Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rewriting the Constitution, Introduction

I take it for granted that our political institutions need reforming, and I think I can summarize the reason for it in one word: plutocracy. None of our most important government offices can be attained without the expenditure of vast amounts of money. If you aspire to office, you either have to have a great deal of it yourself, or you have to go hat-in-hand to those who do.

We see it most blatantly in the non-stop fundraising done by presidents and presidential candidates. This year I was an enthusiastic supporter of Senator Obama, but I was taken aback by the enormous amounts of money he raised, and even more concerned at the apparent correlation between campaign financial strength and standing in the polls. Just as God is said to favor the side with the larger army, the electorate undoubtedly responds to the candidate with the fattest campaign chest. This year I thought the money was on the side of the angels. But what about next year?

This problem is so pervasive I don’t think we see it anymore. It’s not bribery in the criminal sense. It’s an accepted way of purchasing access, influence, a friendly ear. We allow it, at worst, as a necessary evil. But is it really necessary? I have wondered whether there may be a way to re-organize our political institutions to prevent their being more or less for sale. This is how I might do it.

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