Revitalizing Democracy

By Graglia, Lino | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Revitalizing Democracy


Graglia, Lino, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


Government--organized, legitimized coercion--presents a dilemma. On the one hand, government is necessary to obtain certain benefits, such as the creation and enforcement of property rights that are essential to the efficient use of resources. On the other hand, giving some individuals organized power over others is very dangerous. Power, the ability to command and enforce obedience, is not good for the soul; it seems inevitably to lead to an exaggerated appraisal of one's wisdom and goodness as compared to those qualities in others. Power expands ego, and ego yearns for more power, with the result that government tends inexorably to grow far beyond what justifies its existence and therefore to limit human freedom unnecessarily.

Because government is dangerous, we should have no more of it than necessary and strive to make what we must have as little dangerous as possible. The only way this can be done is by making it effectively democratic, that is, subjecting it in a fairly direct and immediate way to popular control. Three of the ways in which the American system as it now operates can be made more democratic are the decentralization of policymaking, the adoption of measures of direct democracy, and most importantly, the limitation of the policymaking power of judges.

I. DECENTRALIZATION OF POLICYMAKING

Government can be made more responsive to the popular will by keeping the policymaking unit closer to the people. As a matter of simple arithmetic, the smaller the policymaking unit, the fewer the number of people who will be discontented by any policy choice. Individual freedom means leaving policy choices with the individual; if a choice must be removed from the individual by government, individual freedom is served to the extent that it is removed no farther than necessary.

We should therefore resist the centralization of government power and favor decentralization absent a strong showing of efficiency or other losses. We cannot, however, expect to be helped in this regard by the Supreme Court.(1) The division of government power is not something that can be made a matter of judicially enforceable law. Because policymaking power is not a physical thing that can be divided into separate areas or spheres, there cannot be two legally defined independent power centers in a single polity; dual sovereignty is a contradiction in terms. The power to regulate interstate commerce, for example, necessarily includes--in fact, is not distinguishable from--the power to regulate things that affect interstate commerce.(2) It will therefore necessarily conflict with or impinge upon the power to regulate commerce that may not be considered "interstate" and things that may not be considered "commerce." When conflicts occur, the sovereign is the lawmaker whose policy will prevail.

Because everything affects interstate commerce to some degree, the question in every case challenging a purported exercise of the commerce power is whether the regulated activity affects interstate commerce enough to justify national regulation and the consequent lessening of local autonomy. This is a policy issue, and there is no reason to think that it is better left to courts than to elected representatives. More broadly, when the people want a policy issue--for example, assisted suicide--to be decided at the national rather than the state level, it is hard to see why the federalism issue--the appropriate limits on federal power--should be decided according to the preferences of federal judges. The judges' claim that they find the answer in the Constitution will here, as elsewhere, be fictional. Congressional power has undoubtedly grown far beyond original expectations, but there is much to be said for the notion of a "living Constitution," a Constitution adaptable to new circumstances, when the effect of a doctrinal change is not to expand but to loosen constitutional restraints-to relax the grip of the hand of the dead--and the adapting is done not by judges but by elected representatives.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revitalizing Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.