A simple mathematical and political truth is that any experiment with democracy, once more than 50% of the population positions itself to receive funds out of the general coffers, is over. Historically the process has taken about 200 years, with the Greeks and Romans leading the way, overextending themselves financially fighting wars in places they didn’t need to be and leaving great stadiums to honor their athletes. Sound familiar? In essence, this republic of ours is broken in fundamental ways that have nothing to do with current or even recent presidential administrations. And if you want to point fingers at the entitlement programs as the albatross around our collective neck, remember that the Farm Bill and petroleum subsidies are also entitlement programs (just to name a couple), and we’re all recipients of those, much to the chagrin of pundits promoting free market strategies and libertarian viewpoints. If we are to cut the entitlement state loose to fend for itself, we have seen the enemy and he is us. In many ways, we have created manifold inviolable voting blocks, fueled them with special interest groups and lobbyists, and driven a wooden stake in the heart of government by the people for the people, making substantive reform ever more elusive. But must we resign ourselves to fly this plane into the ground? Alternatively, is it possible to reinvent the republic and return it to global relevance. Insofar as it seems that the rest of the world has followed us down this little rabbit hole of rampant, viral capitalism, the least we could do would be to lead us all out of the darkness and into the light. Make no mistake, I am a capitalist and a huge fan of this republic. Expatriation, while currently very attractive, doesn’t solve the problem. It just leaves it for my kids to fix. They didn’t have the blissful ignorance of the 30-year drunk we’ve had, so it seems unfair to stick them with the check. But we are.
This begs a lot of questions. One is the inherent conflict of interest between the check and the vote. Many of my reactionary friends have suggested that anyone on the welfare rolls should be excluded from voting because the vote allows them to perpetuate the dependence. But what about those hard-working folks, I ask, who still struggle to make ends meet and live below poverty lines and within welfare guidelines? Instead of using welfare as the benchmark, I suggest, why don’t we exchange a check for a vote and apply it to all recipients of any government-funded monies. Now, I’m not an economist and I don’t play one on TV, so there may be some very good reasons, even outside of the constitutional implications, for not heading down this road. After all, there are a lot of government programs out there. Just ask the tea party zealot on your block. Theoretically, though, it would separate the funders from the fundees, though there’s no guarantee that such an action would reduce the fundees. Many would probably readily trade their vote for a check, especially given the abstract nature of a single vote in a country this large.
So this idea might not work at all, but it’s an idea and the world is full of folks much smarter than I. If we are to reinvent this broken republic before it completely implodes, we have to start somewhere. How about term limits and a line item veto? How about campaign finance reform? How about alternative energy sources? Sure, it’s likely to be a traumatic and painful process, but so are depressions and recessions, world wars and global jihads, political buffoons astride party lines and catastrophic oil spills. And all of these are more painful as they begin to wash up on the shore, rubbing our faces in our own mess and demanding a mighty laundering. When do we grow the balls of our founding fathers and make it happen?