CALL FOR THE EXTIRPATION OF THE INFLAMED UNITED STATES SENATE FROM THE BODY POLITIC
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
AS DEVIL’S ADVOCATE
The United States Senate should be abolished in favor of unicameral system of government or emasculated and a cabinet form of government established because its present structure is conducive to corruption and fatally flawed by the upper house of the legislature as is evident in the chaotic degeneration of government now figuratively headed by an utterly confused president who would himself agree with this proposition.
The United States Senate was fashioned after the House of Lords that evolved from the ancient English royal court, the king as font of law in council with his peers. The great council separated into an assembly of nobles and clergy, on the one hand, and an assembly of local representatives about 1341. A long struggle for power between lords and representatives ensued, with the lords dominating except for a brief period after a military coup resulted in the beheading of Charles I and the abolition of the upper house, which was restored after the civil war, albeit the influence of the crown was diminished by the turmoil, and even the more so during the Glorious Revolution when James II was deposed and the Bill of Rights enacted.
The progress of humankind, if by ‘progress’ one means historical advancement instead of decline, is in the freedom of all people from the unwanted domination of minorities known in Roman times as the few nobles or “known” ones, as was argued eloquently in France by Victor Cousin, a great friend of liberals in the fledgling United States. According to this view, the end of history is in a liberal democracy where people consent to government by their elected representatives.
Wherefore this progress of freedom from the arbitrary rule of an established minority favors a single assembly, a unicameral legislature, of a rational people free from irrational tyranny, and the constitutional right of the people to directly initiate legislation and to approve by referendum legislation proffered by their representatives when direct democracy is tenable given the size of the electorate—now the electronic age can accommodate the direct participation of large populations.
In fact direct democracy in unicameral council is an ancient device and an even prehistoric one where chiefs presided with the consent of their tribes without which they were conveniently assassinated if not deposed by a person who had that duty, most often a matriarch in civilized North American tribes.
So the notion of a unicameral legislature is nothing new, and is only revolutionary in the sense that a people are returning to the radical root of government by the people in overthrowing tyrants and reestablishing the priority of the majority over the minority whose policies they find most objectionable.
We are familiar with unicameral government in many cities of the United States as well as in the State of Nebraska, which is not only unicameral but happens to also be nonpartisan, not to mention the many unicameral legislatures throughout the world.
Unicameral governments are ideally suitable for conducting the people’s affairs in a businesslike fashion to everyone’s profit, while bicameral governments are vestiges of the struggle for domination of the war of all against all, conquest for self-enrichment, a contest of the rich for more riches at everyone’s expense, where true democracy is limited to and owned by the few power elite and vested interests.
Unicameral government suffered a major setback in Europe with the Revolutionary Terror in France. The outrages were in fact relatively few compared to the population, but they were horrible enough upon publication to frighten the wits out of nobility in neighboring countries, and even converted Hegel to a more conservative dialectic.
The Bourbon Restoration was moderated by political philosophers and activists known as Doctrinaires, who advocated “nationalizing” the monarchy by tempering its powers according to the general will of the people. Benjamin Constant, a French-Swiss Doctrinaire, took up in Principles of Politics (1815) the nebulous notion of the general will for which Rousseau is famous and deemed a totalitarian by archconservatives.
Arguably, there is really no such thing as the General Will, but the phrase is still meaningful to nominalists.
“The world knows only two kinds of power,” claims romantic Constant. “There is force, the illegitimate kind; and there is the legitimate kind, the general will.”
What we mean by “general will” is not a willful spirit in common but rather a general consent to be governed. The vast majority of people would rather be governed by experts so they may themselves engage in private pursuits. A revolution that returns us to our radical roots or primitive platform may be advocated by anarchists, who propose utopia without government, but the real anarchists among the soapbox teapots would use murderous means to replace the despots and become tyrants themselves.
“There are only two forms of government, if we may even give them that title at all, which are essentially and eternally illegitimate, because no society could want them: anarchy and despotism…. Despotism and anarchy are more alike than people think. In our era, people gave the name “anarchy,” meaning the absence of government, to a government which was the most despotic that has ever existed on earth: a committee of a few men, who endowed their functionaries with boundless power, with courts tolerating no appeal, with laws based on mere suspicions, with judgments without due process, with numberless incarcerations and a hundred judicial murders a day…. The Revolutionary government was most certainly not an absence of government….Government is the use of public force against individuals. When it is used to stop them hurting each other, it is a good government. When it is used to oppress them, it is a frightful government, but in no sense is it anarchic. The Committee of Public Safety was government; so was the Revolutionary Tribunal. The law of suspects embodied government too. This was detestable, but certainly not anarchic. It was not for lack of government that the French people were butchered by executioners. On the contrary, it happened only because executioners were doing the governing.”
Nobility everywhere, at least those who did not side with the people and assist the progress to freedom, considered majority rule by consent of the supermajority if not all people to be an anarchic rule by the rabble, which by all means should be constitutionally thwarted or at least tempered by a “first” or noble house of parliament. The fallacy, however, is in the association of the commons with anarchy and nobility with wisdom and order, for there is even more wisdom in the crowd than in the few; and the crowd is, sometimes to its misfortune, far more conservative than revolutionary.
Indeed, if what was in actually a changing of the guard in North America may be called a revolution, less than ten percent of the population that enjoyed the traditional English liberties initially wanted revolutionary independence from the mother country, and the rest were careful to demand that the Constitution be amended to include those English liberties in writing lest they be derived of them despite the assurances of leaders that the statement of those liberties would be redundant. Most of the revolutionary leaders were wealthy in comparison to the “rabble,” and were in want of more property free of British legal restraints. Taxes were not really onerous, so the cry of taxation without representation was raised. They wanted to be a law unto themselves.
Furthermore, since the representatives in a congress should be representing the people of one nation, the notion that the congress should be divided in two to protect the nation from an impetuous mob is absurd and constitutes the alienation of the governing power from the people to a foreign institution. And if one house is there merely to check the other, why not have three or four houses or houses ad infinitum until each citizen is a house to himself? The U.S. Senate no more protects the nation from itself as a mob, if that the poeple may be called, than the Electoral College protects the nation from the popular election of a madman as its head, which was its original intention.
As for France, no less than Jeremy Bentham warned his French “fellow-citizens” (‘On Houses of Peers and Senates’) of the liberal cosmos against having an upper house in their legislature. Bentham is a difficult read yet entertaining and enlightening if one is patient enough to delve into his voluminous work for his influences and to find that everything boils down to pain and pleasure and the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, a utilitarian notion that may render people in sparsely populated areas quite unhappy in comparison to city dwellers.
That does not mean, however, that we need a Senate with two senators from each state. The popular representation in the House of Representatives is proportional to the populations of the states, and the states are protected from federal legislative intrusion by the Thirteenth Amendment. Our senators are few in number compared to representatives in the “lower” house, hence are better known (noble) and factitiously dignified by that recognition, and enjoy the power to kill or obstruct legislation proposed by the people’s assembly in order to bend the general will to the minority will. The tabling and delays and negotiations of modifications and amendments creates an illusion of rational deliberation as the real business is done in back rooms and in campaign calls for contributions from vested and moneyed special interests, thus do senators grow long in tooth in the senate, and wealthy to boot, with the cost of a seat in this modern day house of lords running into the millions of dollars.
Bentham identified the “influence” of notables with “corruption” and warned France not to be deluded by the trappings of the crown, the vestiges of which were established in the United States Senate but which are now being rightfully dragged in the mud with the unadulterated exposure of political prostitution.
The “influence” of the Senate in Benthamite terms would be a corrupt influence, and would be better spoken of as the “corruption” of the Senate.
To come home to your Chamber of Peers. — Part and parcel of the matter of corruption would be, every atom of honour, every atom of dignity, meaning always, factitious honour and factitious dignity, manufactured as above, – every spark of lustre, and every spark of splendour, possessed by the chamber of peers, or by any member of it, as such. Let it be called influence — influence simply, or legitimate influence—would it— now, at any rate, – be the less clearly seen to be the corruption that it is? Would not the speaking of it, as necessary, or even contributory, to the support of good government, be, by all lovers of good government, regarded as an endeavour to produce illusion?— maleficent illusion?
He speaks of “dignity” as a “sort of ignus fatuus,” a foolish fire or ghostly will-of-the-wisp light seen over marshes at night in the form of luminous balls that retreat when approached. These are unlike the gas street lamps that illuminate reality. Dignity “requires lustre and splendour for the support of it. Itself it is a necessary support to the throne: but then, this same self requires supports; and these are splendour and lustre, or lustre and splendour: one or both, which you please. ‘This that you are writing (I thinkI hear you, my children, saying) is stark nonsense.’ Yes: so it is, indeed: but nonsense cannot be appropriately represented without nonsense.”
The last sentence reminds us of the rabbi who replied to his students when they asked him to teach them the cabala that he could not teach nonsense, but he could teach them the history of nonsense.
We are disillusioned of the factitious exaltation of the U.S. Senate. Its virtue is exposed as vice. The U.S. Constitution needs amendment. We should witness the evolving wisdom of the mother country. Commons rules: the House of Lords has been emasculated. It is no longer the highest court in the land, and it can only temporarily delay legislation.
The people of the United States suffered long enough special interests who have amassed wealth and with it the ability to purchase legislation and corrupt the government, especially efficiently in the Senate, whose members are few in number.
The United States Senate should be abolished in favor of a unicameral legislature or at least emasculated. This nation of great common people needs to adopt the cabinet sort of government. We no longer have kings and should not worship temporarily elected kings as presidents. The president would not be elected but would be a chief executive chosen by the majority in Congress, where minorities would be protected as they are in the British Parliament.
The chaos today, if at all possible under that system, and any irresolvable dissonance tomorrow, would be resolved by a vote of no confidence, and elections would then be held for a new government, and not at an enormous waste of campaign funds that amount to legal bribery with big money at an enormous advantage.
August 4, 2017