branches of government

Joseph Califano, Jr. spent thirty years in Washington at the top of the Pentagon, on the White House staff as chief domestic advisor to the President, and in the Cabinet. He worked as an attorney for The Washington Post during Watergate and has represented clients as varied as the Black Panthers and Coca Cola.

His new book, “Our Damaged Democracy: We the People Must Act,” is a primer on the three branches of government that reveals the political, cultural, constitutional, technological, and institutional changes that he believes render our government completely dysfunctional. He says there is an urgent need to fix our democracy before it’s too late.

  Our government is failing us. From health care to immigration, from the tax code to climate change, our political institutions cannot deal effectively with the challenges of modern society. Why the dysfunction? Contemporary reformers single out the usual suspects, including polarization and the rise in campaign spending. But what if the roots go much deeper, to the nation’s founding?

In Relic, William Howell and Terry Moe point to the Constitution as the main culprit. The framers designed the Constitution some 225 years ago for a simple agrarian society. But the form of government they settled upon, a separation of powers system with a parochial Congress at its center, is entirely ill-equipped to address the serious social problems that arise in a complex, post-industrial nation. We are prisoners of the past, burdened with an antiquated government that cannot make effective policy, and often cannot do anything at all.

The solution is to update the Constitution for modern times.