Canada versus the US of A
Labels: barack obama
Politics is too often regarded as a poor relation, inherently dependent and subsidiary; it is rarely praised as something with a life and character of its own. Politics is not religion, ethics, law, science, history, or economics; it neither solves everything, nor is it present everywhere; and it is not any one political doctrine, such as conservatism, liberalism, socialism, communism, or nationalism, though it can contain elements of most of these things. Politics is politics, to be valued in itself, not because it is 'like' or 'really is' something else more respectable or peculiar. Politics is politics. The person who wishes not to be troubled by politics and to be left alone finds himself the unwitting ally of those to whom politics is a troublesome obstacle to their well-meant intentions to leave nothing alone (pp. 15-16).
The original form of the American Constitution may be read as reserving to the individual states the authority to occupy law’s entire province, minus the federal fraction. But language expressly limiting the range of governmental law entered the national text in 1791, as nervous founders added the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in the Bill of Rights: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The most obvious aim of these reservations was to create a hedge against tendencies to monopoly not by the states but by the new federal regime. But, in doing so, they also by implication limited the power of the states to occupy all of the remaining range of lawmaking. Given the references to “the people,” it is hard to read these texts as an invitation to a local monopoly by, say, Oregon or Wisconsin. The people hold ground of their own in both amendments. The word or in the Tenth Amendment even makes the individual state and its people competitors in the creation of law, suggesting that the two could exercise their powers contrarily within the uncharted zone.
A clear judicial recognition that parents are an independent source of law for their children—making and enforcing commands that no state or federal government can preempt or forbid—would have profound practical consequences. In the years to come, conflicts between agencies of the state and parents are likely to increase, and courts will be asked, more and more, to reexamine the limits of the parentocracy. Wealth and improving technology will constantly present new options for parents. The educational versatility of the Internet is making homeschooling easier and more attractive, for instance, letting more parents remove their children from the direct influence of the public-school system; already advocates of conscriptive public schooling worry that these children will not be properly socialized and given correct information about sex, medicine, the environment, or whatever these advocates feel they need.
The significance of all this, however, depends less on who wins particular cases than on which of two master images dominates the consciousness of the nation’s judges: the image of delegation to parents from the monopoly state, or the counterimage of a sovereign parentocracy.
Unlike such countries as Canada and Britain, which retained the outward institution of monarchy but developed constitutional conventions by which real power was devolved upon boring legislatures, countries such as the U.S. and France chose to enhance the power of their monarchs, by giving them the golden sceptre of democratic legitimacy.
The British genius was to separate the charisma and pageantry of State from the actual exercise of power within it. Thus, so great a leader as Winston Churchill could wear some pretty attractive hats, but never a crown.
The American genius has been to flaunt that pageantry, in direct association with the power. Their presidents wear no crown, but the omission merely commemorates the conventions of the 18th century, when kings often went hatless, if not headless.
[A]lthough I have never lived in a small town, I was taken with the setting and the relationships nurtured by it. Imagine living in one place one's whole life and enjoying the proximity of lifelong friendships. In a mobile society friendships are generally cultivated for a time and then have to be maintained in attenuated form over a distance as someone moves away. (I have never entirely reconciled myself to this fact of contemporary life.) But [John] Ames and old Boughton — best friends from childhood — grow old together and seemingly face death at nearly the same moment.