Sunday, May 4, 2008

We still know what’s best for us:A Reaction to Separation of Powers in Constitution-Making

I remember when I was a kid, my parents would bring me to the hospital whenever I get sick or feel ill. However, these rendezvous with doctors did not make me jump for joy. I’m not really crazy about the idea of seeing doctors smiling at their patients examining them with their stethoscope ordering to inhale and exhale. Afterwards, they’ll be interrogating with questions that during my age that time seemed senseless. I especially hate it when the doctors ask me about certain dates which I can’t remember. I just don’t keep track of how many glasses of water I drink a day, or when I ate this and that. Ends up, I just make up stories. Trust me when I tell that I’m a good story teller. After assessing my stories, the doctors then tell my parents that I’m sick with that and I have these symptoms, that I need to drink these medicines. What I’m driving at is that not all doctors’ diagnoses are right. They can be misleading, often relying on their inaccurate findings. In my case, it is my body and I should know better. Nevertheless, doctors are there to alleviate ailments and even if not exactly what their patients need, at least there are efforts to find cures.

My childhood experience is like the situation we have today. While I find it absurd that an outsider would suggest this and that about our constitution, it helps to understand how others see the system and governance in this country.

In Dr. John S. Baker Jr.’s lecture about separation of powers in constitution-making, I wasn’t surprised to discover the corruption of our officials and the dangers of changing from a presidential form of government to parliamentary.

Dr. Baker is a law professor at Louisiana State University. Logically, his background is founded on legalistic matters. I don’t exactly know the jargons of political science and more so of laws and legalities but what I do know is that a person’s background largely influence on how he thinks and deals with his affairs.

I noticed though that Dr. Baker didn’t dwell much about the separation of powers but he was able to impress the idea that in an effective government, there has to be a separation of power for check and balance to exist. It also enables to prevent the president in a presidential system from being a dictator while preventing the congress from abusing their legislative powers as well. According to Dr. Baker, the principle of separation of power is that each of the three branches has to be strong and is therefore watching and competing with the two other branches even while not being able to invade the other branches.

Moreover, what distracted me most during the lecture was Dr. Baker’s covert (or should I say overt) attempt to make the United States the epitome of every nation’s constitution. In his words,

“The whole idea of the rule of law is Western, it’s not Eastern. It’s a product of the ancient Greece passed on by Rome to the Medieval period and carried through England to the United States.”

To an ordinary audience, this overstatement would appear a fact and not only that, it tends to instill that normalizing feeling that since the rule of law is Western and Greece passed it to the U.S., they are in a way privileged to be looked upon and be models to everybody else. But Dr. Baker is quipped in saying that,

“It (constitution-making) had not penetrated the Eastern mind, which is not to say that ours is superior in the West and the Eastern is inferior, not at all. They’re different…”

To insinuate somebody’s superiority over somebody else is one thing. It’s another to tell us that it is not what it meant. To tell an audience something, that the clear conjecture is not correct is an insult to our intellect. Who’s Dr. Baker kidding?

I can’t blame Dr. Baker for the air of ethnocentricity in his lecture. Most developed countries think like they are the best and nobody else. Especially Americans, I don’t know if it’s just me but they seem to think that the world rotates around them. If there’s one aspect in American culture that I want to applaud, it’s their skill in manipulating people.

Many of Dr. Baker’s assumptions were cited from classic sources. He mentioned Aristotle’s classification of constitution, forms of government, and the good and bad points of democracy.

“When the U.S. Constitution came along, democracy was considered the worst possible form of government because every democracy had failed. It failed because many stole the property of the few. And so there has always been this class conflict.”

Again, Dr. Baker seems to have this false notion that the U.S. Constitution sparked all good constitution. Nevertheless, he also mentioned about Francis Fukiyama, a famous development writer saying that we need strong states, not weak states.

He also went over about the Federal Papers. The Federalist Papers is the collective title for 85 essays signed “Publius” and published (1787-88) in various New York newspapers to convince New York voters to support ratification of the new constitution of the U.S. The Essays failed in their immediate purpose for New York voted against ratification. They endured, however, as the classic analysis of the constitution and an influential treatise on federalism.

Finally according to Dr. Baker, even if he doesn’t like Hobbes as a political theorist, he admire the man because he understood power. Hobbes said that the ideology of politics is power –personal power, political power, and economic power.

“…if you want to win power for the middle class of this country, we have to align political power in such a way that it meets economic resources of this country… (which can be) spread among its people.”

Historical sources may be helpful in examining a present constitution, but I think, since
Experiences of people varies, not all political thoughts from these sources apply in today’s setting. I admit my ignorance regarding the contents of the papers of Dr. Baker’s sources, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that time is dynamic and events change.

Before I end this paper, let me tell you that if there’s one thing that I agree about Dr. Baker’s lecture, it’s his conception of the human nature as the beast.

“It is the nature of the beast. The beast is not only democracy, the beast is human nature.”

Theology says that man is by nature good, he is only corrupted by his environment that is why he becomes evil. In political science, that assumption is the reverse. Man is evil by nature. If you give man their liberty, they will abuse it. They will become greedy and corrupt the weak. All the corruption, self-interest, showmanship, etc. in our government are products of man’s nature to provide for himself and not for the state, not for the public good. And to think that our lawmakers want to centralize power to them, what do they think of us, morons? So long as we take care of our democracy and safeguard it against possible manipulation, we can save our future against the clench of power-hungry officials. Aside from that, we as one people should not close our doors from outside observations but we should keep in mind that the final verdict still rests in our hands. After all, we know what’s best for us, for our country.

Google+ Badge

Google+ Followers

Readers Also Viewed the Following