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We Are in Our Articles of Confederation Moment

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/26/we-are-our-articles-confederation-moment


And Congress has no ability to check the executive branch in any meaningful way.

a few ways are available and used.
advise and consent
refer the matter to federal courts
refuse to authorize dollar expenditure, if applicable.

the house represents the peoples
the senate represents the states

WIKI on Articles of Confederation - quick reference

Article summaries

The Articles of Confederation contain a preamble, thirteen articles, a conclusion, and a signatory section. The individual articles set the rules for current and future operations of the confederation’s central government. Under the Articles, the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically relinquished to the national Congress, which was empowered to make war and peace, negotiate diplomatic and commercial agreements with foreign countries, and to resolve disputes between the states. The document also stipulates that its provisions “shall be inviolably observed by every state” and that “the Union shall be perpetual”.

Summary of the purpose and content of each of the 13 articles:

  1. Establishes the name of the confederation with these words: “The stile of this confederacy shall be ‘The United States of America.’”
  2. Asserts the sovereignty of each state, except for the specific powers delegated to the confederation government: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”
  3. Declares the purpose of the confederation: “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”
  4. Elaborates upon the intent “to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union,” and to establish equal treatment and freedom of movement for the free inhabitants of each state to pass unhindered between the states, excluding “paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice.” All these people are entitled to equal rights established by the state into which they travel. If a crime is committed in one state and the perpetrator flees to another state, he will be extradited to and tried in the state in which the crime was committed.
  5. Allocates one vote in the Congress of the Confederation (the “United States in Congress Assembled”) to each state, which is entitled to a delegation of between two and seven members. Members of Congress are to be appointed by state legislatures. No congressman may serve more than three out of any six years.
  6. Only the central government may declare war, or conduct foreign political or commercial relations. No state or official may accept foreign gifts or titles, and granting any title of nobility is forbidden to all. No states may form any sub-national groups. No state may tax or interfere with treaty stipulations already proposed. No state may wage war without permission of Congress, unless invaded or under imminent attack on the frontier; no state may maintain a peacetime standing army or navy, unless infested by pirates, but every State is required to keep ready, a well-trained, disciplined, and equipped militia.
  7. Whenever an army is raised for common defense, the state legislatures shall assign military ranks of colonel and below.
  8. Expenditures by the United States of America will be paid with funds raised by state legislatures, and apportioned to the states in proportion to the real property values of each.
  9. Powers and functions of the United States in Congress Assembled.
  • Grants to the United States in Congress assembled the sole and exclusive right and power to determine peace and war; to exchange ambassadors; to enter into treaties and alliances, with some provisos; to establish rules for deciding all cases of captures or prizes on land or water; to grant letters of marque and reprisal (documents authorizing privateers) in times of peace; to appoint courts for the trial of pirates and crimes committed on the high seas; to establish courts for appeals in all cases of captures, but no member of Congress may be appointed a judge; to set weights and measures (including coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court for disputes between states.
  • The court will be composed of jointly appointed commissioners or Congress shall appoint them. Each commissioner is bound by oath to be impartial. The court’s decision is final.
  • Congress shall regulate the post offices; appoint officers in the military; and regulate the armed forces.
  • The United States in Congress assembled may appoint a president who shall not serve longer than one year per three-year term of the Congress.
  • Congress may request requisitions (demands for payments or supplies) from the states in proportion with their population, or take credit.
  • Congress may not declare war, enter into treaties and alliances, appropriate money, or appoint a commander in chief without nine states assented. Congress shall keep a journal of proceedings and adjourn for periods not to exceed six months.
  1. When Congress is in recess, any of the powers of Congress may be executed by “The committee of the states, or any nine of them”, except for those powers of Congress which require nine states in Congress to execute.
  2. If Canada (referring to the British Province of Quebec) accedes to this confederation, it will be admitted.[16] No other colony could be admitted without the consent of nine states.
  3. Reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress before the existence of the Articles.
  4. Declares that the Articles shall be perpetual, and may be altered only with the approval of Congress and the ratification of all the state legislatures.

This elite-driven cult of Alexander Hamilton is really retrograde.


As noted today - prime example of failure:
After Widespread Pushback, Trump Releases Management Plan After Historic and Illegal Reductions to Public Land Protections

On December 4, 2017, President Trump announced his plan to illegally reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, along with the Grand Staircase Escalante - the largest elimination of public land protections in American history. Since then, conservation groups and tribes have sued the administration, arguing that President Trump didn’t have the authority to reduce the size of the monuments. Cases are still pending in federal court - making Trump’s management plan announcement a move to undermine the court’s decision-making authority.


I think it’s time to let it go…this whole oligarchy disguised as a republic. It was founded as an oligarchy and has remained so, with no voice for the poor, the disabled, women, children, the anawim. One way or another, it will crash. But we can determine its direction to a more partnership style rather than let chaos rule.


Sounds like a good plan. I’d rather see a true democracy rise from the ashes than a fascist state.


The point of this article was that those ‘ways’ you mention are not being used by our legislature - they are too corrupt. We have gone beyond the ‘methods’ prescribed in the old documents and must now start anew.


Hi pcprincess:
That’s a valid point because as it stands now, it seems that each state has its own view of the world and much of that is defined by the oligarchs. But then, a military needs to defend in case of wars— but not exist just to cause them! : )


the author is wrong regarding adding 50 house seats because:
the current house is distributed properly between cities and rural based on population census taken every ten years. district boundaries are based on population, not acres or square miles.

Some states work very hard to have districts that are solid republican / solid democrat. zany geometric to guarantee a seat to a particular group also occurs. for example in chicago, there is a congressional district protecting Mexican heritage.

The current failure of the house of representatives is not due to the number of representatives. It is due to lack of ethical, hard working, intelligent leadership.
It is due to electing and re-electing slugs, hangers on, lazy, under educated people to serve.us.
Then we find they only serve themselves.

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please see below. we were writing at the same time.
The people we elect to the house of representatives are the problem.
Not the balance of power formula.
PC here is politeness, consideration, offering opportunity, mentoring.
I grew up in a PC city with 68 nationalities, thousands of immigrants with speech accents.
Stranded migrant farm workers from Mexico, ww2 displaced persons, german war brides, hungarian revolution refugees. as examples.

The House certainly has issues and serious ones, but as far as being representative, it is the most representative and democratic component of our federal government. The Senate is is far less representative and democratic and the courts, even less so. The Supreme Court, especially, bears the bulk of the blame for selling what little there is of democracy in this country down the river and interpreting the Constitution to protect the status quo. That’s been its mandate from the very beginning. Tweaking the House is a waste of time until you address the problem of the Senate and the Supreme Court.

The Founders, contrary to all the hero worship they receive in our culture, were wary of giving too much power to the unwashed and ignorant masses and defined democracy in a very narrow context that benefitted only their elite ruling class. In that sense, the Constitution is not flawed. It is functioning as intended. It’s being gamed even more, now, by the oligarchy with full approval of the courts. More than that, it is naive for anyone to invoke the Constitution when addressing the criminal behavior of elected officials, because there is so little provision for enforcement in the Constitution. As we have seen so often, the warring factions only invoke the Constitution when it benefits them, then just as quickly ignore it when it suits them. If the Constitution had any real teeth, the Democrats would be forced to begin impeachment hearing, officials would be forced to show up when they receive subpoenas and so much more. The fact that a complete ignoramus of the Constitution like Trump can not only survive, but thrive is all the proof you should need that the Constitution is only a piece of paper, as George Bush once claimed. And if the Constitution is only a piece of paper, then the Bill of Rights has all the substance of cheap toilet paper.


The South has risen again.

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But we will need to think for ourselves, in our new circumstances, about how to design our institutions to achieve that balance. Let the thinking begin.

You can add your own thoughts on how ‘to ensure a more perfect union’ at my web site https://www.totheleftoftheweb.org/. It has been an ongoing project for me for some years now and been up in various iterations, all incomplete. I have it 99% finished but need testers to check it out and give me some constructive criticism. It is a free site but you must register to post. I currently have registration disabled but you can still go and kick around the various sections. Thanks for any help you all can give me.

RCV is an interesting idea but I think things will still be vicious; still two main parties at the end of the day (or even three). I’ve mentioned the idea of getting rid of party names and voting on candidates (those with so many signed petitions) as individuals, with caps on election spending and subsidies to the max amount. We could have a sliding scale of points, and individually gauge a person on many factors, maybe getting an averaged score that would be the optimum candidate for each of us. The monetary caps would have to be allowed, as they are currently forbidden. It’s of course much more complicated than this, with many more details to be worked out along with checks and balances including to guard against tyranny of the masses, etc. We deserve much better than this counterproductive, divisive duopoly.

More scary is the Intel Apparatus that has been allowed to morph insidiously since Eisenhower. I think this occurred in no small part due to the time spent feuding and to the politics of almost everything, including Intelligence. Who wants to mess with them?(!) CIA OUT of our schools! We have to protest – if the Intel Congressional overseers (who the NSA spied on) have not held them accountable yet, I doubt they ever will – either they’re too comfortable or too scared. They certainly keep passing bills compromising our privacy. Remember, it is Our Republic, Of, By, and For The People, if we can keep it.


" … I think presidents who’ve come into office since Kennedy all have had this in mind. There’s only so far they can go pushing against the CIA and the military and challenging their policies before their own life is in danger…"

Call the Senate Intelligence Committee members and demand a NO to this requested expansion of the IIPA. The CIA needs MORE transparency, not less.

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No question that the government has become dysfunctional. I doubt that will ever be corrected. Implosion and bankruptcy seem the only likely outcomes. Special interests have won the day.


Allen sez:
“The presidency was never designed to express the will of the people, and it cannot do so. It typically expresses the will of the electoral majority.”

Hate to quibble, but I believe that’s “electoral college majority”.


As I recall, the current number of representatives, 435, was set after the census of 1910. Since then, the US population has nearly tripled. How increasing the number of representatives by a mere 50 will remedy this dilution escapes me.

And I’ve never been sure how having a Senate and an Electoral College benefits anyone but the oligarchy.


you are right that the Congress and government are increasingly disfunctional, and that Trump has made it worse, but its impossible to see how the suggested remedies will make any difference. The underlying problem is there is no consensus on what to actually do about the noted issues - immigration, health care, deficits, climate change… until there is a broader agreement on what to do I’d expect disfunction

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The problem with the arguments in this article is that in parilamentary systems, there is no separate executive branch at all, and the majority party rules absolutely until the next election. Yet, with the almost unique exception of the ongoing Brexit failure in the UK, parliamentary syatems are very “energetic” and they have none of the gridlock problems that the US system has.