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Old March 4 2013, 07:15 PM   #1
Gaith
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Happy US Government Day!


NYC's Federal Hall, where the First US Congress met.



Time to bust out the cake and punches, because the guv'mint passes another milestone today. Take it away, Wiki...
March 4, 1789 – As per the U.S. Constitution, the bicameral U.S. Congress officially replaced the unicameral Congress of the Confederation as the legislative body of the federal government.

224 years... A pretty long run. And while the country has obviously grown in huge and unforeseen ways, not only geographically and culturally but politically, in terms of near-universal over-18 suffrage, apart from the swift inclusion of the Bill of Rights and the odd subsequent adjustment here and there (popular votes for Senators, a two-term presidential election limit, electoral votes for the District of Columbia, the invention of the filibuster), the fundamental Consitutional structure of government has really hardly changed since then. Indeed, by general reckoning, the US is home to the oldest single-document national constitution still in operation.


When this USA version 2.0 (after the Articles of Confederation) started, hereditary monarchy was the worldwide norm. Today, a few of those remain, but most countries (I think) are based on the British parliamentary model, where the head of government necessarily represents the dominant (or dominant within a coalition) party. Not too many examples of systems like ours, in which the dominant legislative party is arguably incentivized to obstruct the agenda of the executive.


Thomas Jefferson, incidentally, believed that the Constitution should be reviewed, if not entirely rewritten, every nineteen years:
"Every constitution.... and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."
According to his calculus (based on life spans of the era, mind), we're over eleven cycles overdue.


I also find it interesting to note that, while Constitution Day (September 17) generally gets a few quiet mentions, March 4 as a "Constitutional Government Day" is not at all a thing. We have a federal holiday for laborers, but not the government. July 4 gets all the buzz.


Thoughts? Toasts? Jokes?
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Old March 4 2013, 07:32 PM   #2
SmoothieX
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

This discussion should be sequestered.
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Old March 4 2013, 08:27 PM   #3
Scout101
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

How far they've come. From hopeful and idealistic rebels to petty squabling and abject gridlock/failure. The Founding Fathers would have the current group dragged out back and shot...
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Old March 4 2013, 08:50 PM   #4
bbailey861
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

Gaith wrote: View Post

Thomas Jefferson, incidentally, believed that the Constitution should be reviewed, if not entirely rewritten, every nineteen years:
"Every constitution.... and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."
This is something I didn't know, and is quite frankly, brilliant. Too bad it wasn't/isn't followed because I think it could have made things better. As it is, even if it were to be started I don't think there would be any political will to make any changes or additions.
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Old March 4 2013, 08:58 PM   #5
sidious618
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

Scout101 wrote: View Post
How far they've come. From hopeful and idealistic rebels to petty squabling and abject gridlock/failure. The Founding Fathers would have the current group dragged out back and shot...
Not before they were arrested for having slaves. I cannot stand the deification of the founders of this country. It's almost like a religion at this point.
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Old March 4 2013, 10:32 PM   #6
Scout101
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

Nobody said they were perfect, and I'm certainly not deifying them. Won't go into the slavery part aside from pointing out that it was part of the times. Plenty of stuff that goes on today will make us likely look like assholes to some future generation. In a couple hundred years, maybe we'd get arrested for burning fossil fuels or smoking.

Only point was highlighting how useless the CURRENT government has become. No longer about serving the people, getting anything done, or even paying lipservice to the kinds of ideals the founding fathers were willing to fight and die for. They weren't perfect, and often fell short of their own ideals, but they weren't worthless. Can't say that about current government.
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Old March 5 2013, 05:32 AM   #7
Gaith
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Re: Happy US Government Day!

bbailey861 wrote: View Post
Gaith wrote: View Post

Thomas Jefferson, incidentally, believed that the Constitution should be reviewed, if not entirely rewritten, every nineteen years:
"Every constitution.... and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."
This is something I didn't know, and is quite frankly, brilliant. Too bad it wasn't/isn't followed because I think it could have made things better. As it is, even if it were to be started I don't think there would be any political will to make any changes or additions.
Indeed. The rigidity of the US Constitution makes the prospect of a usurping tyrant extremely remote, in that power is far too widely spread to allow a single person or even party to reshape the governmental structure, but the flip side of that is that, due to the extremely high threshold needed to amend the document, significant reform is absurdly easy to quash.

224 years of total governmental stability and continuity, even in the face of a devastating civil war, is a tremendous achievement that demands respect. Unlike some of our European friends, we never faltered in our commitment to representative rule, though it took us a while to become fully representative. Still, the same spirit of fairness compels us to acknowledge that we've fallen behind our peers in terms of good governance and quality of life, and while the government has done far worse things than it does today, I don't think it's ever been so dysfunctional - and that's not a statement I make at all lightly, or ignorantly. From historic gerrymandering to unprecedented filibusters to limitless corporate donations, the ship of state has hit a massive sandbar.
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