How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Gridlock

By: Jacob Taylor

Depending on what you pick up on when reading James Madison's writings, you may conclude that the thing he most feared was not kings or aristocracies, but having all power concentrated in one place. This is, as I see it, the reason for the structure of our government. Three branches, whose express purpose is to balance the others. All three are strong, and if working correctly, two will gang up on the third if it gets too much power. That's the idea, at least. It's also why we use first-past-the-post voting, and have an electoral college. Though the electoral college was only added in the 20th century, it's very much a founding-fathers-era concept. The electoral college silos power away from the voters through an intermediary that actually votes the president in. Politicians appoint many high-level positions in government, who must then be confirmed by another branch -- this further checks power between the branches of government, and removes these choices from the list of voting opportunities from the American People.

The purpose and effect of silo-ing elite power is to slow everything down. Madison figured a big driver in power politics was competition among those in power for more power. I'm pretty sure he was right. Competition makes compromise hard (because everyone wants their own thing). Only the most important things get support from these different and competing players.

So when I see people complaining about how gridlocked we are, how slow our government is, I laugh. Our government is working exactly as designed. It is this slowness which prevents tyrannies of the majority, autocracies, or aristocracies. All of those are abusive of our rights as the rule, rather than the exception. Contrary to people with aluminum foil under their hats, we don't have any of those, and gridlock is keeping it that way.