Our Broken Institutions
This brave new world has fallen and decayed
Are there no heroes, just men with feet of clay?
– Arena, Spectre at the Feast
The United States, to whatever degree we are still united, is approaching the end of a year that more tumultuous than most. A few years in the 1860’s might have been more so, but as the country stands now, it’s doing everything it can to catch up with that dark time.
America in 2020 might be more dysfunctional now than it has ever been in its history. Certainly, it hasn’t been this bad since the Civil War, the only difference being that we are not shooting each other – yet. Simply put, every single institution we rely upon to keep this country united has been corrupted and decayed into utter, debilitating dysfunction. Corruption, cowardice, rationalization, and a lack of the most basic ethics infect all three branches of government, our media, our corporations, and as a result, has eroded our civic life. We can no longer agree with one another on even the most fundamental ideas of what our country should be.
These institutions were built to bind us to some basic agreements while allowing plenty of room above that for spirited, civil disagreement. Just as we found ourselves in 1861, we are now a house divided. Worse, our foundation is cracked and may be irreparably damaged.
Our Dysfunctional Government:
I’ve long repeated the saying that 99% of politicians give the rest a bad name. I may be underestimating the number of truly detestable, faithless politicians in our country at the present.
Throughout history, there seems to be a trend of legislative bodies and their members abdicating their responsibilities while still being able to benefit from their position. The Roman senate twice gave away absolute power, first to Caesar (which didn’t last for well-documented reasons) and later to Augustus (which put the final nail in the coffin of the Republic). The senators maintained their lofty status and wealth, all the while having relieved themselves of the responsibility of making hard decisions. In our own country, state legislatures, through the 17th amendment, relieved themselves of the responsibility to choose senators. And over several decades now, both houses of our congress have willingly turned over an increasing amount of power to the executive branch.
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