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Friday, February 25, 2011

Online Privacy and Advertising Databanks: Kant, Societal Norms, and Regulation

$26 billion-a-year by 2011, the internet advertising market is lucrative to venture capitalists who want to invest into companies that help target online advertising. Between 2007 and 2010, venture firms invested $4.7 billion in 356 online-ad firms. "Its a huge market and it's growing," Chris Fralic at First Round Capital says. Fralic's company has backed 33Across, which analyzes users' social networks, and Demdex, which has a "behavioral bank" of user profiles. Ethically, user on-line privacy is at issue. I contend that user privacy can be protected from dangers of concern to users while willing users can benefit as consumers from information regarding products that they want and would not otherwise know of.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business, which is available at Amazon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Society Based on Corporate Culture: A Case of Sickness behind Fakeness?

Scripted "conversations" for employees.   Some customers as "members," and the others "not."   A larger cup of coffee being an "upgrade."   It occurs to me that a blue collar worker would simply laugh in the face of a chain retail store employee using any of these misappropriations as if they were natural and fitting.  That the rest of us don't laugh and the employees are not even likely to be aware of their own fakeness, much less stop it, tells me that modern society has to some extent adopted the corporate practice, even if tacitly.  That is to say, many of us have been mindwashed into accepting fakeness as authentic in the public square.

The full essay has been incorporated into (or swallowed up by) On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

Executive Stature: Glimpses of the Man Behind the Curtain

One of the perks of corporate office is the presumption of stature and legitimacy.  In other words, the general public typically brings all sorts of assumptions along when reading about the behavior of a CEO.  I contend that the reality of the person behind the curtain is far different from what is portrayed.  That is to say, at least with respect to how CEO's typically want to be viewed in terms of corporate responsibility, I suspect that the reality in the executive suites is far different.  In fact, the reality can be downright childish.  Richard Fuld, who was the CEO at Lehman Brothers, may well have behaved like a six year old when upset. Had the general public been given a view of Fuld's antics, we would have shaken our heads not simply out of utter disbelief that such immaturity could be in such a position, but also in recognition of the gap between public and private persona.  Such a gap is dangerous in a republic wherein the electorate is to hold the government in check (and the government in turn is charged with protecting the public and the market system itself from being compromised from firms too big to fail). 

The full essay is at "Executive Stature."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Libya and the World in 2011: A Higher Calling

On February 21, 2011, Libyan military aircraft fired live ammunition at crowds of anti-government protesters in Tripoli. "What we are witnessing today is unimaginable," said Adel Mohamed Saleh, an activist in the capital. "Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead." Arabiya television put the number killed on that day alone at 160. Gadhafi's son had vowed on television the day before that his father and security forces would fight "until the last bullet." I suspect that few people were surprised to find that Gadhafi would mount a sustained vituperative effort against the pro-democracy movement that was sweeping through the Middle East. "These really seem to be last, desperate acts. If you're bombing your own capital, it's really hard to see how you can survive, " said Julien Barnes-Dacey, Control Risks' Middle East analyst. "But I think Gaddafi is going to put up a fight ... in Libya more than any other country in the region, there is the prospect of serious violence and outright conflict," he said. As the world received reports of the massacre, a latent question not being asked was whether the world (or even a coalition therein in case of a holdout like China) has the right or an obligation to intervene militarily to stop the offending regime against its own defenseless people. I contend that there is such a right and moral obligation--meaning that national sovereignty does not extend to crimes against humanity. Sadly, at the time of the Libyan protests and Gaddafi's retaliation, the world's government offiicals were still largely impotent and disorganized.

The full essay is at "Libya and the World in 2011."

Source:

"Gadhafi: 'I'm in Tripoli, not Venezuela," February 22, 2011. NBCNews.com.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility: Too Often a Weapon

Typically, responsibility is something people working in a business presume applies to the other guy…whether a customer, supplier or distributor.  The idea is that then the other guy will pay for the problem.  That someone working in the business might have been at fault is not even considered, at least outwardly, in this mentality of otherness-responsibility.  Responsibility here means “I won’t pay; you must pay!”  It is essentially immature self-centeredness and cheapness used as a weapon.

The full essay has been incorporated into (or swallowed up by) On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

Lehman Bros: Insufficient Accountability in Corporate Governance

In an executive meeting at Lehman in the summer of 2008, Skip McGee told Richard Fuld and the other top executives that the market was demanding “that we hold ourselves accountable.”  Essentially, he was pushing for Gregory’s outster.  What strikes me is what he didn’t say–namely, something like, “the stockholders are holding us accountable!”  Had he said this, Fuld might have laughed. Of course, Richard Fuld was a major stockholder, so he might have viewed it as “holding myself accountable to myself.”  Given the inherent ethical conflict of interest in such a statement, I don’t think we can rely on corporate governance as a check on excessive managerial risk-taking when executives hold a substantial share of the stock.  Therefore, in including stock options in executive compensation to align executives' incentives with medium and long-term firm performance, boards should add institutional safeguards or accountability mechanisms to corporate governance. In business-speak, there is a cost incurred that boards may not be aware of in aligning executive compensation (and firm ownership) with future profitability.

The full essay is at "Insufficient Accountability" in Essays on the Financial Crisis.


Electoral Fraud in Afghanistan: A Precursor to the Protests in the Middle East?

The UN’s Electoral Complaints Commission recommended in 2009 that Afganistan’s Independent Election Commission invalidate 210 polling stations where the ECC found “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.”  The IEC in turn announced a run-off election because Karzai no longer had over 50% of the vote.  MSNBC reported that “the Karzai-influenced election commission may refuse to call for a runoff.” CNN reported that Karzai and Abdullah were trying to “cut some sort of deal” on a coaliation government that would have obviated, or skirted, a run-off.  Such a compromise would have been woefully inadequate from the standpoint of democratic process.

Even Karzai’s announcement that he would go along with a run-off can be read as presumptuous.  If he didn’t want to go along with it, he need not have taken part.  That one candidate’s feels his refusal to participate would or should cancel an election suggests a rather squalid presumptuousness that ought to be made transparent to the voters.  It is a sad commentary on representative democracy that the Afghan IEC’s decision was probably dependent on Karzai having been under international pressure to agree to the run-off.   Is it too idealist to insist that the candidate should have been informed by the IEC of its decision rather than permitting it?   For one of the candidates to have had a de facto veto on the election commission evinces a lack of democratic infrastructure.  It is like a cart pulling the horse.

In retrospect, we know that Karzai’s victory was fraudulent, even though he continued on in the campaign as a viable candidate.  What does it say when fraud is not punished?  Is having a run-off sufficient punishment?  Were all of the candidates benefitting from the fraud tossed out and a new open election held, would this be so catastrophic? I contend that the protests that occurred in the Middle East in 2011 for greater democracy can be interpreted as having been occassioned by years of frustration stemming from the sort of electoral facade perpetuated by dictators such as Karzai.  If so, the costs of not nipping electoral fraud in the bud far outweight any trouble involved in insisting on electoral accountability.  In the case of the U.S., foreign aid to Afghanistan could have been cut off in 2009 unless or until an open and fair election could be verified. With such a substantive signal given and repeated with regard to other dictators in the Middle East who were using the facade of democracy for legitimacy, some of the mass protests taking place two years later might have been obviated and lives saved that were otherwise lost.

Sources:
http://cnnwire.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/23/karzai-challenger-prefers-opposition-to-coalition/
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33394277/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

Prohibiting Interracial Marriage: Testing the Limits of Tolerance in a Federal Empire

In October, 2009, it was widely publicized in the press that a justice of the peace in Louisiana had been refusing to marry interracial couples (what if both people are multiracial?). He was subsequently fired. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, said it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children." As astounding as this sounds in the twenty-first century in a modern society, the case demonstrates the thesis that an empire, or Union of many States, is inherently diverse--incredibly diverse in fact. Europeans tend to view the United States as though it were itself akin to a state (i.e., homogeneous). In truth, the United States are indeed as diverse as is the European Union (language is not the only basis of diversity).  A person in Boston reading a newspaper about the justice in the peace in Louisiana could be excused for thinking for a moment that Louisiana is another country. To be sure, the large states in the U.S. are equivalent in size to the large member-states in the E.U. Territory does matter in terms of cultural diversity.

The full essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.


Health-Care Insurance Reform: A Spectrum of Alternatives With Respect to Federalism

In 2009, the U.S. Senate’s majority leader, Harry Reid, proposed a government-run “public” health-care insurance option with an “escape hatch.”   According to The New York Times, “A state could refuse to participate in the public insurance plan by adopting a law to opt out.”    While this proposal would barr a State refusing the public option from participating in the coops that are also a part of Reid’s proposal, the basic “opt out” arrangement is in line with federalism and, moreover, with the inherent heterogenious or diverse nature of an empire spanning across and continent and beyond. In contrast, Olympia Snowe’s preference for “a fallback, safety-net plan” that would trigger the public option in States where insurance companies fail to offer affordable plans is antithetical to federalism because the States would have no choice in whether the plan was triggered.

The approach most in line with federalism would be for the health-plans to be designed in the State governments, with the U.S. Government focused on matters that the States cannot (not will not) do, such as presenting a united foreign policy to the world.  If there is a lowest common denominator for health-care in the US as per the fundamental principles of the Union, a basic program passed by the U.S. Government would be consistent with also having State plans.   Next closest, the U.S. Government would supply money for health-care, which the State governments would decide how to spend.  Even less in line with federalism would be the design of the programs being done by Congress and the WH, with separate opt-outs for the public and coop insurance plans.   Reid’s proposal was less in line with federalism, and finally, as least in line with it, was Snowe’s preference.

The U.S. Senate: What Is It Really? (Part 2)

The US Senate is “absurd.” So said Katie Connolly of MSNBC in 2010.  She was referring to Sen Shelby (R-AL) being able to singlehandedly place a hold on all pending nominations.  Citing a congressional scholar, Johathan Chait noted that a blanket hold has never been used before. Connolly argued that Shelb was doing it “because he wants a European corporation to build some planes in his state.”  Such a reason would be ubiquitous if not squalid enough in either body of the US Congress, so it is certainly plausable.  One might recall the money Sen. Ben Nelson got for Nebraska by agreeing to the health care reform bill.  In needing all 60 votes from the democrats and two independents, that bill gave us all a reminder of what an international body is like where each member has a veto.  In singlehandedly blocking all pending nominations before the US Senate, Sen Shelby was drawing on this theory as well.  While it is easy to trounce on each Senator (or each state) having a veto, I would argue that it is far less sordid than Shelby’s reason (i.e., more pork).  Because every state in the Union is semi-sovereign (and enjoys residual sovereignty as per the tenth amendment), there is constitutional support for any state represented in the US Senate having a veto on any legislation or appointment.  Because the veto is based on governmental sovereignty (i.e., the US Senate being in this respect an international body—unlike the US House), Alabama can use its veto even for reasons we might find disgusting.

So if each Senator (who represents his or her state as a political body even though he or she is elected by the citizens of his or her state) having a veto makes the US Senate “absurd” (and I join with those who are frustrated by it), we might want to consider the consequences that would be involved in depriving the political members of the Union of their vetos in the General Government (ie., Washington).  We could expect an acceleration in the consolidation of power in the General Government at the expense of the state governments—resulting in one size fits all in a heterogenous empire-scale Union (i.e., empire).  Any state government objecting to Washington taking over yet another domain of power would be powerless to stop that train without breaks running down the tracks toward a central state.  Meanwhile, that train would be able to pass more legislation through the US Senate, further accelerating its speed.

Some time back, I asked Sandra Day O’Connor of the US Supreme Court why she wasn’t objecting to the US Government going beyond its enumerated powers.  She replied to the small group that Congress was acting like a state legislature.  Disgust was palpable in her voice.  In a sense of futility, she added that it takes five on the US Supreme Court to have a majority decision (meaning that a majority would not go along with her on the enumerated powers matter).   You might be wondering what is wrong with Congress acting like a state legislature. The problem is that the US is in scale (and its make-up) commensurate with an empire by today’s standards.  In other words, most of our states are equivalent to countries.  You just can’t (or shouldn’t) run a combination of countries as though it were one country.  For one thing, a combo is inherently diverse.  Also, its center is further from the people.  It means less democracy or republican principles of representation because there are far fewer US Reps and Senators than state Reps and Senators.  Also, the US Government is designed as an empire-level polity.  Whereas the states’ Senates represent citizens (just as the states’ assemblies do), the US Senate (unlike the US House) represents political entities (the states) rather than US citizens.  In other words, both US citizens and US states are members of the US.  The US Government isn’t fashioned like a state government because the Union is a combination of such states (whereas a state is not a combo of republics in turn).

So we ought to be very careful about kneejerk reactions to fix the “absurd” US Senate.  To be sure, holding up appointments to get pork is squalid even by a pig’s standards, but turning the US Senate into a state senate would drastically alter what the US are.   Even though we use “the US” as a singular noun, the entity itself and its government were formed and designed with it as a plural noun (the states) in mind.  The US constitutional convention delegates invented modern federalism to suit this new genus of an empire: the Union.  The EU has since come into being along similar principles because it is of the same genus.  To treat either the US or EU as though it were commensurate with one of its states would be to treat something other than what it is.  That can only lead to a downfall.   So perhaps rather than change the US Senate to fit our understanding, we might alter our understanding to fit what the US are. This would entail taking the pressure off of the US Senate by returning most of the domestic legislation to the state governments (where there is more democracy).  Consider the coherence in having the US Senate  mainly involved in foreign policy (and regulating between the states) and having a filibuster (which is close to the principle of international organization).  That is, the state governments meet in the US Senate technically on an international basis. Moreover, the U.S. Constitution forms a hybrid between or composed of international and national governance.  This unique situs fits with the empire-scale of the United States, especially as they have expanded to fifty. 
Treating the US Senate as a state legislature…legislating on everything from healthcare to education…is a gross departure from this coherence.  It is indeed absurd—only we have the arrows reversed.  It is our use of the US Senate that is absurd—not the Senate’s principles (even though they can be abused, such as by Nebraska and Alabama). Treating the US Senate (and the Union) as other than what it is can only lead to the fall of our empire…our Union of States. To be sure, every empire that rises must fall.  So why write?  I’m merely trying to stay the fall a bit, but the outcome is certain.  In the meantime, let’s not help it along.  This will take more humility and much less presumptuousness in what we think we know about our system of public governance.  With more humility, perhaps more of us will be content to get involved in our state governments.  As it is, we overlook them and advocate changing the US Senate into our own image of what it should be, presuming the extant Senate is "absurd" (perhaps it is sheer hubris to make such a summary judgement?).

Source: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2010/02/05/need-more-evidence-the-senate-is-absurd-look-no-further.aspx

The U.S. Senate: What Is It Really? (Part 1)

In 1928, the Senate stopped the bill that would have given WWI vets their bonus then rather than in 1946.  Mass protests for weeks by thousands of vets on the U.S. Capitol may have swayed the U.S. House, but the Senate was undaunted: passage of the bill would be economically disasterous .   Such a scenerio is exactly what the delegates in the U.S. constitutional convention in 1787 would have predicted.  They designed the House to reflect the passions of the people, and the Senate as a check on such passion where it is intemperate.   Looking back at Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, the delegates feared excess democracy.  No supporter of the Senate, Madison nonetheless points out that “a numerous body of Representatives were liable to err also, from fickleness and passion. A necessary fence against this danger would be to select a portion of enlightened citizens, whose limited number, and firmness might seasonably interpose against impetuous councils” (Madison’s Notes, p. 194).

However, the delegates also designed the U.S. Senate “to represent the wealth of the Country” (Pinkney, in Madison’s Notes, p. 198).  Col. Mason claimed that “one important object in constituting the Senate was to secure the rights of property” (Madison’s Notes, p. 200).  Does being wealthy make one temporate or enlightened?   Madison observes that “wisdom & virtue” are among the objects of the proposed Senate (Madison’s Notes, p. 195).  Does being wealthy mean that one is apt to stand up for virtue?  Does wisdom come from having inherited or earned wealth?

As if these two purposes etched in the design of the U.S. Senate are not sufficiently disjoined, the delegates also intended that the Senate represent the State governments so as to proffer them a means of defending their turf against encroachment by the U.S. Government.  Senators were selected by State governments before the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.  It was debated in the convention whether popular election would give the senators a sufficient incentive to protect their respective State governments.  The delegates concluded that it would be insufficient, and history has proved them right–as the governments of the States have steadily lost power to the expansive U.S. Government.

So, the U.S. Senate was designed as a check on the excess democracy possible in the U.S. House, to protect the interests of property, and to represent the State governments and protect the balance of power so crucial to the viability of federalism.   It is not clear to me that these three functions are mutually-supporting or even compatible.  I don’t see evidence in Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of any consideration of the assumed compatibility.

Just as any human institution is apt to subtly morph if it endures for a sufficient time, the U.S. Senate has changed through the centuries.  As a result of the 17th Amendment wherein U.S. Senators are now popularly elected (by State), the U.S. Senate is more democratic–hence more like the House.  The six year senatorial term is a buffer, to be sure. However, re-election is never too far off to be absent from a given Senator’s political and legislative calculation.   Hence we are unwittingly leaving ourselves vulnerable to our own excesses.  Are we assuming that our passionate, spur-of-the-moment, collective impulse cannot be reckless and ultimately not in our own best interest?

I have already pointed to the implications for the State governments, and we have seen their eclipse through the last century.   What about the protection of property?  How does this mix with the more-democratic “structural tendency” in the Senate?   Are Senators more oriented to the upper-class voters while soothing the rest as if we too are being represented?  In other words, is there a sort of duplicity built-in to this combination?

In my opinion, the U.S. Senate can represent the State governments while simultaneously serving as a check on the intemporate excesses possible in the U.S. House.  Property is sufficiently represented in the U.S. Government as a whole, given the small number of elected and appointed officials relative to the entire population.   I would look to the commensurate European Council in the E.U.   The Council not only represents the State governments, the chief executives of the States (or their ministers when specialized topics are decided) sit on the Council.   It is a viable check on the European Parliament, which is commensurate with the U.S. House (i.e., elected representatives by the people of the EU).   We could do better by emulating the European Council.

Accordingly, I recommend that the governors sit in the Senate (which would meet periodically…with the governors’ respective staffs doing the leg work), with the relevant members of the States’ cabinets meeting on specialized topics.   This might seem confusing, but it works in Europe.  Essentially, officials in the respective State governments would meet in a common council.  50, not 100 members.  The latter number is too numerous for a council.   Because governors are elected, democracy would not be shirked even as the Senate would be a viable check on the excesses in the House (because the governors acting in a council are “two degrees” from the voters while the U.S. Reps are only one).   To be sure, the Senate would not be meeting every day, but meeting periodically to decide the major points.

The Senate representing the State governments would distinguish the Senate from being a replica of the House.  Do we really need two Houses?   Strictly speaking, proportional representation applies where citizens are being represented.  In contrast, in an intergovernmental council each government is a member–a person, as it were–regardless of how much each weights (e.g., different populations, territorial size, or wealth).  The European Council deviates from the “intergovernmental council” model because the number of votes assigned to the governments is influenced by its population.  I don’t see why the Senate would no longer be an intergovernmental council just because the votes are proportional; the key would be that governments would be voting, so the one vote per government could be relaxed.  Because proportional represention is the rule in the U.S. House, the big States can protect themselves.  So I don’t view the one vote per government in the Senate as problematic in terms of the Congress as a whole.  In general terms, the more we can distinguish the two bodies of the Congress, the more we enrich our system of government by taking advantage of the unique contributions from different forms of polity.   If there is a downside to proportional representation,  a Senate not partaking of that method would automatically be a check (and vice versa, of course).

Duplicity in International Affairs and the Eclipse of Democracy: Subterranean Deals Centered Around Afghanistan

Abdullah Abdullah withdrew on November 1, 2009 from the runoff election in Afghanistan.   Interestingly, Hilary Clinton and a spokesman for President Karzai characterized Abdullah’s withdraw in virtually identical terms—namely, as “his personal decision.”  Such a stance makes sense because both the American Government and Karzai had an interest in the Afghan electoral process being perceived as legitimate.   It is interesting, however, that the identical interpretation was instantly available to the press.   Perhaps U.S. Senator John Kerry had urged Karzai to agree to the runoff by telling him of a secret deal between the American Government and Abdullah that would have Abdullah pull out with a statement affirming the legitimacy of the electoral system.   That is, I wonder if the U.S. senator promised Abdullah something that essentially short-circuited the electoral process.  Karzai would look like a statesman without having to risk losing power, and Abdullah would get something rather than a probable election defeat.  The US would get stability in a Karzai government without having to worry about another controversial election.
As it turned out, Abdullah did not keep to the script; he denounced the continued corruption in the continued occupants of the Karzai-hired electoral commission (a blatant conflict of interest for any electoral body, to be sure).   Also, the runoff itself was cancelled.  Was this part of the deal?  If so, the deal I suspect took place was very well hidden, or subterranean in nature and intention.

What concerns me overall from this case is the extent to which such a deal would deviate from the story that we, the public, were told.  If there was such a deal, it would have been at odds with the democratic process, which really needed a fair runoff election rather than a collapse (or fait accompli).  A runoff could have served as an opportunity to fix or strengthen the democratic process while demonstrating that electoral fraud can be extinguished without resort to revolution.  Not only was the world left with no such hope; we saw the democratic process truncated ,and thus as still deeply flawed. 

This might be naive, but for many years American presidents have been giving lip service to supporting representative democracy around the world.  It would be sad were the same presidents actually thwarting it on account of political expediency (such as clearing the way for a decision on a new troop surge).   I refuse to accept that integrity in place duplicity is too much to realistically ask for.  Ironically, had the US and UN invested people and energy into building fire-walls in Afganistan’s electoral process such that the runoff would have truly been free and fair (including from threats of violence), the American goal with respect to the country would have been much closer to being realized than by sending in a surge of miltary force.   In going for the expedient route, the American elected representatives and their appointees looked corrupt or compromised themselves.  In the end, it is up to us, the citizens—of whatever republic—to say enough is enough and to resist the temptation to pull the lever in the voting booth as we did last time.  Otherwise, we are to blame—as enablers rather than as game changers.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/11/01/afghanistan.election/index.html

On the Virtue of a Constitutional Moment: Reassessing the American System of Government

A constitutional moment engaging the citizenry is urgently needed with respect to the system of government in the United States. In short, the citizenry should decide, as a people, whether to revert back to a federal system or to make the political consolidation that has ensued official. If the latter, Alexander Hamilton's suggestion that the states be districts of the US Government, whose energy he thought could not directly extend to the outer reaches of the empire (i.e., into the wilderness of states distant from the seat of the U.S. Government). This was Hamilton's view in the U.S. Constitutional Convention; his writings eventually published in The Federalist Papers were meant to sell the proposed constitution rather than to give his own proposal. His own view may have come to pass, though through incremental Congressional encroachment on the turf of the governments of the several states and concurring U.S. Supreme Court assuaging (or enabling) doctrines.  I submit that this process of change over many years has eventuated in a gap between the system of governance as it is and as it is to be constitutionally.  Whereas some people argue that we must revert back to the constitution following a "strict" construction, I believe we the people, as a people, should commence a constitutional moment of heightened attention and debate concerning whether we want centralized consolidation (i.e., no states), decentralized consolidation (i.e., states as districts), or federalism (which entails dual sovereignty and a balance of power between the general government and the governments of the states).  I believe the latter is the best suited for an inherently diverse empire-scale political union, but that the people reach a decision is the imporant point now.  For otherwise, we will continue to live a lie--to claim to be a federal system while actually being consolidated: essentially flying with miscalibrated instruments. 

Actually making a decision on the type of political system is better than having the system inadvertantly change as a byproduct of whatever issue is being legislated at the moment. If the latter habit continues, I suspect that the United States will continue along the trend of consolidation at the expense of the State governments, with Congress, the U.S. President, and the U.S. Supreme Court gaining more and more power without sufficient checks on their abuse of power.  Progressives could look back on Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court allowing President George W. Bush to essentially declare war on Iraq and command the forces, while conservatives could look back on "Obamacare" applying to every state. Being concerned about the government of the Union having too much power is or ought to be an American proclivity. So too, the need for a decision on what type of political system the United States should have bears on every citizen, regardless of party.  This is what a constitutional moment is, after all; the people itself rising to discuss the system of government itself without being distracted by partisan issues of the day. To be sure, such a moment requires self-discipline among the people and responsibility in the media, so to keep on topic.

I find myself wondering why I even make the arguments.  It would take so much energy and agreement just to get to a constitutional moment wherein the citizenry as a whole become engaged in revisiting the governance system itself.  We are so easily distracted, and do we, as a citizenry, really care whether our government is federal or consolidated?   It might be that most of the citizenry is ready to say good riddence to federalism.  If so, then so be it.  Let’s at least make a decision.  If we as a people are incapable of making such a decision, it might be asked whether we are capable of democracy itself. It would be ironic if we were preaching democracy to the Middle East while not embracing popular sovereignty here at home.