reduced.

Grist, purely theoretical, for your mill. In the meantime, don’t get so bogged down in somber thoughts that you fail to give thanks for all the good things we do have.

Return to top