Congress is Broken

By now you’ve likely run across a post/article/op-ed suggesting that Congress was actually designed to be a logjam of obstructionism and inaction. The author likely trotted out the usual evidence: two chambers; layers of subcommittees, committees, chairmen, speakers and majority leaders all able to block legislation; the veto power; and don’t even get me started on the crazy Senate!

In a way, these authors are right. The government that grew out of the Constitution was much more powerful than the one that had preceded it (based on the Articles of Confederation). The Framers saw that a more robust federal government was necessary, but they also worried that they this power would be abused. So they sought to balance that power against a structure that would hinder its exercise.

Those who suggest all is right in Washington miss the true moral of this historical tale: the Framers were looking for the right balance. A balance is not an absolute, nor is it timeless. A government originally designed to balance power with stagnation has become far too stagnant compared to the challenges we face. In our day, in order to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” we don’t need a more powerful government necessarily. But we do need a much more productive one.

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