Neither the United States nor the European model will work again until we rediscover and acknowledge our own natural weaknesses and learn to police rather than lionize our impulses.
The structures our founders put in place - "the checks and balances" - are still there, says Brooks. It's "We the People," who have lost our way, he suggests. Perhaps we have lost some of what the founders called "civic virtue." Perhaps.
Here is the question: Are the structures put in place by the founder failing because we have lost our civic virtue or are they failing for possibly another reason?
The American decentralized system of checks and balances has transmogrified into a fragmented system that scatters responsibility. Congress is capable of passing laws that give people benefits with borrowed money, but it gridlocks when it tries to impose self-restraint.
Yes, responsibility is scattered, but hasn't that always been true?
Brooks is certainly correct that today we have a government seemingly incapable of pursuing the enlightened self-interests of the nation. The founders foresaw the potential for a republic to be captured and destroyed by narrow and short-term interests. In Federalist #10, Madison called these special and narrow interests, "factions." Brookes echoes Madison in warning of the danger of citizens merely following their "impulses."
And Brooks is right when he suggests that the entire system of checks and balances was designed to make government more judicious and discourage human nature's worst tenancies. So what has happened since the founding? Is it simply a decline in the American character?
For one thing, since the founding, modernity happened. The founders would not recognize America today, with its vast wealth, complex economy, big powerful federal and state governments, social safety nets, burgeoning population, sophisticated and pervasive communication technologies and information revolution.
What we as a people have created together is mostly wonderful. It is mostly a testament to our industrious character. But such revolutionary change has consequences the founders simply could not have foreseen. The defenses they built into the system against a government serving only the narrow and short term - the "checks and balances" - have been overwhelmed by modernity.
Today every incentive operating on our political system favors the narrow and short term, exactly contrary to the wishes of the founders. Career politicians, fixated on two and six-year election cycles, take campaign money from narrowly focused special interests, interests that invest in these politicians for their own benefits. Interests that oppose certain politicians risk getting punished. None of this serves the national interest . It is a systemic failure. The founders would have us re-enforces the defenses they put in place against special and narrow interests. They would have us enact a clean elections system and term limits, a very difficult task.
So now we must return to the issue Brooks raises regarding our character as a people. It's certainly true that as government becomes more distant and dysfunctional, citizens becomes alienated and cynical. Our democratic muscles atrophy. Do we retain the civic virtue necessary to build anew the proper defenses against the narrow and short-term interests that are destroying our republic? Let's hope.
MARP shadow-government simulation:
MARP defined: http://wp.me/p1fQnO-dL
Full disclosure: http://wp.me/p1fQnO-o
Capitalism is not a form of government http://wp.me/p1fQnO-dX