The majority of the issues of private citizens are not dealt with by the government; not for a lack of trying by the government, but because most problems people have cannot be adequately addressed by the government. We are given the right to gather and petition our Government by the Bill of Rights under the First Amendment. However, this process is controlled in large part by big business and special interest groups so that most common citizens cannot break into it and get the ear of their representative. The defense is often made that representatives couldn’t possibly hear from that many people. I agree and assert that there needs to be a centralized representation in greater proportion to our population closer to us. Most consider the rise of special interest groups counter intuitive to representative federalism but I believe there should only be concern for the manner in which these groups currently operate. The primary problem in our system, is the system itself; democratic federalism. We need to develop a system closer to that of democratic confederalism; smaller republics self-governed with a local centralized power in which these republics are loosely covenanted together for purposes of trade and defense.
It is a constitutionally protected right to gather and lobby our government officials. It should be a system of debate and information not gifts, donations and buy offs. If we made it illegal for these groups to donate to campaigns and purchase anything for or on the behalf of any politician and made the central concern about the issues rather than about dollars, we would eliminate the majority of corruption and a large part of the power would shift back to the people. Imagine if an official had to listen to thorough debate about what issues mattered instead of considering how much in contributions each group made. Transparent discourse should replace gathering in elitist closed door sessions where the rich exercise their power and those who represent and should protect us sell their influence. Individuals should be allowed to donate, but any organization that lobbies government officials should be kept from donating to political parties and candidates.
Special interest groups are organizations that are created around either a single or a set of specific issues. These organizations then operate campaigns to empower citizens to contact their representatives, lobby government officials in all three branches, or advertise to win public support and influence policy makers and legislation for or against their issues. There are special interest groups that represent labor unions, protection of consumer rights, business, agriculture, the protection of the environment, senior citizens and state governments. Labor Unions have decreased significantly in power due to lower membership rates yet remain powerful in a manner disproportional to the percentage of the population they represent. This is an example of a minority issue dominating our politics.
Environmental groups are growing quickly in size and power due to mounting concerns over the condition of our planet. This is an example of a group manipulating fear, guilt and science to gain more money and power. True conservation is a far cry from the priests of global climate change who use the fervor to push a left wing progressive agenda. The politicians who are influenced by this issue use it to regulate and pass laws concerning things that conscientious citizens should be doing out of a sense of good stewardship and decency.
It is illogical to think that any of these groups speak for the majority of Americans. Large firms and not-for-profit organizations in Washington D.C. do not take precedent over the constituents of our elected officials. Man is corruptible and no amount of education or “evolution” will carry us beyond greed and self-interest. There was intended to be a limited number of people governing since the conception of our country but they were always intended to have limited powers to avoid tyranny.
“We know intuitively that some groups are more powerful than others, in the sense that they are better able to influence the outcomes of policy debates. This argument suggests an elite model of policy making, in which relatively few people make the important decisions affecting public policy” (An Introduction to the Policy Process. 112-113. M.E. Sharpe, 2005. Birkland.).
The point of limiting the government is to ensure it does not become tyrannical. The point of three branches of government is that each branch is supposed to check and balance the other two. Too often, in modern times, it is thought that the two political parties are the checks and balances for one another. There ought to be a limited number of people freely elected to govern our civics however, moral standards should be raised and emphasized in order to protect us. The power of government must be closer to those represented.
One of the central problems of our government is that there are too few representatives for so large a citizenry. The root issue is that the Federal government and every other government down to the County level is not representative in any reasonable sense. This would give an opportunity to groups to take control by mobilizing and funding large scale lobbying activities far from where people live their lives. The answer to this problem is not special interests but reforming and strengthening the relationship between representation and the public. This would limit the powers of special interest groups. A thorough consideration of Confederalism should be weighed as our Nation grows larger and larger. This is a serious matter and the next step of maturation in our Constitutional and Republican system.
There should be a limited number of terms for the senate and congress so that our representatives do not have to focus so much on the next election and can spend more time actually trying to get something done. The Central Government should be closer to the people, in States and Counties, so that representatives are nearer to the people and can reasonably gather and listen to the concerns of their constituents.
The federal government is not going to fix this problem because its individual members profit so much from the system and are protected by it. The control of the two party systems does not allow anyone new to the table and while in office, they control what laws are made and are not. The only option is for the states to call a Constitutional Convention and reform the system.
From the first public debates over the Constitution there have been two predominant parties in American politics. The Federalist (pro-constitution) and Anti-federalists (anti-ratification of constitution) formed after the Convention and took up the debate in what is known as the federalist/ant-federalist papers, using open letters and articles to the public in newspapers to make their respective case. Several smaller or third parties have formed at various times and have divided the members of one of the dominate parties leaving the second large party free to claim victory as when Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull-Moose Party in 1912 spit the Republicans, as did Ralph Nader’s Green party in 1996.
Some parties have faded from dominance as the Federal Party of Adams and Washington, as well as the Whig party, which was absorbed by the Republican Party in 1860. The two major parties we have now are established and institutionalized in our political system. They have dominated the political scene since Reconstruction, following the Civil War. It is difficult to break into the system due to the winner-takes-all Electoral College and the protection, by the system, of distribution of election funds.
The two parties’ control what is a viable candidate and also limit, by their platforms, the issues of said candidates. Those who are elected are beholden, no only to the special interests that got them elected, but also to the party. Not everyone who runs for public office conforms completely to these platforms but the parties often ostracize and cease to support those who do not tow the party line.
Regardless of which party is in “power” (they both always are) once someone becomes a member of the government they, generally speaking, impose the agenda of the government. This means the government always gets bigger, takes on more responsibility; negating personal responsibility and liberty; all the while, taking more money through taxes. The government is perceived to be our savior because it tries to act like our savior. It is more and more apparent that politicians represent the special interests and the government to us and not the other way around. The political parties are two slightly different viewpoints of the same worldview. The majority of special interests do not represent a majority of the population and the parties represent themselves.
Stone definitely outlines the modern political game but her principles are a far cry from what was intended by our founders. We are not a democracy but a democratic republic. “Pure” democracy is dangerous and the myth of the “will of the people” has become Vox populi, vox dei in our civics. It is a myth that we are the government. We, as voters, are a part of government. We vote for representatives. We have the power of the ballot box; the government has all the rest and continues to be given more. Revisionist history strengthens Stone’s arguments, but she definitely wishes for a permanently fluid structure and not the static rule of law necessary in Constitutionalism or Republicanism She does not want informed, principled citizens.
A greater number of our citizens do not find their issues are dealt with by the government, not for a lack of trying by the government but because most problems people have cannot be sufficiently addressed by the government. Our process is controlled in large part by big business and special interests so that most citizens cannot crack into it and get the ear of their representative. The chief problem in our system, is the system itself; Democratic Federalism. We need to develop a system closer to that of Democratic Confederalism; smaller republics self-governed with a local regional power in which these republics are loosely covenanted together for the purposes of trade and defense.
Policy Paradox. Stone, Deborah. W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Crossway, 2006.
The Birth of the Republic. Edmund Morgan, 1992.
The Guarantee of Liberty. Dr. Peter Leithart, 1991.
The Nature of the American System. R.J. Rushdoony. 2002
America at Odds. Sidlow and Henschen. 2007.
An Introduction to the Policy Process. M.E. Sharpe, Birkland 2005.