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Democracy



     Responding to my proposal for a worldwide reform to make the chief justice or another member of the Supreme Court head of state (not government), Hoover Fellow Larry Diamond writes:


     Your statement is interesting but I disagree with it. I am against any constitutional changes unless there is an urgent and overwhelming case to be made for them. In general, I just do not like constitutional tinkering.
     Beyond this, I do not think it is a good idea to choose a court justice as head of state; it undermines the separation of powers, even if the latter office is largely ceremonial. Beyond that, it isn't going to happen, so why get into it? We should think about changes that are feasible -- such as campaign finance reform that could address the current ills of American democracy.


     My comment: Constitutional amendments have played an important role in U.S. history, and cannot be dismissed as tinkering. They do not pass until the time is ripe and that time is difficult to foresee. I agree that much constitutional tinkering has taken place in countries like Bolivia, but that is an argument in favor of my proposal. The present plan to revise the Venezuelan constitution is the work of a strongman who had shown little respect for the constitution. Were the chief justice head of state, it would be a serious deterrent to such tinkering aimed at increasing the power of one individual or group As it is, whan a coup takes place, the court is pushed aside and it humbly says a new legal state exists.
     I agree that the proposed change should take place only when the time is ripe, and clearly in the United States that is not the case. I also agree most emphatically with the urgent need for campaign finance reform..

Ronald Hilton - 09/11/99


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