- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Liberals have isolated the problem in American politics today: There is just too much democracy. The incessant demands of the unwashed masses are far too distracting for the philosopher kings in the government to get any work done.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue now claims she was joking when she suggested that congressional elections be suspended to remove the inconvenient pressure of public opinion from the backs of harried legislators. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” she said this week. “You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

The governor’s twisted logic aside, any member of Congress can choose to do what he believes to be the right thing and not worry about the next election. Mrs. Perdue wants incompetent legislators to have the opportunity not only to engage in unpopular behavior but never to have to pay a price for it. They get to have their cake and tell the electorate to eat it.

Former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag chimed in this week with his suggestion that to solve the country’s problems, “we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” Mr. Orszag is attempting to make a virtue out of cowardice, allowing legislators to hand off the hard questions to others while retaining their seats in Congress to hand out favors and make ceremonial proclamations. Despite Mr. Orszag’s romantic pretensions, this escapism is anything but radical; it is an incumbent-protection program.

Californians will have the chance to mull over a truly radical program courtesy of the Think Long Committee. This group is proposing the formation of a 21-member independent body appointed to six-year terms to serve as a type of government overseer. The committee - which would be free to focus on the big picture rather than engaging in endless crisis management - would have the power to propose legislation, put initiatives on the ballot and, most important, subpoena and investigate government performance. Thus, rather than representatives having to fawn over voters, they would instead learn to fear the investigative arm of this unelected committee. You don’t have to think very long to see how this type of power could be abused. Men are not angels, as James Madison reminded. If implemented, Think Long’s proposal would simply hasten the spiraling decline of the Golden State.

Politicians and utopian theorists like to suppose they are important, significant and necessary, but in the grand scheme of things, they are not. Any number of other people could do their jobs, and probably do them better judging by the state of things. If elected officials approached their responsibilities with humility and a sense of their own irrelevance to the daily lives of most Americans, we would have a country that is much better governed. Public functionaries should understand they are the servants of the people, not the other way around.