The Framers held the belief that the human nature was dictated by self-interests and inequalities such as wealth distribution were part of the main causes of political conflicts. Protecting private property was also believed to be a key concern of the government.
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To avoid potential risks posed by these factions that would threaten the existence of the new republic, the Framers had to come up with a constitutional framework that would ensure that the effects of these inequalities did not exert their control over the government. James Madison and others created a government model that dealt with the threat of tyranny of the Majority (Birkland 23).
The framers are acknowledged for the contribution they made in making of the United States constitution. In 1788, Madison wrote in the federalist papers a defense of his pluralist model, which up to date forms a crucial commentary of the United Sates Constitution. The intentions of the Framers can be traced from the current United States constitution by carefully considering the constitutional components that reflect them.
These intentions include the successful distribution of powers between the three arms of the government, which are the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, establishing a system of checks and balances and limiting the control that majority factions have over the government.
An evaluation of Components of the American Constitution
The electoral process
Madison feared that the majority groups would overrule the minority group and have control of the government, which would then be reduced to a mechanism of nursing their egos and interests. This resulted to his ideas of pluralism, which counteracted the threat posed by factionalism. The United States electoral process, as dictated by the current constitution, reflects the intention that Madison and the others had.
The system controls the extent to which the people have control of the composition of the government (Cochran and Malone 23). This curbs the threat of majority groups taking advantage of the voting process to eliminate the representation of the other groups in the government.
Pluralism in this case assists in ensuring that there is peaceful coexistence in the nation by ensuring that the different groups are equally represented in the government. For instance, the president of the United States who happens to be the most powerful person in the government is not directly elected by the people.
The fifty states of the US and the District of Columbia take part in elections to elect people who form the Electoral College, which is in turn given the mandate to elect the president of the United States. Each of the states votes for the same number in both the senate and the representatives elections.
For instance, the state of California gets fifty-seven votes for the Electoral College while the District of Columbia gets three. This model ensures that all groups are fully represented in the process and that no singular group can claim dominance.
The citizens of the United States can only directly vote for the members of the House of Representatives. This ensures that the voters at the lowest level feel that they own the process. While this model gives power to the voter to decide on who should represent their interests in the government, it ensures that this power is not abused by limiting the control that people have in the end process (Birkland 67).
The voters were also charged with the responsibility of electing state legislatures, who consequently elected the senators before the amendment that ensured that Senators are elected by popular majority. This gave the people more power and control in the most fundamental levels, in the government.
The fact that the citizen’s control in the voting process is limited or indirect reflects the arguments that Madison voiced in the Federal paper no.10, which claimed that the public voice pronounced by the representatives of the people is more consonant than when it is pronounced by the people themselves.
Pluralism in this case was aimed at making the decision making process, as well as the legislation, effective as it is only the opinions of representatives that are considered in the process. The case would have been more difficult in a case whereby it is the opinions of all the people that matter in the decision making process.
In fact, it would take ages before reaching a consensus (Cochran and Malone 90). The Framers, for this reason, were opposed to direct democracy and instead opted for a republic, which is a system of ruling people under their consent but through representatives.
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Checks and balances
The checks and balances that were proposed by the Framers are still in existence, in the American constitution. These checks and balances were intended to ensure that, a given institution does not over exercise the powers it has and bend them to serve personal interests of a given individual or a given group of people. One of the proofs of these checks and balances exist between the senate and the office of the President.
The president appoints members of the Supreme Court a decision, which requires the approval of two thirds of the senate. This ensures that the president does not abuse the powers accorded to the office and interfere with the common good as stipulated in the pluralist model (Cochran and Malone 44). On the other hand, bills that are passed by the senate can only become laws the president vetoes them.
This system of checks and balances is essential in that it deals with vices such as political corruption that the Framers intended to curb in the new republic. They are critical aspects that reflect the pluralist ideologies of the common good and equal representation.
Separation of powers
Madison’s proposal to separate the powers of the institutions, which form the federal government, is still depicted in the American constitution today. This doctrine ensures the separation of the powers of the federal government into three. These are; the judiciary, legislature and the executive. By ensuring this distinction, power is equally distributed to the three ensuring that not a single group had control over the other.
While the three groups consider themselves equal in the making of central government decisions, the threat of one group overruling the others or failing to make consultations is effectively dealt with (Cochran and Malone 34). Each segment acts as a watchdog to the other and ensures that it is the common good of the represented groups that inform the decision making process.
This is clear evidence of Madison’s goal of setting power against power. For instance, legislative decisions can be challenged by the judiciary and declared as unconstitutional if they are considered and proved so.
American political system and policymaking process
Political scientists and scholars who specialize in studying the upper echelons of leadership in America, as well as the structure and composition of the government in most cases, end up with conflicting arguments about the findings. This is majorly dependent upon the perspective from which they look at the leadership.
The ‘top offices’ encompass the position s that bear most of the authority to run and manage the activities of considerable political, economic, educational, civic, and other powerful institutions. Some political scientists such as Lindbloom and Woodhouse argue that, it is the occupants of these offices who have control over half of the entire nation’s assets (123).
Due to this finding, they conclude that the American political system and the policy making process are representative of the Elite model rather than the pluralist model that was intended by the Framers.
Lindbloom and Woodhouse hold the claim that, single elite, rather than a multiplicity of competing groups, has taken over the decision to influence policy decisions that are of enormous importance to the entire lot of American citizens (47). Only minority groups of less than two hundred and fifty people hold the most influential seats in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
It is, therefore, obvious to make the conclusion that this conflicts with the intentions of the framers since they made it clear that human nature was dictated by self- interests.
To most proponents of the government system in existence, such critiques base their claims on interpretations on government and politics that are different from those of the pluralists. Rather than having the pluralist picture of hundreds of competing groups shaping out policy, the elite model portrays a pyramid-like structure of power.
The decisions that the elite group make, therefore, cannot be termed as reflecting the interests of the people they are representing but those that they bear. To this extend, Lindbloom posits that “the pernicious effects of political inequality on the policy making process and, “especially the possibility that policy ideas are systematically misshaped by pro-business cultures of market-orientated democracies” (45).
By this argument, Lindbloom contests the universally held pluralist claim that Democracies such as America install leaders whose voice is the same of that of the people they are representing. The elite groups are merely led by their business interests in the making of the policies.
The facts that the holders of these top offices belong to that a given class of elites and that they control the larger proportion of the nation’s assets, is enough evidence that the other groups, which are comprised of the people who voted for them either directly or in directly, are not represented. Only policies that favor the elites economically, socially or otherwise are passed.
The power elite
Some power-elite theorists claim that the governing elite in the US gets its members from three defined areas namely: the leading political offices which include the president, a number of cabinet members and some advisers, owners and director of leading corporate and highly ranked military officers (Lindblom and Woodhouse 116).
The manner in which this elite group operates is different from a dictatorship in that, they do not force their self-interests through terror or even the use of a secret police force. They are characterized as being respecters of civil liberties and being keen followers of constitutional principles.
The role of the elite in policymaking
The importance of these elites in the policy making process is equated to the trunk of a tree and the interests of the other groups as the twigs of the same tree. The tree is less affected when the twigs are interfered with, but when the trunk is interfered with, the tree might weather.
It is in this case arguable that whoever makes the trunk decisions is responsible or is acclaimed for setting the agenda for the subsequent debates about other lesser decisions (Lindblom and Woodhouse 150). In order to protect their interests and their assets, the policies and other decisions that these elites make are skewed to their advantage regardless of the effects they might have on the citizens.
The lower levels of the government, which are composed of the Congress, the courts and the states, are only given the responsibilities of implementing these policies (Lindblom and Woodhouse 112). The Congress, for instance, which is composed of members who are elected by the people, is deprived of the opportunity to represent the issues and opinions of the people in the policy making process.
According to the elitists, contemporary democracies, which have systems of government such as the USA, lack the ability to probe social problems as policies are skewed to the advantage of the elite groups.
Evidence in other readings
Elite groups have been accused of influencing the direction in which the policymaking process takes. These include the two ‘group’ of policy making namely: the iron triangle and the power clusters. The Iron Triangle was noted by public policy observers as being responsible of influencing the agricultural policy in the United States (Birkland 47). The three points of power in this elitism are 1).
The executive, which comprises of the secretary of agriculture, administrators of the USDA agencies as well as the director of the budget, 2). The congress, which included the chairpersons of the congressional agriculture and, 3.)The Farm Lobby, which included a few leaders of the farm organizations.
The key power points of this model have complete say in the creation and implementation of agricultural policies. The issues that were mostly handled were those that concerned the parties involved.
The power clusters were noted more recently with the term web of power being used to refer to the active players in the public policy making process.
Power clusters because of elitists’ notions play influence the policymaking in almost every arm of the American government (Birkland 45). The top most power cluster is composed of the most influential people in the government who disguise self –centered policies as in the overall good of the Americans.
The policy making process must be based on a given framework. This means that there must be people who are representatives of the citizens who have been charged with the obligations of creating or implementing the policies. It is, therefore, not strange to notice that some people may take advantage of this to drive their personal agendas at the expense of the people they represent (Birkland 56).
This, however, does not mean that the entire process is influenced by the self-interests of these people since the interests are not in any way similar. It is in democracies that employ such systems, such as the United States government that are able to probe social problems effectively and successfully create and implement policies, which represent the interests of the people.
Birkland, Thomas. An Introduction to Policy Process, Theories, Concepts, Models of Public Policy. 2nd Ed. UK: Alibris, 2005. Print.
Cochran, Charles, and Eloise Malone. Public Policy: Perspectives and Choices. 4th Ed. New York: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2005. Print.
Lindblom, Charles, and Edward Woodhouse. The Policy Making Process. 3rd Ed. New York: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.