As a student of government and its various systems, I am fascinated with the way others who have a similar interest look at the same subjects, especially our own. I never had a chance to communicate with professor Alfred de Grazia much less meet him, but I have read some of his work. It is at times lofty and almost always difficult. Consider his theory of “Quantavolution and Catastrophe” which states that everything, and I do mean everything past, present and in the future changes as a result of major shifts, quantum leaps forward if you will rather than the slow, dramatic evolutionary standard Darwin suggests. You can argue the point if you want, I much prefer professor de Grazia’s approach.
Professor de Grazia was a scientist in the purest form of the word, a Renaissance man with genius in several disciplines, but nowhere was his genius better displayed than in his work on governmental systems. Recently I was reading a piece he wrote and had some comments which I wanted to discuss with him, but when I went to find his email address I found to my dismay he had passed away in July of this year. What a shame, I thought selfishly.
It seems to me testament to a person’s brilliance when he or she can write things which not only stand the test of time for their accuracy, but for their predictive attributes. If you’re like me, you remember those bits and pieces of the things that really lured you into study, a book here, an article there or perhaps a statement someone makes that just makes sense and then as the years pass you realize whenever remembering the bit or piece that it remains true.
In 1966, the American Enterprise Institute published a book entitled “Congress, The First Branch of Government”. Professor de Grazia coordinated the material contained in it, writing the first of the twelve studies, “Toward A New Model Of Congress”.
The entire book should be mandatory reading for today’s House and Senate members for they have either forgotten their roles or as it was recognized 48 years ago, they have made themselves irrelevant by abdicating their duties to the executive and the bureaucracy. It was a warning back then, and Professor de Grazia saw it coming.
The following is taken from his contribution to “Congress, The First Branch of Government”. It was brilliant then and predictive, it remains both.
“Alternative to Congress
Few persons are heard to recommend outright the dissolution of Congress as a branch of government. Probably a good many more would be pleased if Congress would wither away of its own accord or at least be so completely subjected to the executive will that it might perform a mere ceremonial function. There is a good deal of comfortable hypocrisy in this position but the issue is too important to tolerate it. What, in fact, would American government be like if Congress were abolished or, what is practically the same thing, if it had no power except simply to subsist?
The President, at first elected, would in time cause (sic) himself to be elected. As with the Soviet government, he would be chosen from within the presidency. Since hereditary rule is not considered rational in modern times, a monarchy would be avoided. But the President would be emperor of the republic (as Napoleon I had himself titled). All the features of a monarchy that disgusted generations of Americans would appear, but would be Americanized and therefore be rendered palatable.
Every business, including the smallest shop, and every occupation would be vested with a public interest and regulated in detail by the central civil service. Big business would be readily convertible into agencies of big government.
The civil service and the military would be the most highly prestiged classes in the nation.
The states would be vestiges, inefficiently constructed administrative districts, tolerated out of sentiment. Governors and state legislators would be controlled out of national party headquarters. All important laws would be approved in advance by the national executive branch in order to insure their “desirability” and conformity to national policy.
The political parties would be very strong until such time as it became obvious that one party could do the job of two, since neither party could establish a true alternative to the then-existing political order without risking national disaster.
The press, the universities and the intellectuals would not be harshly suppressed. They would exist in a kind of kaiserdom, or early fascism or de Gaulism: free up to a point, said point being defined by the leaders of the central government.
The stimulus for practically all kinds of voluntary activity, including the performing arts and scientific research, would be provided by the central bureaucracy, under occasional prodding from the presidency.
Such would be some of the more important features of the American political landscape
with the Congress removed. The more independent, resourceful, and self-confident Congress is, the less likely is it that those conditions would come about. Good government is a function of an independent set of publics operating through a network of decentralized and autonomous institutions of governmental and non-governmental type, the node of which is the congressional system. The reform of Congress should therefore be guided by this proposition, and proposal for change evaluated in this light.
Contrary to the belief of many, history offers a favorable prognosis for the long run. Men aspiring to a cooperative and equal state will seek to be ruled in accord with their dignity. Such rule is rule by law and mutual consultation. A publicly controlled decision-making council – when free from major superstitions and magical interventions – is the highest form of government that men have yet devised. It can express itself in the family, in the school, in business, in the church, and in the state. So long as men wish a voice about their social destiny, they will seek to be ruled by congresses. They may change the system in many respects: practically no component need retain its particular form and manner. But in the end, it must be the congressional system in substance that will prevail among a self-respecting citizenry.”
 De Grazia, Alfred et al. Congress, The First Branch of Government. Toward A New Model Of Congress. Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1966. Print