Headwing society is one in which elites and the general population have a symbiotic and trusting relationship in all social institutions. Many types of social institutions exist in the different spheres of society: governance, economy and culture. However, because government involves legal power and can force people to serve the will of the elites who wield that power, government institutions can cause the greatest oppression and get most of our attention.
Sustainable societies need to be both intelligently managed and serve the needs of people, “the masses.” Slavery and serfdom are the starkest examples of the masses serving the will of elites. Only a small percentage of the population makes up the political class. But, without proper checks and balances, the elites in this class will use their power to become lords and masters, treating the masses as second-class citizens and expendables.
Earlier societies were governed by kings, princes and feudal lords. Aristotle referred to good kings as those who served the population, and bad kings as those who used the people to serve themselves. Today, in more complex institutional and bureaucratic societies, individual kings are often replaced by classes of elites in government administration, political parties, and those with great wealth or organizational power. Instead of merely focusing on individuals in power, we need to focus on social institutions and elites. While this problem needs to be fixed in universities, corporations, churches, NGOs, and all kinds of social institutions, this article uses the example of governance.
One way to balance the interests of the masses with the skill of elites in the law is with two legislative bodies. This can be constitutionally addressed with an upper legislative house representing elite expertise and a lower house representing the population, with each house having the power to veto one another. This allows only legislation that is deemed functional by the elites and enjoys the “consent of the governed.” This type of legislation began in ancient times and needs to be continually updated as societies evolve.
Ancient Rome and Tribunes’ Power to Veto
A significant historical development occurred in Ancient Rome when the “plebs” (the people, or working classes) decided they had enough of fighting in the armies of the patricians (ruling elite class) without any say in the laws their Senate passed. Without checks and balances, the Senate passed legislation that burdened the masses and provided the elite with special privileges.
When the plebs reached a breaking point, they went on a nationwide strike, bringing Rome to a political and economic crisis. This was similar to the “no taxation without representation” demanded by the American states 2,300 years later. By 471 BC, a plebeian assembly was established that elected tribunes who could represent the plebs at the Senate. They had the power to recommend and veto legislation. Then by 450 BC, a group of ten people known as the decemviri had drawn up Twelve Tables of Law that were approved by both the patricians and the plebs. These tables were a social contract that spelled out the rights and responsibilities of all citizens, and both the aristocratic and working classes. This protected the interests of the plebeians as a class, but allowed the best educated and skilled elites to administer the Republic.
This Roman system of legislation was a resilient social institution. Despite the corruption of rulers and upheavals in the Roman Empire, the Senate, as an institution, lasted in the East until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, a lifespan of over 2,800 years.
The House of Commons and the House of Lords in England
In England, the House of Lords developed from the “Great Council” that advised the king. It was composed of ecclesiastical leaders, hereditary nobles, and regional administrators. They were the elite or aristocratic class with the knowledge and skills to guide society. Legal rights to grievance and due process were granted to all free people by the Magna Carta, giving the House of Commons its origins in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Over time, with the rise in wealth and influence of the commercial class in the House of Commons, it eventually became the primary legislative body and controlled taxation, similar to the House of Representatives in the United States today. Industrial society posed a new challenge: both the industrial elites and workers were together in the House of Commons without a means to balance their interests. With the receding influence of the landed aristocracy and the House of Lords, the clash between owners and workers is represented by different political parties in the House of Commons. The winning party controls legislation and there is no recognized veto by the other. There are no separate bodies representing elites and masses. This division leads to revolutionary social unrest as the two groups fight for control of the House of Commons, rather than existing as two independent legislative bodies with the power to veto one another. Now the Information Age has caused another shift between elites and masses. The British legislative system needs to catch up to these cultural changes balancing skills of current elites with the well-being of masses in contemporary society.
The Senate and House of Representatives in the U.S.
The American Founders sought to create a republican form of democracy based on the strengths and weaknesses of previous systems of government. The wisdom of the educated elites resided in the Senate. Senators were appointed by state legislatures. The people were represented in the House of Representatives. The lower house represented the citizens who put forward the budget, which had to get the approval from the elites in the Senate. The lower house, representing the people, could resist a tyranny of the elites with veto power over proposals by the Senate.
The Constitutional Convention was divided over how senators would be chosen, but agreed that the interests represented by the lower and upper houses should be as diverse as possible. The elites in the Senate needed to check the legislation from disintegration into “mob rule,” on the one hand, while the lower house was to check against oppression by moneyed interests and the political class, on the other. As the new government was a “union of states,” it was finally (and narrowly) decided that state legislatures would appoint senators. This would also serve as a check by the states on the expansion of federal power.
The Destruction of the U.S. Senate and the Elite vs. Masses Partisanship that Followed
The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1913) repealed the states’ right to appoint their representatives to the Senate. This undercut state power and increased federal power. Senators became elected by the same populace as the House of Representatives, eliminating the important check on popular sentiments by more seasoned elites. This made the Senate a relatively superfluous political body. It only took one year for the reorganized federal government, prodded by the lobbying of banks, to enter into World War I after whipping up public sentiment. It is unlikely that state-appointed senators would have so easily approved.
The U.S. Congress, like the House of Commons in England, became a battlefield between elite and popular interests. Two political parties representing these interests became further entrenched in government and eventually hijacked the legislative process from a non-vigilant citizenry. The parties got their names on ballots using the rhetoric that it would be easier to vote. But the result was that the parties took the legislative process away from the citizens.
Parties only endorsed candidates who would march lockstep with the party interests as determined by financial donors. Legislation was no longer crafted in single-subject bills proposed by representatives who could be held accountable to the people for where they stood on each issue, but hammered out between party leadership, administrative officials, and lobbyists with hundreds of subjects buried in large omnibus bills that were hundreds, even thousands, of pages long. The citizens and their “representatives” are largely left out of the legislative process.
This new system of elites, with elements of plutocracy, corporatocracy, and ideological interest groups, became two warring tribal parties.
“Trumpism,” which appealed to contemporary American plebs, was a reaction to this loss of “a government of, by, and for the people.” Hillary Clinton’s 2016 reference to Trump supporters as “deplorables” drove home the division between the political elites embedded in government, and average citizens who felt they had lost control of their country. Today the U.S. faces a crisis similar to ancient Rome, where the plebs are resisting funding an ever-expanding and unchecked bureaucratic state. The elites, on the other hand, are in fear of a revolt of the masses. This was evidenced by the fencing and stationing of a large number of troops around the U.S. Capitol after January 6, 2021.
The legislative process should return to a balance between the people and elites. Major improvements would occur with the repeal of the 17th Amendment, forbidding party affiliation after candidates on ballots, and requiring single-subject legislation.
A tapestry depicting serfs.
The Failure to Represent the People in Russia and China
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels created a popular movement among workers that decried the growing impotence of the working class and the economic and political advantages of the “bourgeoisie” who controlled the capitalist stock markets and governments. The disparities were very evident in England at the time as portrayed in novels like Oliver Twist.
Marx proposed a Communist political party that would seize control of “the means of production” from the owners, and govern “on behalf of the workers.” Vladimir Lenin, with the help of Western financiers, used appeals to Marxism to seize control of the government and nationalize industry under a single-party state. The new party elite were armed with power and ideology but not the economic knowledge necessary to produce wealth or develop an economy. The communist party passed all legislation without checks against oppression by the citizens, creating a class of industrial serfs. The dysfunctional system eventually collapsed.
The Chinese revolution under Mao Zedong began like the Russian Revolution. But, China eventually realized the importance of private ownership and markets for economic development and reformed under Deng Xiaoping. However, the unchecked legislative power of the CCP allowed the exploitation of workers, and prevented their political expression. While China has become an economic powerhouse, politically it is in a position analogous to Rome before the Assembly of Plebs and the Twelve Tables of Law that guaranteed the rights of the people. To become a resilient and humane political system that serves its population, China needs a second legislative body that gives them representation.
Improving Our Legislative Bodies to Represent Both Elites and Masses
This brief review of political history shows that no great power governments have legislative institutions that adequately balance the need for responsible, knowledgeable, elite leadership and the rights and interests of the general population.
Elites with unchecked political power will inevitably use that for personal advantage and create a class system analogous to feudal lords and serfs. Without representation and veto power of the populations, government expansion, corruption, and oppression by elites will be the norm.
Responsibilities and Rights: A Senate and a House of Representatives
Thus, a “more perfect” form of government is one in which there are two houses of government in a state in which the upper house, or Senate, represents elite responsibilities and the lower house, or House of Representatives, represents the well-being of the general population.
The governments of today’s great powers do not reflect this division properly. In the West, rights are emphasized and elites have significantly vacated their governance responsibilities, falling prey to fads, fashions and partisan political rhetoric. Through political parties, special interests have hijacked governments, creating a class of wealthy elites who control legislation without the input of the people. In the East, as in China, the Confucian teaching of duties to superiors and duties to society emphasizes responsibility, but not rights. While elites theoretically are responsible for wise and selfless governance, they are inevitably corrupted by power and demand obedience from the population, whom they treat like serfs, to serve their personal interests.
England and the United States need to reconfigure their upper and lower houses to function in ways that represent constructive elite responsibility that is checked by the will of the people. If not, society will collapse into bankruptcy amid the pandering and self-serving rhetoric of power-seeking politicians, who sell their offices to wealthy elites. China, on the other hand, would benefit from converting its single-party elite leadership into a senate and adding a lower house representing the will of the people with the power to veto elite legislation. Without this, the persecution of minorities, organ harvesting, denial of rights to the masses, and Chinese foreign adventurism will continue.
These Improvements to Legislation Reflect the Balance Needed in All Social Institutions
The reconfiguration of governance to represent both the experience and skill of elites and the rights and desires of all people with two separate houses that check and balance one another is only one of many necessary improvements in modern society. Note that this division between elites and masses is not a Cain-Abel division. It is, rather, a division among adults who have achieved the first blessing and have acquired different skills for serving others.
There is a temptation, from “fallen nature,” that drives both groups to use institutions and for their own purposes. Institutions often get sidetracked from their purposes by manias and ideological capture, which often destroys them (see Don Trubshaw, “Institutional Resilience and Ecological Threats as Factors in Societal Peace and Conflict,” International Journal on World Peace, Dec. 2021, pp. 11-37). Whether a social institution is a corporation, bank, hospital, a non-profit, or other institution, it will have both leaders and members, or workers. The resiliency of the institution requires a positive relationship between these two groups that is centered on the founding purpose of the institution.♦
This article is adapted from the author’s “Elites and the Masses: Legislative Bodies for a Functional Society” published on the blog Integral Society: Culture, Governance, and Economy.
Dr. Gordon L. Anderson (UTS Class of 1978) is the President of Paragon House, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal on World Peace, and Adjunct Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He earned an M.Div. in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Claremont Graduate University.
Photo at top: Interior of the dome of the United States Capitol rotunda.
Thank you for this illuminating article. Your perception that “Major improvements would occur with the repeal of the 17th Amendment, forbidding party affiliation after candidates on ballots, and requiring single-subject legislation” seems right on target.
Term limits are the only solution. The Founding Fathers never intended U.S. senators and representatives to serve 40 years, becoming millionaires in the process and detached from the will of the electorate. They were meant to be citizen-representatives. Over time, the “Servants of the People” have become addicted to easy money from lobbyists and created power blocs in both houses of Congress, promoting agendas that have little to do with why they were sent there in the first place.
Sinister legislation has overtaken the halls of Congress and if left unchecked, our grandchildren may never know the freedoms we still enjoy. The only solution is term limits for Congress. Perhaps senators serving two terms (12 years) and representatives three terms (6 years) is plenty, with no chance to serve later. If the Presidency has term limits, why shouldn’t Congress. And while we’re at it, the congressional elite should pay back all the money they have “borrowed” from the Social Security and Medicare lock boxes over the years. Both are teetering on insolvency and are far more immanent threats to the American way of life than global warming.
I agree and had the same thought, even if I know little about the U.S. Senate. Given the problems raised by Dr. Anderson, your proposal seems like common sense. It is surely one of the ways, and we need to identify others.
Term limits would not provide for more experience and trained elites in the Senate, nor would they change the fact that legislators respond more to special interests and party leaders than citizens after being elected. Some of the measures I cited would help correct that. However, if you assume the system we have is permanent and do not work for a better system, then it is true that term limits will reduce the amount of damage each congressperson would do and spread the corruption over more people. Term limits do not solve the specific concern I have about the resilience of the lawmaking process, by balancing elite expertise with a consensus of the governed.
I couldn’t disagree more. Term limits prevent power, arrogance, and destructive agendas from festering and causing long-term damage in Congress. Only by regular replacement of our representatives in both houses can the will of the American people be made known and acted on in a timely manner. The Founding Fathers never intended our Congressional representatives to become a wealthy, self-interested ruling class like we see today. FDR became President four times before the people set the presidential term limit at two. If it’s good enough for the President, then term limits should apply to congressional members as well.
You have no disagreement with me that term limits serve as a check and balance on corruption. In fact, I proposed term limits in the Cheon Il Guk Constitution that I drafted. You made a straw man argument. Term limits are a second-order issue. I was addressing the first-order problem of creating a government structure in which representation of elites and masses is balanced. The second-order question would be, “within that structure, how long should people serve.” An analogy would be in the design of a vehicle: you could say, “I want to build a vehicle with tires.” The second-order issue would be “when should I rotate the tires?”
Brilliant analysis with practical proposals addressing this vital issue. It takes into consideration the real purpose of political (and other) institutions along with a keen understanding of human nature. Thank you, Gordon.
Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for this new reflection on the role and mission of the elites, their relationships with the masses and the proper balance that should exist, in any democracy, between an upper house and a lower house. Your essay is very rich and covers many topics condensed together, yet it remains clear.
Throughout the year 2021, I have reflected on the role of patrician families in the United States, and before that in Europe. Therefore, I read with interested the part of your essay which deals with the complex relation between patricians and the plebs in the Roman Empire. I was also interested very much by your insights on the British system, but I think we need to consult with British people to have their own version.
Your essay is rich and, fortunately, it raises many more questions than it provides answer. It stimulates us to reflect on our own relationship with elites, whether we believe we belong to some elite or another, or we feel estranged from the world of elites.
Here are my questions to you:
1. How would you define the elite? I am not sure that your essay really tries to define this term, because you may think that everybody understands the meaning. But I hope you can be a bit more precise, if you don’t mind. First, I wish you could consider the etymology and the various types of elites. Moreover, even if secular dictionaries give their definitions of elites, what would you call elites, from the Unification viewpoint? Do you think that we have a consistent philosophy of elites and their roles, in our Unificationist scriptures? Do elites exist in God’s heart and mind, and then, how would God deal with them?
2. What prompted you to write this essay? The introduction and conclusion do not provide any concrete context for your text. Of course, you refer to the incidents at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, but it is difficult to say if this is the starting point. Again, I would like to ask you: why do you speak of this topic now ?
3. At the end of your essay, you write, “Whether a social institution is a corporation, bank, hospital, a non-profit, or other institution, it will have both leaders and members, or workers. The resiliency of the institution requires a positive relationship between these two groups that is centered on the founding purpose of the institution.” Here, I was a bit puzzled. Is your intention to talk precisely about elites and the masses, or much more broadly (vaguely?) about leadership in any organization, and members? Where would you draw the line, between elites and leaders?
4. The Principle seems to suggest that, worse than a possible gap between “elites” and “masses”, there can be a rivalry among elites. The Fall of Man talks about a coup d’etat of the Archangel Lucifer against the “would-be-king” Adam and his wife. At stake were two elements: (a) the feelings of lack of love and the jealousy and craving for more love; (b) The desire to occupy in the human world the same position he had in the angelic world.
Personally, I have always considered these insights on the psychology of Lucifer as terribly deep and tragic, and found no other similar viewpoint, except probably in Shakespeare and Dostoievski. I would then surmise that the main demarcation line is not between the patricians and the plebeians. It is a fracture within the ruling elites.
I view Donald Trump as a man who saw himself as member of the highest elite of America, because of his wealth, but the real upper class of America, those from Old Money, made him feel that he could never belong there, ever. He cannot buy being a patrician by birth. The rest, i.e., Donald Trump as a populist president, is just a four-year parenthesis in his destiny. He pretends to search for political power, whereas his real quest is more existential and almost metaphysical. The unloved one would like to be loved one day.
Thank you for your lengthy response. I will try to address a few of the points.
1. By elites, I mean people with expertise and experience that are capable of and responsible for directing a social institution. In my proposal, the Senators would represent this group. Elites would include people studied in the science of governance and administration of the law. They would also represent the type of practical experience of managing society; for example, if you ever played “SimCity” you get a feel for some of the ways laws affect the well-being of a city.
2. I first began working on legislative processes as a member of the board of the Legislative Evaluation Assembly of Minnesota since 1999 and its president from 2007-2011. And I wrote about related issues in my two books. However, in my consult with the Cheon Il Guk Constitution committee a year ago I worked to apply what I had learned to the creation of a better Cheon Il Guk Constitution. In that case, there is currently a Supreme Council appointed by True Parents, but no basic feedback mechanism from the bottom-up. Further, when True Mother passes into the spiritual world, this process cannot continue. I suggested the Supreme Council serve the function of the Senate, representing those with experience in running church institutions, studied in True Father’s teachings, and other professional roles. Then adding a lower house that represented the members would create a legislative process with a constructive relationship between leaders and members. I followed this up on my Integral Society blog by applying these principles to better governance systems generally.
3. This follows pretty much from my definition in 1 and refers to any social institution. Roles vary based on the purpose of the institution and the structure derived from it. The elites in a business tend to be the owners and senior management, while the masses would be the workers. Marx was correct to say that in some industries, the workers feel alienated from their production. This would be due to a lack of a symbiotic relationship with elites. Luther felt that kind of alienation from the Catholic Church elites that seemed oblivious to the plight of peasants from whom they were extracting indulgences.
4. The fractures among elites result from their desire to lead the institution away from its founding purpose and in their own direction. If elites do that they each want to take the institution in different directions. Today we are specifically aware of the ideological capture of organizations, which will likely lead to their collapse. Of course, Marxism-Leninism in Russia is a classic example of ideological capture. This is why it is important to keep an institution true to its founding values. In some ways this is the difference between a statesman and a politician. The statesman stays true to the institution and its purpose, while the politician is sidetracked from the purpose and values by ideology or money.
5. There is probably some truth to what you say about Trump. It might parallel the shift from the House of Lords to the House of Commons in England where American Bluebloods are getting displaced by business moguls, media stars, and the new wealth of high-tech industries. What is really evident is how Trump showed the split was less between parties than between the elites and masses. Trump was the first to speak to the masses in quite a while.
Thanks for your interesting and informative article. I found it really interesting what you cited re: Rome as well as the rise of Communism and the current situation in China. I take exception, or have questions, about some of what you wrote, however.
“The elites are in fear of a revolt by the masses. This was evidenced by the fencing and stationing of a large number of troops around the U.S. Capitol after January 6, 2021.”
I had to read this three times to try to understand your thinking. I’m still not sure I do. It wasn’t just an irrational fear or paranoia that caused there to be fencing and troops around the Capitol. It was because there had actually been a breach of our house of government in order to disrupt a constitutional process. I would argue that there certainly were those who could be considered in the elite political class present that day, but also there were freshmen congressmen and women who were elected to Congress in order to represent their very local districts back home and they were carrying our their constitutional mandate to count and enter into the Congressional Record the electoral votes of a free and fair election. Susan Wild, my congresswoman from Pennsylvania, was among those fearful for her life in the House chamber when rioters broke in.
It may be that we need to repeal the 17th Amendment. I can’t pretend to understand all the issues involved so don’t have a strong opinion on this. I would agree with Stephen Henkin about term limits.
At the end of your article, you say that the resiliency of the institution requires a positive relationship between leaders and members centered on the founding purpose. I would submit, then, that whether one is a Senator or a Representative, an elite or a plebe, a manager or a worker, a Democrat or a Republican, what really needs everyone’s energy is a commitment to our U.S. Constitution and the ideals upon which our country was founded. I salute the congressmen and women who are able to rise above their party loyalties in order to think of the nation first, to be faithful to their oaths of allegiance to the Constitution first, rather than being so focused on each election cycle and making efforts to overthrow the opposing party at every turn. I’m not sure elites vs. the common men and women is the correct analogy for our current state of affairs.
We might each read the Jan. 6 event differently. From what I know about it, coverage of it was really overblown compared to the threats we had had in many cities with rioting and burning, and I felt that the presence of so many National Guard troops around the Capitol was overkill. Then the way those arrested were held without due process, and the way Guard members were treated reminded me of Hillary Clinton’s statement about deplorables. Early on there was a video of police opening the U.S. Capitol doors and what looked like surprised Trump supporters being invited in. And there was a video of an FBI undercover officer dressed as a Trump supporter urging people in.
It’s just my opinion, but my guess was that some of the elites wanted to make the “riot” look and sound worse than it was. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on the phone “terrified” and it turned out she was in a completely different building and either acting or so distant from what most Trump supporters are like that she imagined violence that wasn’t there. I wasn’t there but I have friends who were and they have very different accounts, partly polarized by which media they listen to and which party they belong to. I’m still waiting for more information, and probably should have qualified my statement by saying that “the extremely large number of troops and fencing at the Capitol, appeared as fear by disconnected elites.”
On the last point, I would argue that the purpose and values of the country are stated in the Declaration of Independence and that the founders did their best to draft a constitution that would serve those values. Therefore when you look at the evolution of the Constitution and its amendments, as well as the laws passed by legislators, you can see that some follow that purpose (civil rights and enfranchisement of women) and others (who specifically argue the 16th and 17th amendments) tend to destroy that purpose. The crux of the values are in these sentences:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
We do indeed read the Jan. 6 events quite differently.
What I saw unfold on TV in real time that day was a violent assault on the building where police were being beaten and attacked with bear spray. If Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick had not been on duty that day, he might well be alive today. I also have friends who attended the “Stop The Steal” rally on January 6 and they left peacefully without entering the Capitol. However, there have been numerous arrests here in PA of folks who entered the building through broken windows, vandalized the property, and stole property belonging to lawmakers and to the government. One young woman from a town north of us, took Speaker Pelosi’s laptop from her desk. I don’t know why you say there was no due process. Those who were not violent were released pending a hearing after arrest. Only those who were charged with violent offences were held in jail before they could go before a judge. The great number of arrests (over 650 people) make the due process challenging, but no one, to my knowledge, has been denied their constitutional rights.
I appreciate your quoting the Declaration of Independence as the document which most clearly articulates our ideals as a nation. You are so right. The words you quote are so beautifully true, profound and timeless. I was thinking of these ideals too, but I particularly had in mind the preamble to the Constitution because it is the Constitution (including the amendments there to) that we hang our hats on “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” This is the document that presidents, enlisted service members, and all members of Congress take an oath to defend. It is also the document constantly referred to by our courts who, as Rob pointed out, do not always make the right interpretation. Still, our country is a work in progress and it is the Constitution that provides an owner’s manual or blueprint so that our Union can continue on its journey towards perfection.
The attempt to interfere with a constitutional process, with or without violence, vandalism and theft, was an “uprising of the masses” that should never have happened and cannot be dismissed as if it weren’t really a serious challenge to our democracy. The states had previously certified the election as mandated by the Constitution, and the courts had dismissed all the specious claims of voter fraud. What was supposed to happen on January 6 is normally a ceremonial process where lawmakers proudly count electoral ballots and enter that count into the Congressional Record for posterity. It is a sacred acknowledgement of our democratic election process and should have been respected by all — elites and citizens alike.
BTW, Happy Birthday! Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking article.
I think there is more context to the passage of the 17th amendment than you provide, Gordon, though certainly the federal government did want more power. The 16th amendment allowed the federal government to tax citizens directly.
The 13th amendment freed all negroes from slavery in 1865. The 14th amendment in 1868 provided for equal protection under the law for all citizens, and the 15th amendment in 1870 guaranteed the right to vote for all men (not women), to include negro men. But even with these federal guarantees in the Constitution, voting and nearly all civil rights were ignored by all the former Confederate states and in some northern states in many instances as well.
In 1892, Homer Plessy, a negro man, was arrested and convicted of violating segregation laws in Louisiana by trying to ride on a train in the white-only section in Louisiana. The courts in Louisiana agreed, including the Louisiana Supreme Court, affirming Louisiana’s separate but equal law. Upon appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court ruled, 7-1 against Homer Plessy in 1896, affirming the states’ authority to enforce separate but equal laws.
The passage of the 17th amendment in 1913 was an attempt to take some of the authority from state governments regarding voting and other rights. Direct election of senators was a response to the corruption of some elites (in your words) in state legislatures to try to provide for equal protection under the law.
Plessy vs. Ferguson as a standard was not repealed until 1954, with the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. And voting rights were not really guaranteed until 1965 with passage of the Voting Rights Act.
I tend to think that term limits are what we need, as well as the ability of people to vote in primary elections without being registered for any party. I agree with you that the major parties are an impediment to our way of government.
I think we need to promote citizenship over party affiliation, country first, not Democrat or Republican first.
I was replying to Stephen and Sally as you were writing your comment, so there is some answer there.
First, I agree with what you say about civil rights and explain a bit in my response to Sally. I admit that there was corruption that fortified the arguments made for the 17th Amendment, but the solution ended up making things much worse. I would have argued for other measures, perhaps passing civil service exams and prior experience in business or administration. At any rate, there was no more structural way to check and balance the masses in the creation of the laws.
The main thing was that it made the Senate largely useless and the entire legislative process subject to fads and fashions whipped up in the popular culture. The states were basically removed from a say in their own “Union”. Those two amendments really transformed the country from “a republican form of democracy” to a general democracy, which since the days of Plato experts in the science of governance knew could not survive.
A further problem is the rules created in the Senate like the nuclear option, which allows passage with 50%. There is no way the founders considered 50% to be the consent of the governed. The other serious problem is pork that gets shoved in a bill to get the vote of one congressperson. It might only serve one special interest, and certainly not the consent of the governed. Such processes, which were left to the Congress and not in the Constitution itself, are a major cause of strife and corruption and seriously depart from the founding values and vision pasted into my comment to Sally.
Let’s take a moment to look at the actual outcomes of some decisions made by these “elites,” the Senators chosen by their state Legislatures prior to the 17th amendment.
1. They confirmed the Supreme Court justices who voted 7-2 in the Dred-Scott decision of 1854 that negroes should not be considered citizens under the Constitution.
2. They did nothing to try to address this.
3. They were complicit in the Confederate states seceding from the union which sparked the Civil War.
4. They were complicit in essentially allowing the state to “have their say,” during Reconstruction and thus circumventing the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Justice and equal protection under the law were denied for another 100 years.
5. They confirmed the justices who gave us the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision which denied equal protection under the law and voting rights for negroes until 1965.
6. They denied women the right to vote until 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed.
Certainly pork is a problem and both political parties are guilty of this. The rules of the Senate can be revised, and changing the 50% vote is one I would support, but I think you need to reconsider the value of the elites in light of their actual performance.
I agree that those elites made bad decisions. In the cases you cite, the elites drifted from the founding values of the country. This is why elites have to be balanced by the masses, or in this case “the consent of the governed.” On the other hand, you can’t run an institution without the necessary skills. This is why organizations like Six Sigma, the Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, etc., help prepare people for good leadership and character. You can’t have a person who can’t count money administering a payroll. I think you are supporting my main argument and commenting on some of the bad effects within the existing system. I’m seeking to reduce these problems with a more resilient institutional arrangement.
You could read more of Don Trubshaw’s work on institutional values. One of the problems with institutional drift is “manias.” In the case of racist decisions, they fall into that category. Manias destabilize social institutions as do ideological capture. These are some of the ways elites drift off course.
Thanks, Gordon, for your profound insights into the quagmire the modern world is presently facing. It is truly disheartening to witness the disfunction of the U.S. government today. Unfortunately, although I believe your ideas and proposals for solution have considerable merit, I do not see things changing in America anytime soon.
As you alluded, the real problem is rooted in people’s fallen nature, the lust for power, that precludes and/or corrupts any attempt at reform. The only hope I see is in a groundswell by the “masses” calling for a return to the constitutional system originally envisioned by our Founders. That can only happen if there remains enough of a commitment to that vision to force the powers-that-be into change. More likely, providentially speaking, is a movement forward such as True Parents have initiated in which the new “elite” in a sense are those with the vision of creating God’s original ideal. We don’t know yet what the structure of that society will look like politically, economically, or culturally. One way or another, God’s providence must move forward. We cannot turn back the clock to the vision of an earlier age, no matter how “enlightened” that vision was at the time.
Yes, saying what would be a better form of governance doesn’t mean there is optimism that the US would make such changes first or without serious pain felt before there was a cultural consensus on change. Other countries like Poland or Norway might have better systems, at least at the state level, and the great powers might have to eventually learn some lessons from them. My reply to Laurent was saying that what has proven to be important in good legislation is a principle that balances elite expertise with the happiness of the people. We can see this by studying other governments like ancient Rome, or how other resilient institutions work. I have given lots of thought about how some of these things could be fixed in the U.S., but that was beyond the scope of 2,000+ words recommended for publishing articles on the AU Blog, and also many readers are in other countries.
Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for explaining rather well the context in which you developed your current reflections on elites. I was intrigued by your experience with the Cheon Il Guk Constitution.
Regarding the definition of elites, I hope that we may be a bit more precise. Elites comes from the Latin eligere, to elect. “To elect” has two different meanings.
1) A top down meaning, when God choses a person, then distinguishes, and blesses this person. God gave His divine election to Abraham, to the Chosen nation. Not any nation could welcome Christ. Even in this chosen nation, Christ had to come from a very special lineage. Christ monopolized Messiahship as an exclusive privilege. “I am the the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to Father but by me.” => Absolutely elitist.
Yet Christ washed the feet of his disciples. He accepted to be crucified as a mocked king. He said we may be better than him. He bequeathed his messiahship to whoever will try.
Born to be king, fated to serve.
2) A bottom-up meaning. Leaders are elected by popular assemblies.
“Vox Populi, Vox Dei” meant that Charlemagne should have been acclaimed by the people of Rome first. Then only he would be anointed by the Pope. Pope Leo III did not observe the protocol. Throughout the Middle Ages, German emperors and Roman popes acted as rivals, not as partners. Finally the masses got upset. Democracy had to appear, as a better foundation for the Second Coming.
The American president is first elected. And it is really unwise to criticize the ballot beyond reason. Every vote matters, and it is really not good to keep contesting an election, before, during, and after the vote. There should have been limits to that kind of play, one year ago, and strong voices should have shouted “stop it!”
Then, the new President takes his oath of office on the Bible. Former presidents should attend and support warmly. He receives a mandate from the people but for a mission which is strictly codified and he has to be the number one person to respect the Constitution, and ideally to serve God.
America has many elite institutions, schools of excellence and perfection, such as the Ivy League universities, West Point, and many other prestigious places of the establishment. America kept something truly aristocratic in many places, especially on the East Coast.
In a sense, the American elites are asked to attend something much higher than themselves, they should be loyal to some transcendant principles, in their daily lives, and should be exemplary. We can see this beautiful sense of attendance when athletes greet the banner which made them kings and queens in stadiums and fields. You don’t win by your own merit, but because a whole nation made you an Olympic champion, when you were young. And then you can coach champions who will be better than you.
The real elite is always the one who feels unworthy or unqualified for the task. I don’t say that you need to choose a reluctant president. There should be ambition and a small degree of narcissism. But parties should really promote those who really, really, really serve much and well.
The true mind of the elite is, “I may not be born for this position. There may be better people. But I was surely born to serve others, to sacrifice myself for the sake of others. And if I can use my talents to make people who will be better than me, then, my being part of the elite will have some meaning”
This is somehow I see elites from a Unificationist viewpoint.
Thank you, Gordon, for setting such a discussion in motion with your article. I am going to come from left field here and add some different points to a vigorous and interesting discussion.
Whether or not to repeal the 17th Amendment, I have always believed there is a necessary step to be taken — education of the public on the need to recognize the importance of taking time to understand election candidates running for the US Congress and state level offices. I have been a poll inspector for a while now and that experience has served to confirm for me that too many people give most of their attention to the presidential candidates and far less attention to congressional and state legislative candidates to the point of simply voting “the party line.”
What was so refreshing in 2020 for me was what I learned and experienced at Bard College, near UTS, here in Dutchess County, NY, where I was working the polls. One of my co-workers at the table was the VP for Student Affairs and she explained to me that Bard had spent a great deal of time on discussions, info sessions, etc., for students to be aware of local candidates and federal candidates (outside of the presidential race) as well as the propositions up for a vote. I heard students, outside the polling place, talking informatively and deeply about the races — and not the presidential race. I wish more people would pay such attention to those races.
I bring this up, Gordon, because without better education of the general public on the importance of these candidates, regardless what is done about the 17th Amendment, we will see voters either: (1) leaving such ballot spots unmarked, (2) voting the party line (which in itself can be a form of elitism), or, (3) candidates being elected because a party elite asked people to vote for that candidate and a host of other reasons. In such cases, we will more than likely continue to see problems and challenges in our congressional halls of power. And face it, if someone wants to stay in power, they often find a way to do so — regardless of their motivation. I think of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg who wanted (and won) a previously disallowed third term in New York City. While I had been a fan of Bloomberg for some time, nonetheless, I didn’t think there was a justification to change election laws in New York.
My inquisitive heart then ponders this point: if the electorate were more aware of the extreme importance of congressional and local elections, then they just might be better equipped to look deeply at such issues as the 17th Amendment and other propositions on voting that arise and make a better decision. I just hope that, as we have begun to witness in several states in the rush to change who, how, when, and where one votes simply because of perceived errors in the 2020 election, voters do so with a better understanding and, dare I say, wisdom, so that good decisions are made. Hope springs eternal in this idealist’s heart!
First, I want to thank you for your service with the polls.
Second, I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of education. One can look at voting as a job, a responsibility of citizenship. If you don’t perform your job well, the product the institution puts out won’t be that good. You are the first person to comment on the “masses” side of my article, most commentators have focused on the “elites.” Both have responsibilities to do their best to do their job, always keeping in mind the values and purpose of the institution.
The 17th Amendment relates to a different issue and refers to the Senate or upper house. In my proposal, the masses should be represented by the lower house. However, currently, the masses vote for both houses, which I see as having removed a check and balance in the system, and a major reason for structural dysfunction.
The idea of removing party names from ballots directly speaks to your point. If we do that, people cannot go to the polls and just vote for a party slate, essentially abnegating their responsibility as a citizen-voter. They will either have to study the candidates or will cast a random vote. Statistically, the random votes will cancel each other out and the votes of responsible citizens will determine the outcome. This does not address the problem of skipping the local candidates on the ballot, but it would make the outcome of those who cast a ballot more responsible.
Thank you for your human approach, Dr. Winings. Let us all familiarize, and our nations will be more like big families.
The Founding Fathers never intended to have a government of elites and masses, which is what the colonists were escaping (or so they thought) when they came to America. They sought to leave oppressive European monarchies founded on nepotism and the divine right of kings behind. They created a Republic, where the rights of the individual are honored and the power of the national government is limited. They further broke up the Federal government into three seats of power: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary, a system of checks and balances with no branch lording control over the other. The fact that you should go as far as to describe our government in terms of “elites” and “masses” belies a systemic failure of the highest order. Since corruption is so entrenched in government (AKA the “Swamp”), then an amendment to establish term limits would be the most effective way to initially weed out those career politicians who have left their districts, cities, and states to decay and fail, promising us lot every two or four years, but delivering very little.
It is true that the United States has sincerely tried to create a society without arbitrariness and elitism based on hereditary privilege. American politics are about that. But don’t you think that, sociologically and culturally speaking, it is another matter? America is, for good or bad, an extremely complex society, despite its ideal of simplicity. Inevitably, there will always be, in any society, a quest for distinction, for some form of grace, or benefit that no one else can possess. Moreover, the American culture abhors any form of welfare state, except in some circles often deemed socialist or even communist, simply because the term welfare state is not always understood. And this has some incidence, I believe, in the debate between elites and masses.
It is a paradox that, in Europe, nowadays, you find that nations closest to “full democracy” are not all republics. Norway, now ranked as the most democratic nation of the world, is a kingdom, and so are Sweden (#3), Denmark (#7), and the Netherlands. These nations have achieved a high level of cohesion and consensus, their living standards are really high, and the welfare state very strong. They support their aristocracies, who in turn are rather close to the population even if there is a protocol. I don’t suggest that their societies are any better than the USA. But they seem to have efficient solutions to some problems plaguing America now.
The “swamp” is far more than career politicians. In fact, it seems to most reside in career bureaucrats who are truly unaccountable to the electorate. Ironically, one result of having term limits may be to give even more power to these bureaucrats. One problem not being addressed here is the top-heavy administrative state which sets most of the regulations governing US citizens these days.
The unchecked administrative state is a serious problem and, in part, a result of the inability of the dysfunctional legislative branch to hold it accountable. The passing of omnibus multi-subject bills is one way elites control the masses; party leaders, administrative department heads, and special interest lobbyists get together and craft bills hundreds of pages long, representing billions of dollars, and foist them upon legislators in the last hour. As Nancy Pelosi accurately said you’ll need to pass the bill to find out what’s in it. This is why ending multi-subject bills is necessary to restore democracy. In the making of omnibus bills, administrative units are almost never cut or reduced because the people putting the bills together are not paying for them. This is why some people are starting to say it is “government against the people.”
According to Dr. Anderson, a bicameral system exists primarily to take into consideration the gap between elites and the masses. Is there a real correlation?
Let us look at Europe. Norway, Denmark and Sweden rank among the 10 most democratic nations of the world, as I already pointed out. They are nations where the ideal of equality among the people is really strong and has been implemented through gradualism and reform, never through revolution. These three nations are strictly monocameral. Denmark and Sweden had bicameralism before and gave it up. They do have an aristocracy and in some cases descendants of patrician families with stong power, but their elites are more cultural and sociological than political. This would rather support the theory of Dr. Anderson.
Yet, their being monocameral may have a very different explanation, which is simply demography. The population of each of the three nations is at or below 10 million people. One house is enough to represent the population.
This hypothesis would be supported by a counter example: The Netherlands is also a very egalitarian type of democracy, its system is close to the Scandinavian model, but it has 17 million people and … two houses. Netherlands simply has a history and demography which are far more complex than the three others.
More than 80% of monocameral countries worldwide are simply “small nations”. Of course, you may say that China and Bangladesh are very big and monocameral but … yes, the exceptions exist, indeed. But most of the time, one house means a small nation.
What Dr. Anderson presents as a divide between elites and masses may sometimes explain the bicameral system. The other viewpoint is to see it as a reflection of complexity versus simplicity. The United States has an ideal of simplicity but is indeed a complex nation, where the concern for checks and balances, separation of powers, and antitrust laws has resulted in a sophisticated architecture … plus the nostalgia of the Roman empire.
Another issue, I think, is that two contradictory ideals are at work in America: equality among all, but strong individualism and personal responsibility. Ambition, envy, and competition are driving forces, and most of the American culture is precisely about elites who reach the top of the world and sometimes form dynasties, who simply become unreachable stars. Having reached this status, they are admired, envied and sharply criticized. The Kennedy family is one such dynasty.
You are doing the type of “science of governance” that is needed. One point people may not have gotten from my article is that I do not think the United States really has a bicameral system after the passage of the 17th Amendment because it no longer represents two different groups that check and balance one another. Rather, what we have is a clumsy unicameral system with two components, since both houses are voted on by the same group.
I agree with you that unicameral systems may work much better in smaller states. Many of these states find ways to balance the elites and the masses in far better ways than others. The main point is that resilient institutions have to accomplish this in one way or another and that they have to keep both the sides of the masses and the sides of the elites centered on the foundational values of the institution.
Thank you, Dr. Anderson, for encouraging us to reflect more deeply on this question of elites and the masses. When I first saw the topic of your essay, I felt a bit unconcerned. But as I read it several times and prayed, I understood that it is quite a crucial topic, yet unexplored in Unificatonist circles.
Yet, we have several resources unique to the Principle, particularly the role of central figures in the foundation of faith and foundation of substance. We know that God prepared a special nation and special elites in this nation, both on the political and the religious side, to welcome Christ. But it did not work. Likewise, the whole architecture of the Holy Roman Empire failed.
I worry that the most important nations that God prepared in 1945 are now in great confusion and cannot find a solution, and our movement has not yet been able to give a clear direction. So, we need to marshal our resources, and your essay is doing that, I sense.
Thanks for your article. The follow-up discussion has been very interesting to read too. More than the actual content, however, I find myself reacting to the assumption of a division between elites and masses in a political setting. For me the ideal of the US government is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Stephen Henkin touches on this. The use of “elite” in US politics seems to be a tactic from the political right to criticize the political left and misdirect attention from something else.
Power in society is not just political power. For me the divisions and tensions in American society are more fundamentally economic. If we are to use the term elite it would be an elite of those who have capital vs. those who don’t. In this there is no democracy or elections. To counterbalance this the US Constitution gives a democratic voice to all without preference for wealth. It is a necessary condition for the whole population to benefit economically from capitalism. I would be loath to undermine that in any way. Shifting the term elite to refer to democratically elected political leaders has the smack of subterfuge to me.
Unfortunately there is a growing gap in America between those with money and those without. I would suggest that the resentment this brews underlies a lot of the tensions in the country. The European countries that Laurent describes as most democratic have more equality of income across all strata of society. This equality of income is a key issue, and because of it they are also ranked among the happiest countries in the world. To assume a “natural” political separation of elites and masses seems to ignore, and normalize, economic inequity. It feels like a huge step backward from the ideal of the US constitution to me.
While the term elite is often used as a politically derogatory term, as you and Stephen point out, in the social sciences it is an accepted term without that political baggage. The work that I have done, following Trubshaw, works from this neutral academic field of study starting with Max Weber. By this definition, in the classroom the professor is elite and students are in the position of masses, but in the university as an organization, the administration is the elite and the professors are masses. I agree that masses also can sound pejorative, so in every institution, we use different names than elites and masses, like owners and employees or administration and staff.
Power is not just political or economic, it is also cultural, which includes knowledge and information. All three forms of power are based on a separate principle. Political power is based on law and force. Economic power is based on productivity, markets, and wealth. Cultural power is based on knowledge. Ideally, God-centered culture should guide human political and economic action. This would include cultural norms that would produce laws that both incentivize economic productivity and restrain all forms of theft, whether in the form of stock market manipulation, direct government appropriation of people’s money without their consent, or the theft of labor in the form of serfdom or slavery.
The equality of income, which is of great concern, was not the purpose of this article, which was to fashion a law-making institution that would lead to laws that accomplished this. That means laws that would enable elites (people with knowledge and experience related to economies) to use that knowledge for a public benefit while inhibiting them from abuse of that knowledge for personal benefit. On the other hand, laws also need to be nonoppressive to the average people who do not have this knowledge. This is why an upper house that would be able to identify productive policies and a lower house the represented the democratic voice of the whole population, would accomplish this better than a legislative process where a king, or party, or some crony system imposed its will, which is what is happening today.
Giving a veto voice to the people would help economic justice, and giving a veto voice to experts would prevent rule by mass stupidity–like falling for communism or wokism. Consensus on a law would mean both the people and the experts agreed it would be good.
Thanks for the reply, Gordon. I wasn’t aware of the larger context. However, even in your examples, elite still refers to positions that are not democratic in character. By nature then any kind of upper house you propose would also not be democratic in character. It still seems like a backward step for government in the US.
If we are talking about establishing God-centered culture then we have to first think about how God manifests in culture. In a monarchic system, God’s will is imposed on the population from a central position, and we see God’s will as coming from outside ourselves. The upper house represents an extension of this view, just as the House of Lords in England is an extension of the power of the monarch.
However, I feel in my bones that connection to God comes from within myself, that the monarchical system is no longer appropriate. I fundamentally think that in a God-centered culture, God will manifest from within people rather than come from outside. So we shouldn’t be seeking to impose God on culture from a central position such as an upper house. For God to manifest in culture, I believe we need a fully democratic system without any traces of monarchism.
As you may see, Dr. Anderson, the terms “elites” and “masses” are not very easy to accept. Personally, I am not sure that elite and leadership mean the same thing. Not all elites are leaders, not all leaders are elites. Whenever we may use “people” rather than “masses”, it is preferable, I presume.
As far as I recall, there is only one chapter in the Divine Principle where the notions of elites and masses are used, quite appropriately. It is Chapter Four on Jesus. It is suggested that the elites of Judaism and Israel did not accept Jesus, and used the mob, the crowd, to murder their Savior. The root of this terrible crime lies in the complex relationships between Jesus and John the Baptist, perfectly and remarkably described by the Principle. The Principle explains that a spiritual division among elites can result in the violence of the masses who are manipulated. Likewise, profound divisions among Korean elites caused Father to go through awful difficulties with media manipulating the masses. Mass-media indeed.
In this particular context, I would say that we can really speak of elites and masses. But if possible, we should go for other expressions in other contexts. I may be wrong, of course.
The American government was designed to overcome the idea of inherited elitism and instead allow the elite to distinguish themselves by merit. This has worked well for the first 200 years, but we have evolved where “Legacy Admissions” now have created a pseudo-elite based on lineage.
Additionally, the closed network of academia has created a techno-elite that puts reason and science above heart in making decisions.
Every population has a bell curve of natural talents and every society will have leaders and followers. The goal of a balanced society should be to make sure that the right priorities are present in the people elected to serve as leaders.
To me the greater danger is not from having an elite group running the country, but that they have a narrow neo-pagan view of humans and the value of human life.
We will always be stuck with the elites. The concern is to make sure the right ones are in the chair.
Excellent statements. I agree with John’s common sense of approach.
Yes, excellent statements, John. That elites should have their positions by merit is exactly the point I have been emphasizing. This is true of all social institutions.
However, fallen nature enables non-qualified elites to hijack positions. The founders had a realistic view of human nature and tried to check and balance elites and the people through the two houses, but even then they argued the constitutional structure was not enough, but it required a “religious and moral people” to keep it. The 17th Amendment, multi-subject bills, and party names on ballots are ways that fallen nature invaded the political structure and changed it to enable less scrupulous people to get their legislation passed.
Last year I saw an interview with Joel Stein, author of the book. “In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.”
He admitted that he’s from the “deepest blue part of California” where the Democratic “elites” and politicians have been in charge for decades. His book defends the need for “experts” to be shaping socio-political policies. I’ve read parts of his book and it has some questionable premises.
So here’s the question for Stein: Given the near catastrophic circumstances of California, the 49th least desirable state to live in according to USA Today, and with a budget deficit approaching $1 trillion, housing prices skyrocketing, individuals and businesses leaving the state in droves, why should anyone buy into the narrative that the so-called “elitist experts” who have ruined California be listened to anymore? “Elites” who have questionable agendas, especially regarding socio-cultural or economic concerns are the problem, as John Redmond pointed out.
Jonah Goldberg makes the point that William James, who coined the phrase, “Moral Equivalent of War,” and John Dewey, an important philosopher of “New Dealism,” were of the opinion that the society was like a clay that could be molded to the will of experts. Philosophically, New Dealism reflected Dewey’s and Woodrow Wilson’s contempt for the outdated vision of the Founders. Dewey wrote in his book, “Liberalism and Social Action,” that “the founders lacked historic sense and interest.” The Burkean and Madisonian vision of government simply serving to protect liberties and enforce fair, neutral rules, was inadequate next to what could be accomplished with a sufficient application of will by experts given the power to provide meaning to every individual. This is also the rationale behind Hillary Clinton’s concept of “the politics of meaning.”
Having expertise in any particular field of endeavor is desirable, but the idea of politicians being “public servants” seems hopelessly lost. The USA is increasingly becoming a plutocracy.
Interesting topic. Words shape not only the response to a message but the message itself. While the words “elite” and “masses” themselves come from short-hand used in describing political relationships, do they not assume a Marxist foundation of thought?
I’m no expert on political theory, but I found that literary theory generally assumes Marx and elaborates from there.
Let’s take a look at your statement below:
“Thus, a ‘more perfect’ form of government is one in which there are two houses of government in a state in which the upper house, or Senate, represents elite responsibilities and the lower house, or House of Representatives, represents the well-being of the general population.”
The words “elite responsibilities” stand not merely in contrast to, but juxtapose the concept of “well-being of the general population.” The built-in antagonism resides in the language and therefore shapes your government description in pugnacious terms.
I think what most people who are not sociopaths want is a harmonious functioning government that does not make them lose sleep at night or give them ulcers when they read the news.
Each member of the House of Representatives, in being charged with “representing the well-being of the general population,” is concerned with a smaller region than a Senator. Members of the House are closer to the diverse and specific needs of individuals within the constituencies that elect them than are those in the Senate. Representatives from the House are elected to address issues that are specific, detailed and directly relevant to the regions they represent which are hopefully not unduly gerrymandered.
The two Senators from each state represent larger issues based on the state level, which is typically larger geographically than the regions represented by the members of the House of Representatives and integrates the local issues within the broader context of the state as a whole. And it is interesting that Rhode Island and California each have the same number of Senators.
In the field of economics there are words to describe a smaller, nonetheless complex and important array of variables at play: “microeconomics” and for the larger scale concerns, we talk about “macroeconomics”.
I suggest coming up with some new terminology to differentiate the areas of focus of the House and Senate – perhaps “microcivic concerns” to describe the focus of Representatives of the House and “macrocivic concerns” to describe the focus of Representatives of the Senate rather than repeating the Victorian terminology of “general population” vs. “elites.”
Redefining the functions in this manner also opens the door to a more systematic integration on a mathematical or cellular level. If you want to think about it in terms of DP, cells integrate to form molecules.
In microeconomics, the equations and variables are just as numerous and varied as they are for macroeconomics, they just focus on different things. In changing the terminology we’ve removed an emotionally and energetically outmoded linguistic apprehension in order to facilitate dialog and harmony between the two bodies of governance and to help clarify their function.
I agree with Steve Henkin on the issue of term limits for the Senate. As you noted, Gordon, that old chestnut, “fallen nature,” does not magically depart upon a senator’s inauguration:
“There is a temptation, from ‘fallen nature,’ that drives both groups to use institutions and for their own purposes.”
It’s good for public servants to be mindful of their tour of duty and not consider lavish living on the public expense tab a lifestyle. Cycling people out the Senate after x number of terms is a good idea. How many terms would need to be hammered out. Institutional memory is maintained not only by the Senate but by those in administration. Furthermore, all that paperwork that gets processed is often to clarify and retain in writing what people just happen to forget about section D paragraph 47b of some issue discussed fifteen years ago.
Unificationists use shorthand just like academics or politicians or kids on cell phones, but please note, “fallen nature” is not something that you can legislate.
Fallen nature is a theologically infused term. Those who run for office must be capable of following the laws they seek to shape. Laws, for now, exist for the purpose of damage control from those who have “fallen nature” — in whatever practical form that may take.
We can’t test for fallen nature but we can talk about job qualifications. And while the beauty of democracy is that you may not be required to have a degree in law to run for office, the reality is that to effectively function in government one needs to be sufficiently literate to understand the issues upon which one is legislating. And have the attention span to follow briefings. And perhaps be able to read and understand the Constitution in its entirety.
While we’re at it, there should be an additional qualification to run for President: relevant employment history demonstrating actual public service beyond the private sector.
You have suggested that those who would seek government service at the macrocivic level like the Senate should not be elected but appointed? By the states? Who would do the appointing? Is it not possible that those people just might also possess what you term “fallen nature”?
Fallen nature is one of the most abundant resources currently on tap and available to all. Yet, there are real functions that happen on both the macro- and microcivic levels that require tending. Funding to replace lightbulbs in traffic lights or determining where a garbage dump will be located are microcivic concerns. Maintaining infrastructure, assuring statewide equitable access to healthcare, healthy food (c.f. food deserts), and education are examples of macrocivic concerns. With or without fallen nature, the jobs must get done.
Assuring equitable access to education, healthcare, and quality of life—including clean air, greenspace, schools where your kids don’t get shot with military-grade weapons in the hands of random civilians — all the things I imagine you wanted within easy reach of your family home — would empower the disdained citizens “of the general population” from which leaders emerge, by the way, to make prudent choices for political positions like the Senate. No need to change that part of the Constitution. Educate the citizenry. That’s not the same as manipulating them.
For the Constitution to work requires neither cheating the system, nor dismantling it, but being creative to dismantle barriers that prevent people from having responsible access so they a) understand how the process works and b) can fully participate in the civil process. Ignorance and fear are often rooted in not understanding how things work.
Good decisions are not made out of ignorance and fear. Better decisions come from not only having a broad mind and heart to consider the benefit of the whole but by being informed and understanding the process in order to function within that context.
And reframing how we describe our world using less pejorative language to describe the functions of the House and Senate is a place to start.
Pamela Moffatt writes:
“It’s good for public servants to be mindful of their tour of duty and not consider lavish living on the public expense tab a lifestyle. Cycling people out the Senate after x number of terms is a good idea.”
I couldn’t agree more. Career politicians become addicted to the power and perks of public office, which in many cases leads to self-interest at the expense of the welfare of their constituents.
When Lord John Dahlberg Acton asserted that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he considered it “heresy” to sanctify a person merely because a person holds high office. In his opinion “the people” needed to hold leaders accountable for their misdeeds and not become enablers of corrupt leaders for their own personal benefit. When this happens the corruption seeps into society and the general welfare of the society suffers.
In his political observations, Baruch Spinoza spoke about this saying peace was not merely “the absence of war,” but rather a disposition by which the “force of character” ought to be a guiding modality to insure the greater benefit of the commonwealth. From that perspective one’s “character” ought to be informed by principles and values that have the interest of “the people” at heart. In this way, politicians can be “public servants” in a more parental fashion.
You are basically arguing for the current system after the 17th Amendment was passed, whereas I was trying to describe a system the Founders set up.
In the current system, the same group of people (voters) elect both members of Congress and the Senators. The point of the Founders was that Senators should have expertise and be acting in the interest of state governments, which is why state legislators would appoint them. It is not about macro and micro, but about the will of the people and representatives of the states both having veto power over the other group so that (1) if the people wanted something that didn’t work for the states, the Senate could veto it, and (2) if the Senate wanted something the people felt was oppressive the people could veto it. When the people vote for both, that check and balance is eliminated and the states are no longer represented in their own union.
The German system seems to be more functional this way because the Bundestag represents the people and the Bundesrat is made up of mayors and other government officials.