Thursday, December 19, 2013
The Capstone of Government
The British case, on the other hand, is quite different and yet here again the very document being lauded, the 1689 Bill of Rights, is at least somewhat self-defeating. The only problem with the unwritten British constitution is that the one entity which is supposed to defend it and which, allegedly, has the obligation to defend it has been completely robbed of the ability to do so in part because of those very events of 1688 and the changes which came after (of course there have been plenty of others, and more drastic ones since). At the coronation of every British monarch they must swear to uphold the law and administer justice and yet, because of the perpetual power-grabbing by Parliament, today the monarch is effectively incapable of doing this and, in fact, most legal experts in Britain today would consider it “unconstitutional” and illegal if the Queen attempted to actually uphold the very oath she took at her coronation. Yet, this is only one modern absurdity among many we can see today. Another would be politicians being required to swear allegiance to the Crown yet also being allowed by law to campaign for the abolition of the Crown. We see it as well in the law which makes Parliament supreme while Parliament votes away its powers to the European Union.
The United States, lest anyone think things are better in the “Great Republic” has come to the same thing, and in much less time. Contrary to what various presidents have said, “the buck stops” nowhere these days. The President does something that is illegal (something that violates the Constitution) and yet, the Constitution can do nothing to stop him. The opposition party may ask the Justice Department to investigate but, of course, the Attorney General is a presidential appointee and unlikely to find his boss guilty of any wrongdoing. The Congress is supposed to be able to do something but as any American should know, a thing is only illegal if someone in the *other* party does it. Unless the party opposed to the President controls large majorities in both houses, there is nothing they can do about a President who breaks the law. Most would think that the Supreme Court could do something, and it is probably true that most Americans consider them to now be the ultimate authority in the country (oddly, the institution to which one is appointed and serves for life, making it the least democratic) but, even if someone brought such a case to them and even if they deigned to hear it their ruling must be enforced by the President as they have no power other than to render opinion. As most familiar with American history know, presidents have refused to enforce Supreme Court rulings in the past and, in the right circumstances, there is no reason it couldn’t happen again.
One can debate whether or not another bill of rights would do the United Kingdom any good. Perhaps it would help for a while, perhaps it would not or perhaps it would be twisted to actually do even more harm. What is certain, and it is certain because the current bill of rights has failed in “its” duty, is that it would not be a perfect solution. Nor is their likely to be one so long as the public is limited in its thinking to trusting for the answer to their problems in more politicians (such as in the new House of So-Called Lords) or in more documents to be upheld and interpreted by politicians when the politicians are the very problem. When the monarch has been reduced to ceremonial status and the House of Peers destroyed in all but name, is it any surprise that the professional politicians of the Commons have been able to run wild? The public must awaken sufficiently to stop trusting those who advance themselves by playing on the public vanity. It must awaken to the fact that sometimes the popular majority can get it wrong and that any constitution or code of justice is only as good as those who are charged with upholding it. They must also realize that, even if they cannot consider allowing a monarch to rule or even have a share in governing, it is still a good idea to allow a monarch to say “no” and have that be the end of it. The public wanted that power and they have it. Most now realize something is wrong but they do not want to admit that maybe, just maybe, they are part of the reason why. Looking at the situation today, a monarch would not be unjustified to say to anyone asking for help, in the words of the last German Kaiser, “You’ve cooked this broth, and now you’re going to drink it”.