The founding fathers of the US were anxious to limit the power of government – hence the famous checks and balances in the constitution. In fact, the US is so checked and balanced it is a small miracle that government happens at all – which, if you think government is the source of all evil, means the constitution is doing its job. What made the US system work in the last resort was the power of reason and loyalty to a common set of core values. Both have disappeared.
Today’s US government is almost completely gridlocked – and astonishingly vulnerable to vested interests. President Obama and Congress cannot get to grips with the scale of the budget deficit, nor the need to contain the threat of a new financial crisis. Corporations write the law. The public realm is hollowed out, and most public institutions, from education to the transport infrastructure, are decaying – there seems little hope of turning the tide.
Reason is close to impossible with the Tea party. And adherence to common values is disintegrating. The American centre is crumbling, and with it economic, social and political power.
Will Hutton in The Guardian December 25th 2010