Why the U.S. Can’t Solve Big Problems
The recent U.S. government report on the immense economic and human costs of climate change, Julian E. Zelizer argued last month, will likely be met by inaction on the part of the federal government. “The unfortunate reality,” he wrote, “is that American politicians have never been good at dealing with big, long-term problems.” The way out, he concluded, is through grassroots activism.
The U.S. style of government is intended to move slowly. Part of what is missing in the article is that states have the ability to act and provide a test-bed for how a national policy might work. The path to progress is not always through Congress. Individual states can pass legislation, show the rest of the country how the process works, and iron out any kinks in the plan, and then Congress and other state legislatures will have an example to work from. I believe this approach is the path to success.
I agree that our Constitution is fundamental to the paralysis of our government. It was written at a time when the primary concern was the tyranny of kings, and is extremely difficult to amend.
When it was written, there were fewer than 4 million people in the country (today there are more than 300 million). Furthermore, the country was overwhelmingly rural compared with today’s primarily urban nation. The industrial revolution was in its infancy. Though vestiges of the industrial revolution remain, we are moving rapidly into a digital, information-based society. The challenges we face today are far different from those of 1790.