Constitutional Reform and Effective Government

Constitutional Reform and Effective Government

Constitutional Reform and Effective Government

Constitutional Reform and Effective Government

Excerpt

That the structure of the U.S. government, designed in the great convention of 1787, has survived virtually intact through two centuries of turmoil, growth, and change is testimony to the wisdom of the framers and the basic soundness of the governmental system they created.

Yet the framers themselves, when they adjourned after that hot summer in Philadelphia, were the first to acknowledge that their handiwork was less than perfect and that, as the nation gained experience under the Constitution, it would have to reexamine its provisions and, as necessary, modify them. Nevertheless, although the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, not one of those changes has altered the fundamental institutional structure.

In the original edition of Constitutional Reform and Effective Government , published by Brookings in 1986, James L. Sundquist reviewed the framers' rationale for the governmental structure they created, the successful and unsuccessful efforts to modify it during the ensuing two centuries, and the arguments for and against specific alterations that have been discussed. In the end, he developed his own recommendations for constitutional reform.

The favorable response to that book prompted Brookings to encourage the author to undertake this revised edition. As in the first version, he organizes his critique around five questions: First, does the recent tendency of the voters to divide control of the executive and legislative branches of the government between the major parties exacerbate conflict between the branches and lead to stalemate and deadlock? Second, does the short interval of only two years between national elections tend to preoccupy presidents and legislators alike with the always-imminent next election, and therefore limit to only a few months each four years the "window of opportunity" for dealing with pressing matters? Third, is there need for a workable mechanism . . .

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