Category Archives: Constitutionalism

“This is what democracy looks like!”

The title of this post is a familiar refrain at ‘occupy’ rallies around the country.

I’m pretty sure that the Occupiers are saying that they—their meetings, their committees, even their drum circles—are the embodiment of true democracy.

Ironically, though, the forced removal of the protesters by governments around the nation also represents democracy in action. After all, the U.S. Park Police who recently tussled with Occupy DC protesters answer to democratically-elected officials. And the city counselors who voted to remove the Occupy Oakland protesters answer to an electorate every two years.

Used with permission from Alex Hoffman

I find it interesting, then, that the occupiers reflexively celebrate democracy despite the fact that it seems to be working against them. They are not at all unique in this. I think a lot of people are so accustomed to equating democracy with other warm feelings like mom and apple pie that they just assume that to make something democratic is to make it good. This certainly seemed to be the theme of Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. It ends with a plea to replace capitalism with democracy.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that dictatorship or theocracy is better. But frankly, those aren’t the only alternatives. In fact, one
of the greatest achievements of mankind is to declare that some decisions are too important to be decided by a vote.

Democracy may be better than dictatorship. But an even better form of government is a constitutionally-limited republic in which the
powers of the majority are carefully circumscribed.

I guess it is hard to fit that on a sign though.

Tracking the federal dollar through a federalist system

Recovery.gov is the Obama Administration’s effort to provide reporting details on how federal stimulus dollars are being used.

Not only is this a big task,  given the nature of bureaucracy and information, it’s an impossibility.  Unsurprisingly, a private sector company has taken the lead with Recovery.org.

As Government Executive reports

“The goals and intent [of the administration] are absolutely right,” Balsam said. “But, they’ve got no experience and no reach into local communities and states. There’s no basis for them to go figure out where everything is, because there is no reporting relationship in place. It’s an intractable problem for the administration.”

Onvia is a company that tracks procurement spending. They  saw the stimulus as an opportunity, if not an obligation, to follow the unprecedented infusion of federal dollars. The geographic detail is impressive.

I was surprised to find my (unincorporated)  hometown.  I expected to have my search end at the municipal level.

This stimulus bill may be a kind of ‘tipping point’ for transparency. What the goverment cannot provide quickly or meaningfully, it can also no longer hide  as easily.