Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained

The True Meaning of Democracy

Reading Room: Chapter 25 Summary

The Executive

“… Forwith from every squadron and each band
The heads and leaders thither haste, where stood
Their great commander …”

It was Alexander Hamilton’s dream to have a King in charge. Had he been alive today he probably would have been gratified to see the amount of power that has accrued to the office of the President. According to the Constitution, presidential powers are carefully outlined and rather modest. The congress legislates, coins money, raises an army, declares war, and shares with the president responsibility for appointing certain key officers and members of the Supreme Court. However, the waging of war and the creation of a permanent state of national emergency has resulted in the concentration of power in the hands of the president that would be the envy of many a monarch.

If the goal were to establish a presidency that was more consistent with the democratic ideal, there are several steps that could be taken. Tenure in office could be reduced to one four year term in a life-time. In the Articles of Confederation the president served for but one year.

The system of patronage that now exists allows the president to establish a political power base by distributing thousands of offices. An alternative would be to establish a vetted lottery. A pool of acceptable candidates is established in advance. Names are pulled by random selection.

Uniting executive power and military power in one person creates opportunities to abuse power that has ramifications throughout the country and the world. A partial remedy would be to establish a three-member war council made up of the president, a member of the House of Representatives and a member of the Senate, each selected by lottery and limited to serving for one year, only.