From Republic to Empire
Matthew Yglesias compares Montesquieu’s thoughts on British Parliament to the state of things today:
Meanwhile, I do think you can see an inkling of what Montesquieu is talking about in the fact that there’s a persistent impulse in the contemporary United States to say that if something is really important, we need to basically cut congress out of the loop. This probably happened first with the steady decline of congress’ war powers. But you also saw it in the way that the Treasury/Fed response to the financial crisis was shaped by an overwhelming desire to avoid the need to go back to congress, by the way that proposals for improving the operations of MedPAC all involve trying to circumvent congress, etc. Tellingly, the judgment that congress can’t handle these issues is a judgment largely shared by congress.
While this is, indeed, a troubling trend, the sheer breadth of the Federal Government makes this inevitable. Especially when coupled with the increasing power of regulatory agencies and Congress’s disinclination to take back any of their delegated powers. I don’t know that there’s a solution to this other than voting for Congressperson’s who would actually like to do their job and are willing to actually legislate. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though.
Perhaps it is the sad truth that, as another political observer once noted:
“You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody’s squabbling, there’s corruption.”
Bonus points for naming the person quoted. Also, please note: it’s cheating if you paste in into Google. Ed Whelan will find out about it.