The Inefficiency of the Constitution
The United States’ Constitution is one the most heralded documents in our nation’s history. It is also the most copied Constitution in the world. Many nations have taken the ideals and values from our Constitution and instilled them in their own. It is amazing to think that after 200 years, it still holds relevance to our nation’s politics and procedures. However, regardless of important this document is to our government, the operation remains time consuming and ineffective. The U.S. Constitution established an inefficient system that encourages careful deliberation between government factions representing different and sometimes competing interests.
The Constitution of the United States set up an intricate government with a very brief document. The Constitution is actually shorter than this essay, but was still able to set up all of the procedures that make our government act so slowly today. One process that takes an especially long time is passing a bill to make a law. Every governmental action has to be put into writing and then passed by the Congress and the Supreme Court. Too many government agencies have to examine every bill. The United States government only starts at the national level with the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches. Everything breaks down into more areas such as the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Federal government’s semi-equal is the state government. State government breaks down into several subsidiaries as well. The court system is an excellent example of how a government system breaks down from a national to a community level. For instance, the high court in America is the U.S. Supreme Court. The step down from there is the Court of Appeals or perhaps a State Supreme Court. There it breaks down into many different types and sections of courts from circuit courts to county courts.
There is no immediate crisis relief in the United States . After an event happens, our government deliberates for as long as they think they need to, discussing what should be done. Gen. George S. Patton speaks against laggard planning; “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” The U.S. government should take a word of advice from one of its most revered generals. Our government debates quite well, they also examine things very thoroughly, but these debates also slow the action down. The process in which the government makes decisions is laggard because of all the formalities and “red tape”.
The Great Depression is an excellent example in history of how the government drags its feet on important issues. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was genuinely concerned for the well being of the nation. Finally, he and his advisors came up with “the New Deal”, Roosevelt’s plan to put America back on its economic feet. Try as he may, the U.S. Supreme Court would not pass the President’s proposed bill. They ruled that the depression in the United States was a local problem for the individual communities, not a national problem. Therefore, for several years the country’s economy remained stagnant and dead. By hook or by crook, President Roosevelt got the members of the Supreme Court to vote for his cause, and in 1933, “the New Deal” was finally brought into action.
The framers of the Constitution of the United States were very concise and left a lot of procedure open to interpretation. Today, our politicians interpret the Constitution to mean they can discuss issues for days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes months.
Several factors effect our government’s efficiency in responding to public opinion. The fact that our government operates under the guidelines of cooperative federalism has good and bad implications on the responsiveness the public. A good quality about federalism is that there is always an elected official who will listen to citizen’s grievance. With the federal, state, and local levels of government governing, one has several choices to which official he or she wants to take their problems and concerns to. The down side to federalism is that major conflicts can arise from putting a state’s rights against the nation’s interest. Conflicts such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement stemmed from national interest challenging state law.
One fundamental principle that aids government responsiveness is the separation of powers. It provides expedient rebuttal because the duties of the government are divided amongst three sections of the government. Each section has a different job. The Judicial branch interprets the laws. The Executive branch enforces the laws. Finally, the Legislative branch makes the laws.
Republicanism is inefficient and relatively unresponsive principle the framers placed into the Constitution. There are many levels of elected officials. Between local officials and national officials there are many people separating the public’s concern from the people who could actually do something about it. With the United States’ population as large as it is, it is obviously hard to deal with the amount of complaints, concerns, questions, etc… Nevertheless, the system of relaying messages from official to official is not the best method of dealing public opinion.
Checks and balances are a huge reason our country operates so slowly. The three big factions of government all have say in what is going on with the other two. If the Legislature is trying to pass a bill, it has to go through many committees to be scrutinized and rewritten, then scrutinized and rewritten. A bill will go from office to office, but then if the Supreme Court has a problem with it, or the President vetoes the bill, the authors of the bill have to start all over with the process. (Perhaps I should just attach a copy of the School House Rocks hit, “I’m Just a Bill”.) Checks and balances definitely make a bill perfect, but often times the problem is resolved by the time the bill becomes law.
The efficiency, or the productiveness, effectiveness, and proficiency, of the United States government is very low. The core principles and fundamentals drafted into the Constitution by our framers perhaps wanted it that way. Maybe the framers intentionally set up the government to respond to problems slowly, so that no problems would ever be dealt with in a rash or irresponsible manner. Charles A. Beard certainly does not think the framers acted with the public good in mind.
Beard believes the framers wrote the Constitution to benefit their own economic interests. He claims that our nation’s most prized document was written to boost its author’s own bounty. Contrary to what Beard believes John P. Roche considers that the framers wrote everything to benefit their own political affiliations. There was much expected out of the men who wrote the Constitution. Regardless if they wrote it for selfish reasons or not, it still is does its job today.
Although the Constitution of the United States is over 200 years old, it still holds precedent in our world now in the 21st century. If the framers wrote the Constitution to benefit themselves, it is irrelevant because it hasn’t failed yet, and it has kept this country together for a long time and will continue to do so. However, the Constitution works very slowly and inefficiently at the cost of the American people. However, the fact that our government moves slowly is only a minor problem in the grand scheme of the world.
1. Janda, Kenneth. The Challenge of Democracy. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. 1999. (Chapter 3 & 4).
2. Roche, John P. “The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action”. American Politics. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 1999. (Pages 8 – 20).
3. Beard, Charles A. “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States”. American Politics. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, MA. 1999. (Pages 27 – 33).