Fragility of the Social Contract

Spain’s May 15th movement is often called the revolution of the indignados, indignant at the failure of elective government to solve the problems that increasingly define the lives of ordinary people. The complaint, succinctly, is that the powers that be are collaborating in a systemic failure to live up to the rigors of a healthy, legitimate social contract.

Working people, young adults with university degrees but next to zero job prospects, families pushed from their homes by a real estate boom now shown to be a speculator’s wild west show, congregate, organize assemblies, vote on matters of policy, and demand meaningful political change. They argue together, though often in clashing voices, that the political system is rigged against the majority of ordinary citizens.

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Amend Constitution to Ban Partisan Redistricting

Every ten years, according to the mandate of the Constitution, the US government conducts a nationwide census, to learn how many people live in each district, in each state, to ensure that membership in the House of Representatives is evenly distributed. And immediately after the census figures are released, all 50 states begin redrawing Congressional districts, according not only to population, but to the registered political preferences and demographic indicators of the populations in question.

The result is what is called “gerrymandering”—the convoluted bending of House districts to ensure that most of them lean decidedly toward the Democratic or the Republican party. The difference is whether one party or the other is in charge. We need to amend that Constitution of the United States to ban partisan redistricting, which is one of the st flagrantly corrupting practices in our democracy.

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Fourth Amendment Rights are Not a Trivial Annoyance

The nation has been facing, ever since September 11, 2001, a mounting pressure to surrender vital liberties in the interest of security. Now, the government is implementing a plan, several years in the works, to require travelers at airports to pass through full body scanners that snow security agents naked images of the passengers’ bodies. The Electronic Privacy Information Center says the scanners violate the Fourth Amendment.

In response to the EPIC lawsuit, a government lawyer has reportedly responded by saying the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is responsible for ensuring passenger safety, using the latest technologies, and that efforts to fulfill that mission “should not have to stop every five minutes for comment and rulemaking”. This is an offensive and dismissive remark that puts basic liberties at the margins and privileges the arbitrary power of security officials over the rights of individuals.

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Fear of Difference is Opposition to Democracy

The United States of America is a nation of immigrants. It is a nation that has wrestled with vicious undercurrents of racism and xenophobia, and has emerged ever more democratic, generally trending toward a more perfect union representing the foundational ideals that were, in the 18th century, so far out of reach, but so necessary as core aspirations. And over time, it is a nation that has become richer, stronger and more democratic, by getting closer to those foundational ideals.

In advocating for the most effective way to form a new democratic nation in Argentina, Juan Bautista Alberdi wrote that Argentina should follow the example of the United States and encourage major waves of immigration, because the resulting society, with a large population, with diverse backgrounds and a commitment to building something new, will make for a more sustainable and democratic republic.

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