- May 9, 2010
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What is so bad about a government that has trouble passing laws simply because one side, or the other, thinks they are good ideas?
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Justice Scalia rejects dysfunctional government talk | ReutersSuch complaints escalated earlier this year when Congress squabbled over the debt ceiling while President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in the Senate battled with Republican lawmakers, especially in the House of Representatives.Scalia said the authors of the Constitution deliberately set up the U.S. system of government, with the separation of powers between the various branches, to make the legislative process difficult so only good legislation gets through.
"So Americans should learn to love the gridlock," Scalia told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Video (Scalia begins approximately 37 minutes in.)I ask them, Why do you think America is such a free country? What is it in out Constitution that makes us what we are? And I guarantee you that the response I will get and you will get this from almost any American *** the answer would be: freedom of speech; freedom of the press; no unreasonable searches and seizures; no quartering of troops in homes those marvelous provisions of the Bill of Rights.
But then I tell them, If you think a bill of rights is what sets us apart, youre crazy. Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights. Every president for life has a bill of rights. The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours. I mean it. Literally, it was much better. We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff!
Of course, its just words on paper, what our Framers would have called a parchment guarantee. And the reason is that the real constitution of the Soviet Union you think of the word constitution it doesnt mean bill it means structure: [when] you say a person has a good constitution you mean a sound structure. The real constitution of the Soviet Union *** that constitution did not prevent the centralization of power in one person or in one party. And when that happens, the game is over, the Bill of Rights is just what our Framers would call a parchment guarantee.
So, the real key to the distinctiveness of America is the structure of our govenment. One part of it, of course, is the independence of the judiciary, but theres a lot more. There are very few countries in the world, for example, that have a bicameral legislature. England has a House of Lords, for the time being, but the House of Lords has no substantial power; they can just make the [House of] Commons pass a bill a second time. France has a senate; its honorific. Italy has a senate; its honorific. Very few countries have two separate bodies in the legislature equally powerful. Thats a lot of trouble, as you gentlemen doubtless know, to get the same language through two different bodies elected in a different fashion.
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