March 25, 2005

Checks and Balances: Bastille Option

"So famous is the political theory of checks and balances, so well known to Americans, that he is a bold man who tries to say new things about it." Stanley Pargellis (1938)
There has been crazy talk and crazy suggestions made in the blogs today about the Schiavo case. Courses of action have been put forward which could land folks in jail. Ideas espoused that could get people hurt. To protect the guilty, I won't link to any of these bomb throwing troublemakers. I'll leave that to Ryne McClaren's post, where he adds the Storming the Bastille Option to the Annals of Bad Ideas.

Beyond this call for 'bomb throwing' as a way to 'help Ms. Schiavo' or to assuage our guilt for a media induced sense that each and every one of us is personally starving her to death, there is a reasoned argument for pushing the envelope of non-bomb-throwery in some cases. How else would our Constitutional system of checks and balances function?

Checks and balances may be viewed as a sort of built-in, rigid framework like a corset that holds government from going to hell. That seems to be the view that is commonly held. But I think this puts too much emphasis on the Check and not enough on the Balance.

Do you think judges are running America, while legislatures stand by too spineless to stop the usurpation of their power? Do you think Jeb Bush is caving in, and now even the executive branch has thrown up it hands, powerless? Do you ask yourself why the system of Checks and Balances hasn't made a correction? What stays its Constitutional hand?

If Checks and Balances be a rigid skeleton, it is frozen and helpless. But it is a system, not a few paragraphs on parchment. An interesting analysis of the emerging mechanical view of the world and its relation to the development of the system is found here: Checks and Balances: Liberty, Metaphor and Mechanism, by history professor David Wootton. (where I lifted the quote at the top of this post) Its a bit of a read, but I find it a bit of nifty Constitutional arcana.

Before we call every crazy idea a bad idea, try to think of how the actual mechanics of Checks and Balances is supposed to Work, in the dynamic sense that the Constitutional framers had in mind. As I recall, the framers gave only the executive branch an army.

Updated a bit: Florida officials' attempt, fail to seize Schiavo. (Seen on Drudge)
"It was kind of a showdown on the part of the locals and the state police," the official said. "It was not too long after that Jeb Bush was on TV saying that, evidently, he doesn't have as much authority as people think."
Linked to the very excellent Wizbang Blog's Carnival of the Trackbacks IV

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