Managing America From Inside the Box

December 1, 2014

On November 3, 2014, the Christian Science Monitor published the thoughts of five experts on “How to Get Congress Working”.  It is not alone in recognizing that Congress does not work.  What was remarkable about each of the five opinions was their view that Congress was working but could work better.  They were thinking inside the box without any consideration of the leadership requirements of a constitutional republic.

These experts, contending our system was not broken, urged five-day work weeks, better communications among congressional leaders, national service by our young people, more mutual trust, more joint party caucuses, informal gatherings, reinvigoration of congressional committees, reformation of procedural rules which stifle debate, more secrecy in committee meetings to avoid leaking, ending committee term limits, loosening the ethical straitjacket, resume earmarking, and a national primary day.  While some of these comments might be helpful in reforming the system, what if our system is broken?  What do we do then?

There follow my comments regarding the five experts whose assessments are destined to perpetuate the very lack of leadership which has lead us and the Monitor to the conclusion that our Congress is not working.

First, none of the experts addressed the overriding influence of our elected leaders’ desire to be re-elected and whether the nature from which this self-interest springs can be reasonably controlled to generate better government. 

Second, none of them addressed whether the existing system delivers to the American people the kind of wise and virtuous leaders we need.

Lastly, none of them addressed Madison’s comments in Federalist Paper No. 57.

The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society;  and, in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous while they continue to hold their public trust.

If one really cares about getting Congress working, he should want to evaluate the wisdom and virtue required of our leaders and the effectual precautions which are available to keep them wise and virtuous.  He should want to consult someone who thinks outside the box to inquire whether changes to the Constitution are essential to deal with the overriding self-interests of politicians and vested interests which are detrimental to the best interests of the common good.


John M. Cogswell, President

Campaign Constitution