Thursday, June 19, 2008

President of the Senate

I had an idea two weeks ago. It addresses a problem I've been thinking about since the mid-90's, the office of Vice President, which is increasingly becoming problematic. Witness Vice President Dick Cheney's disavowal of executive membership simultaneous to his apparent unprecedented exercise of executive power.

Let's elect the President of the Senate, as such. This is the office the Constitution gives the Vice President. Let's underline how seriously we expect him to take this important office and that we expect him to preside over a separate and important branch.

Just had lunch with a lawyer friend of mine, who liked the idea. So here it is.

Update (Aug 17, 2008): This morning I read some history and validation on the issue of the vice presidency and the separation of powers. Did this particular degeneration begin with Eisenhower?

Stephen Griffin in a post yesterday at Balkanization, Was Addington Right about the Vice Presidency? , quotes Douglas T. Stuart from his recent book Creating the National Security State,

Richard Nixon was asked by Eisenhower to replace the Secretary of State as presiding chairman of the NSC in the president's absence.
Griffin later comments,
If the VP is indeed more part of the legislative branch than the executive, that means he cannot be given any substantial executive responsibility. Among other points, that would violate the separation of offices that is so important to the the constitutional plan.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Free labor

How does the solonian principle translate into day-to-day life? There's an excellent book which describes the strengthening of this principle, also known as "free labor", in 19th century America, together with a history to give this triumph context, The Invention of Free Labor: The Employment Relation in English & American Law and Culture, 1350-1870 by Robert J. Steinfeld. Steinfeld writes,

The decision in Mary Clark's case was not an isolated event but was part of a broad process of transformation. Over the first decades of the nineteenth century, the labor relationship underwent major changes in the United States. By the time Mary Clark's case was decided, a new paradigm of the labor relationship had been developing for more than a generation. Over the next forty-five years, it would gradually achieve cultural and political hegemony.

At the heart of the new understanding was the idea, first fully articulated in Mary Clark's case, that labor became involuntary the moment a laborer decided to depart and was not permitted to do so—whatever previous agreement she may have made. As this model spread and was further elaborated, it had a far-reaching impact on basic understandings about the legal and political status of those who worked for others. The new model posited that, despite the fact that they had entered the service of another, laborers and servants continued to be masters of their own fates. Whether to remain or to leave was always a matter of their own volition. They had not, on entering service, impliedly agreed to place themselves under another's tutelage and could not even should they want to. Ultimately, whatever agreement they entered, the property in their labor was their employer's only so long as they wished it to be . At any moment they no longer wished him to have the right to that labor, they were free to take back possession. They and they alone always controlled their own energies and capacities. They were always their own masters.
Robert J. Steinfeld (1991) The Invention of Free Labor, pp. 147-148.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Solonian Principle

Loans may not be secured on the borrower's person.

Update (Mar 3, 2008): For more detail, see Free labor.