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Front Page

In This Issue  

· The Mirror Image-Alice in Wonderland?

· The Marriage Institution

· The Great Constitutional Question

· Freedom Choices

· Public Finances and the House of Rep.

 

PUBLIC FINANCE AND

 THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

By Ivan W. Parkins

    Representation of at least some people arose from medieval traditions, especially England’s.  Kings, in need of more money looked for ways to raise taxes with less public resistance.  They granted, to at least some of their more prosperous subjects, a voice in taxation issues.

    Our Constitution goes considerably farther.  It provides for a House of Representatives first among the several branches.  And it further requires that “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; . . .”   The Constitution also provides, and practice has enlarged, roles of the other branches.  But, in evaluating how our political parties have managed finances in recent times, it is important to take notice of which party has held majorities in the House and how large those majorities were over what periods of time.

    The last House majority of Republicans as large as 100 votes was the one that greeted Herbert Hoover following his election in 1928.  FDR’s first five House majorities were: 194, 219, 246, 93, and 105. The next best Republican majority in the House was the one of the 80th Congress, 57 votes.  It was lambasted and ended by Truman in the elections of 1948. Eisenhower entered office with a House Republican majority of 10 votes; he was the last Republican President to hold any House majority until 2000. In his last two years Eisenhower faced a Democrat majority of 130 in the House.  But let’s get beyond the Great Depression, New Deal, and World War II, and the period of their aftermaths

    About half a century ago President Kennedy entered office, along with a House of Representatives in which the Democrats had an 89 vote majority.  That majority was just about the average of those the Democrats have enjoyed for 38 of the following 50 years.  In that period Democrats had six House majorities of 100 or more.  Meanwhile, during the Clinton and Bush Administrations there were 12 years of Republican majorities in the House, but they averaged only about 20 votes. 

      Shouldn’t the above conditions count in assessing the comparative spending habits of Democrat and Republican Administrations?    

 THE MIRROR IMAGE

A journey through the Looking Glass

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

I’m dedicating this to “progressive” constitutionalism and to that great English legalist Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

     Isn’t “progressive” constitutionalism grand?  A federal judge tells us that the “equal protection of the laws” phrase, from a post-Civil War amendment and originally interpreted as relating only to matters of that time, now outweighs popular sovereignty.  And, an elected President, who is both an honored graduate of our foremost law school, and an ex-professor of constitutional law, says that he will accept that interpretation while enforcing America’s laws.

     Could not a further constitutional advance now be based upon strict equality grounds, and facilitated by comprehensive national health care?  Nature’s greatest discrimination could soon be corrected.  Americans could be required to seek, and national health care could provide each with, at least one sex-change after they have reached a mature point in their lives.

     Two valuable side effects are likely from such a reform.  At least for this nation and its imitators, the likelihood of over-population will wane.  Also, the pressure of immigrants seeking to become Americans should abate.

     My thanks, again, to the man who has helped me most to  comprehend “progressive” constitutionalism, the man best known as Lewis Carroll!

THE MARRIAGE INSTITUTION

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Gay marriage has recently been banned by a substantial majority of California voters, but that was overturned by a federal district court judge citing broad/thin “equality” grounds.

 

Historically, marriage between a man and a woman is an institution of most cultures, older and more deeply rooted than institutions such as democracy and constitutionalism.  Its primary function is to encourage and foster the preservation of the society itself, by means that will produce and nourish children.  It is not something to be altered lightly by any society/nation that expects to survive. 

 

Once, a century and a half ago, we dealt with the legality of equal rights for Americans of different races, our most bloody war.  And it took another century of civil and legal efforts to make that outcome reasonably effective. 

 

Just extending voting rights to women and eighteen year olds, during the past century required Constitutional Amendments XXIV and XXVI.  To treat a major alteration of  the marriage institution more lightly would be, at best, ridiculous.

             

 THE GREAT

CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

It is not what does some provision of the Constitution mean?  It is what does CONSTITUTIONALISM mean?

 

To the classical Greeks, and many who have followed them, constitutions have been little more than descriptions of how power was distributed, or not shared, in a particular government.

 

Among later Western intellectuals there developed views that people who shared a culture, especially a language, should have a government in which traditional practices and laws defined both the sharing of powers and the respective rights of monarchs and their various classes of subjects.  That, especially in England, became more and more closely defined by practice and in the courts, but was never codified into, or ratified as, the constitution.

 

The charters of colonies in what has become the United States were, in some respects models for governments whose forms and powers were defined in a single document.  Prior to our Revolution the document was usually issued by royal authority.

 

The ideas that peoples’ rights were primary, and that governments were created by popular authority, were growing.  And the colonies remoteness plus the lack of well entrenched earlier authorities or legal systems facilitated a relatively “clean” start here.  Once the royal governors were driven out, the rebellious colonies drafted and adopted their own constitutions. A loose unity was also established under Articles of Confederation. And with independence from Britain won, we were free to become, but not actually yet, a nation.

 

The framers of our Constitution were motivated largely by conflicts both within and between our states, and by the inadequacy of central government under the Articles.  They exceeded their authority, and acted in a well kept secrecy to draft a central government capable of making us a nation.  To assure that, it had to be presented as an act by “We the people of the United States,” and ratified by conventions in the states.  Now after more than two centuries of (mainly) successes it has been confirmed in the real world as one of humanity’s all-time achievements.

 

Our Constitution does provide for changes, and several major ones have been added by amendments. The document is however brief, and numerous lesser changes to our political system have been added by Supreme Court interpretation and extra-legal political practices, for example the role of political parties.  But, such changes are readily reversed by means similar to those that created them, if they prove unwise in practice.

 

The British system, lacking any single constitutional document, assigns constitutional importance to a variety of documents and precedents. One is that if the House of Commons wants to change or add to those, the Government (leading party) should propose the change, then call a national election, and make the change law if returned to power by that election.

 

The greatest danger of our proposed health care changes is that they will create fundamental alterations of our political system without either the extended formalities of a constitutional amendment or the open and popular process that the British system provides.  Such changes will enjoy neither the respect of constitutionality nor the public authentication of any truly popular approval.

 

In short, the Obama Administration is persistently seeking health reforms of a huge, complex, and still largely secret specific nature. It seems intent upon doing so by any means that can even pretend to be legal.  That amounts to an attempted coup. Even if it is initially successful, it deserves to be generally condemned as destructive to our constitutional system.

  FREEDOM’S CHOICES

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     We, and all of mankind, face an especially complex, but potentially fruitful, problem.  It is how much freedom? And it is especially, what freedoms for whom?

 

     Individuals are not, never were, and can be only briefly (as they die off), totally free.  Especially as numbers of humans have grown, we have compromised individual freedoms socially to enhance freedoms from natural hazards, and to make our lives more fruitful.

 

     That, for the most part, has been a gain.  Our more remote ancestors were much less free than we are.  But it was not due primarily to social rules or to other humans.  The first hominids faced natural hazards, as does every sparse and, in some respects, weak species.  By joint efforts and particularly by the cultivating and sharing of our unique mental and communications capacities, we have become dominant among the Earth’s creatures.  The price of that is, and will continue to be, some restrictions of individual freedoms in the interest of communal security against hazards that can easily crush individuals or small communities.

 

     The principle is a simple one.  Its specific applications are increasingly numerous and complex.  The survival and advance of mankind has been, and can be, long lasting and grand.  The survival of most individuals can be made more likely and more self-satisfying, but only as individuals participate within a larger context.

 

     To this point in history, the most effective large unit of human cooperation has been the nation state, and organized as a constitutional democracy.  As Americans, we enjoy membership in a particularly successful one.  If we fail to support it thoughtfully and with our lives, we are likely to see that much of what we have valued as our freedom will disappear.