American National Government

One of the things I find most admirable about the USA is its system of government. Let me pause here, before I’ve really started, to point out that I was born and bred in the UK. I am now resident in the USA, although I am an alien. (In other words, I have a green card.)

I particularly admire the struggles of James Madison and others to design a good system. This presents an interesting contrast with the way that British and other systems of government evolved over the course of many generations. Take it away, Jimmy M.

In framing a government… the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

The frame includes three parts. Let’s turn to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have separate and distinct political bases under the Constitution, to foster each branch’s independence and integrity. The ultimate purpose behind this separation… is to prevent a “faction”… from gaining control over the entire government.

The report is now six and a half years old. Let’s go to something more recent: the lead story from today’s Boston Globe.

Just before midnight on Saturday, Congress passed the Protect America Act of 2007, which was largely drafted by the White House and received no committee hearing. The bill carves out a broad exemption from a 1978 law that requires the government to obtain a judge’s permission to monitor calls and e-mails on US soil.

I’ve added emphasis to make clear the following. The executive branch wrote a law, which the legislative branch passed without due deliberation. This law removes power from the judicial branch.

One of the things I like best about the British character is the ability to maintain a rather dark sense of humour even when things seem, well, dark. I’ll illustrate that by telling you a couple of things I find amusing about the CRS report.

  • It was written by a Mr Kaiser.
  • The last sentence in the summary box on the first page reads as follows. “This report… will be updated as developments require.”

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