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We can no longer arrest our march towards mediocrity, because we have lost control of the machine that controls us. Thus we have forfeited our place in destiny, but due to the long, slow, patient nature of the unfolding of history, we have not actually realized it yet. Some decisions cast long, permanent shadows, and the 16th and 17th amendments, proposed and ratified during the emergence of an optimistic mindset called the progressive era that saw man as capable of legislating utopia, were actually the tipping point.
These amendments fundamentally altered the balance of political power, which our founding fathers had actually engineered to be a permanent power vacuum. Maintaining this power vacuum required constant vigilance from all parties, who were all supposed to hold each other back from rushing in to fill this void. Maintaining this power vacuum actually allowed individuals, who would otherwise be powerless against a centralized power, to retain a large portion of their liberty. This was, in truth, the real genius of our constitution.
Our founding fathers were very well read and highly educated on the strengths and weaknesses of various types of governments. This is obvious from the government design they gave us, which was a weaving together of many different types of government, each strand designed to counteract a deficiency found in the others. Unfortunately, secure in the knowledge that we had a stellar governmental design, we ceased as a nation to pay attention any more to that critical issue with any degree of rigor approaching that of our founding fathers.
We as a population became lazy and sloppy intellectually. Thus it is understandable that we would get confused and begin to think that our success as a nation was due to our adherence to democracy, when in fact our founding fathers feared democracy because it was just as likely to degenerate into tyranny as any other type of despotic rule, and more difficult to stop once firmly established. It is understandable that we would forget that our country was founded not on democracy but on liberty, and that we actually live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy.
Thus, it is also understandable that we would attempt to "perfect" two perceived flaws in the design handed to us -- there was no clear and obvious way for the federal government to get a source of funding that didn't require constant agreement and participation from the states, and the people were only given one of two houses to directly elect representatives to. Thus, the 16th and 17th amendments were passed. Unfortunately, these elements were not mistakes, but rather were crucial checks designed to limit the flow of power to a central authority by channeling it through the state legislatures. Removing these valves had the inevitable result of directly feeding power to the federal government, bypassing the states and rendering them impotent. Combined with the military decision of the civil war placing the needs and wants of the federal government above those of the individual states, the balance of power was effectively destroyed.
There is no way to get the genie back in the bottle. Our population is too ill informed, too ignorant of the theory of government to ever participate in an amendment giving power back to the states -- our federal government politicians would never voluntarily relinquish the power they now have, and our voting populations would never relinquish their perceived power to vote in candidates that give them goodies in return. We have set up an iron triangle, and Joseph is right -- the only way out is revolution or secession.
Turns out the south was right -- it will rise again. It just needs a catastrophe to light the fuse.