Will History Record Illinois As A Failure Of Democracy? by Mark Glennon

Illinois will soon be a failed state.From Mark Glennon at wirepoints.com:

As America celebrates its Independence this week, it’s right to consider the most far-reaching questions raised by Illinois’ crisis.

Did the Founding Fathers miss something? Did we miss something the Founders stood for? Is our form of democracy fundamentally flawed?

The importance of those questions is part of why Wirepoints exists, and why we hope other states follow Illinois’ story.

Illinois inherited assets most states and nations envy. Its GDP remains larger than all but fifteen countries of the world. More importantly, it inherited constitutional self-government.

But it’s failing.

Illinois is bankrupt. The state and many of its towns and cities sink further into insolvency each day — the facts and numbers are irrefutable. Its moral insolvency is less quantifiable but no less apparent. Graft, both legal and illegal, is exposed incessantly, usually to no end. Scandal fatigue overtook the state long ago. Numbed voters left politicians free to do little good and plenty wrong.Not a single major reform, fiscal or otherwise, is currently under serious consideration in Illinois.

How can a democracy have done this to itself?

The reasons are myriad. Many are debatable. Some are particular to Illinois. Most of the 20,000 articles we’ve linked to or written on this site are about those reasons.

But on the overarching question of universal importance — whether Illinois has exposed some fundamental flaw of democracy — the story hasn’t ended. Nobody knows how Illinois’ crisis ultimately will sort out, but there is reason for qualified, partial optimism, albeit over a long time with much pain in the interim.

That optimism derives from the likelihood that much of our crisis will be resolved in courts — federal courts exercising their place in the federal system we inherited — and the hope that those courts will honor the foundational principles of American government. The Founders’ foresight, not their failure, perhaps may yet shape Illinois’ history. Perhaps.

The initial questions that might end up in the federal courts have already gotten some attention. If Illinois amended its constitution to delete its pension protection clause, would the United States Constitution’s Contract Clause still prohibit pension reform? Could the federal Bankruptcy Code be amended to allow bankruptcy for states? Could some other form of federal legislation authorize adjustment of pension obligations? And if Illinois eventually authorizes bankruptcy for municipalities, which is probably unavoidable at some point, many questions about that process remain unanswered by courts.

More fundamentally, it’s only a matter of time before a federal court faces a situation somewhere in Illinois where essential, basic government services fail. A court will face a “police power” question, as it’s called.

To continue reading: Will History Record Illinois As A Failure Of Democracy?


One response to “Will History Record Illinois As A Failure Of Democracy? by Mark Glennon

  1. Author’s solution: ” Maintain a degree of optimism that federal courts will end up enforcing constitutional checks the Founders gave us and hope Illinoisans eventually will see fit to endorse some state version of the foundational principles the Founders believed in.”

    My fairy tale has a different ending; it does not expect a new Prince of Hope and Change to solve anything. As a sketchy first approximation(no background music yet):

    The good and benevolent political guardians grudgingly raise taxes and look for more sources of “other people’s money” to include the remaining brotherly 49 states (i.e. pleading to the Federal Govt., the ultimate money and tax fairy). Plan not good enuf–>bankruptcy, and bailout with reorganization to obfuscate any identifiable accountability. Now rinse cycle over, so can repeat.
    Other states see the OPM light, join in, and the Dance of the Debt Dragons continues until Dust.


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