Our cultural unwritten constitution has been damaged by decades of conflict and abuse. It will not be restored through adoption of one or even several reforms. Nor will our operational constitution be “fixed” through even fundamental changes in formal law. Lacking an appropriate constitutional morality, those who govern will continue to do so through quasi-law, with all the consequences attendant thereto.
What is required, then, is the renewal of culture and renewed recognition among those in and out of government alike of the duties of officeholders. Such renewal is, of course, the work of decades. What is more, it entails changes in conduct before changes in form can take hold. As we noted in our introduction, renewal would entail specific actions responding to changing circumstances in a fashion designed not to maintain the current, failing system but rather to bring a transition back to a smaller, better organized federal government capable of ruling under law.
Rather than a specific formal reform then Americans need to develop a consistent opposition to further centralization of power, regardless of how beneficial or even necessary a particular program may seem. Rather than “open up” the federal government to participation by non-governmental associations (be they political, economic, ethnic, or religious in form), we must close off the means of access for outside actors to affect government conduct outside the political process, even as we cut off administrators’ ability to shape the character of civil associations through the use of discretionary power….
It may be the case that radical reforms become necessary to reconstitute proper political authority and the rule of law in the United States. It may be that no nation of over 300 million people can be governed so as to maintain ordered liberty. If this is true, then the “nation” must become some form of loose confederation eschewing attempts to regularize, let alone standardize, incomes or ways of life, or it must split into several nations, or lose its freedom. But such decisions can be made wisely only after renewing our understanding of what government is, what law is, and what each can accomplish within a political community that recognizes the priority of social over political life.
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