ImageJohn Jay

When the Founding Fathers wisely created a constitution with checks and balances, they created what they thought was a “properly designed state”. As Richard Hofstadter wrote in An Age of Reason,” A properly designed state, the Founders believed, would check interest with interest, class with class, faction with faction, and one branch of government with another  in a harmonious system of mutual frustration.” They knew that because man was an “atom of self interest” it was too much to expect that they could check vice with virtue. They decided therefore to check vice with vice.

The checks and balances  between the two Congressional Houses and the Executive Branch created by the constitution would be capped by an independent judiciary. “The inevitable tendency of the rich and poor to plunder each other would be kept in hand.”   

Did they dream that the 21st century Roberts Court would not keep that tendency at hand?

Did they dream that instead it would tip the scales to the rich?

Upon a closer look, maybe some of them did. According to Gouverneur Morris, the most extreme of the aristocratic siding founders, in defense of checks and balances, pointed out, “Wealth tends to corrupt the mind and nourish its love for power, and to stimulate it to oppression. History proves this to be the spirit of the opulent.”

As a result of  Citizen’s United (2010) and this week’s McCutcheon cases, the Roberts Court has taken down all the veils. The people who own the country now have their very own first amendment right to purchase who governs it.  They can purchase as many members of the House, the Senate, or presidential candidates as they can afford. They can buy state legislators and governors. They can lease Mayors and city council members. 

After all, it was one of the founders,  New Yorker John Jay, who said, ” The people who own the country ought to govern it.”

So now they do.