Constitutional Law | Law | Law and Society | Political Theory
American government is dysfunctional: Gridlock, filibusters, and expanding presidential power, everyone seems to agree, threaten our basic system of constitutional governance. Who, or what, is to blame? In the standard account, the fault lies with the increasing polarization of our political parties. That standard story, however, ignores an important culprit: Concentrated wealth and its organization to achieve political ends. The only way to understand our current constitutional predicament – and to rectify it – is to pay more attention to the role that organized wealth plays in our system of checks and balances.
This Article shows that the increasing concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of the wealthy elite, and the concomitant decline of countervailing organizations, help explain the extent of executive power, the rise of gridlock, and, ultimately, the deterioration of effective checks and balances in the Federal Government. A core goal of constitutional structure – to promote democratic accountability and responsiveness to the broad citizenry – is severely compromised by the power wielded by organized wealth. Moderating partisanship will not alone solve constitutional dysfunction, nor will conventional good governance reforms like campaign finance regulation. Rather, this Article argues, the law should facilitate organizations of ordinary Americans that can serve as a countervailing check and prod in governance.
Separations of Wealth: Inequality and the Erosion of Checks and Balances,
U. Pa. J. Const. L.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/2825