The Green Party and the Constitution Essay
The Green Party and the Constitution The Green Party’s guiding principles are outlined in a document known as the Ten Key Values of the Green Party. These values include: grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility and future focus and sustainability (Green, 2000.) Are the Green Party’s stated values compatible with the U.S.
Constitution? What view of human nature does the Green Party’s values show? Examination of each point of the Green Party key values will bring an answer to this question. Value 1: Grassroots Democracy Value 1 states in part “we will work to increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who elect them (Green Party, 2000.)” At first consideration, this does not seem incompatible with the Constitution; however, Section 8, which outlines the duties of the Congress, begins “The Congress shall have the Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States (Constitution).
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” All the specific duties outlined for Senators, Congressmen and other nationally elected officials in the Constitution are duties to the nation as a whole, rather than to their constituents. This places Value 1 in potential conflict with the Constitution when applied to nationally elected officials. A further portion of Value 1 reads “We will also work to create new types of political organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by directly including citizens in the decision-making process (Green Party, 2000).” The Constitution outlines a governmental structure of representational democracy, wherein representatives are elected to speak for the will of the whole, rather than a direct participatory democracy. Clearly, there is a conflict between this portion of Value 1 and the Constitution. Value 2: Social Justice and Equal Opportunity Value 2 begins “All Persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment (Green, 2000).” This statement could be construed in a manner that would place it at odds with the Fifth Amendment (“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”), which establishes the right to private property.
Value 2 continues “We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law (Green Party, 2000).” This statement is completely in line with the current text and continuing trend of the Constitution. Beginning with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, the equal rights of women and minorities and the requirement for equal treatment under the law have been continuously emphasized and enhanced (Constitution). Value 3: Ecological Wisdom Value 3 concludes “To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems (Green Party, 2000).” The Constitution does not address the matter of the environment’s preservation or stewardship; in the 18th Century, with a mostly pristine country spreading out to the west seemingly untainted and unclaimed, the framers of the Constitution did not foresee a time when environmental consciousness would be necessary. While the implementation of this value could potentially infringe on private property rights, state’s rights or others, there is nothing in the statement itself which is in conflict or in agreement with the Constitution.
Value 4: Non-Violence “We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments (Green Party, 2000).” The Constitution requires the maintenance of a standing army, as well as according the right to form militias. Section 8, outlining the duties of Congress, specifies in Clause 11 “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”, in Clause 12 “To raise and support armies”, in Clause 13, “To Provide and Maintain a Navy” (Constitution). It is clear that the Constitution and the Green Party values are in conflict on this point. Value 5: Decentralization The fifth key value of the Green Party is internally contradictory. Beginning “Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction and militarization”. It continues “Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system (Green Party, 2000).
” Rather than acknowledging and fixing the flaws of the current democracy, the Green Party proposes to overturn it in favor of a system which may be even more vulnerable to abuse. The overall structure of the United States is defined in the Constitution. It is considered to be a Confederation, because all States come together in matters of national or interstate importance, while continuing to legislate at a State and local level matters which do not have a reason to be managed at the federal level, and leaving to the individual all that has no reason to be legislated.
The first four Articles of the Constitution deal with the structuring of the Federal Government; Article 1 establishes the Legislative Branch, Article II the Executive Branch, Article III the Judicial Branch, delimiting responsibilities for each. In order to decentralize the United States government overall, the first three articles of the Constitution would need to be invalidated, placing Value 5 in direct conflict with the Constitution. Furthermore, decentralization may lead to violation of Article IV, Section 1, which guarantees that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State (Constitution).” If decentralization and direct democracy were instituted, there is no guarantee that all local government units would adhere to this principle. Value 6: Community-based Economics and Economic Justice The Constitution largely ignores the economic structure and operation of the United States, which has changed several times during the history of the United States. Values 6, “we recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance”, does not specifically run afoul of any Constitutional principles. However, there is the potential for conflict if this Value were implemented in such a manner as to deny individual rights granted by the Constitution. Value 7: Feminism and Gender Equality Value 7 establishes the principle of gender equality and the destruction of the patriarchal political and social system.
“We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender… We should remember that the process that determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the outcome we want (Green Party, 2000).” Constitutional amendments have been increasingly in favor of social equality among women and minorities, despite the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment; Value 7 is within the current strictures of the Constitution and does not conflict. Value 8: Respect for Diversity “We believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have traditionally been closed out of leadership roles (Green Party, 2000).
” While this statement is innocuous on its face, if it were enacted as a quota for the seating of legislators on any basis other than a free election, it would violate the principle of election specified in Article I, which details the structure of the Legislative Branch. Article I, Clause 2, specifies only that “No Person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen (Constitution)”. Value 9: Personal and Global Responsibility This value reads “We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony (Green Party, 2000).” This value is a statement of personal action and as such, has no conflict with the Constitution. As Amendment X, the final Amendment of the Bill of Rights, states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (Constitution).” Because the Constitution does not specifically prohibit or address the actions of private citizens to follow the path encouraged by the Green Party. Value 10: Future Focus and Sustainability The Final Key Value of the Green Party echoes the intent of the framers of the Constitution.
“Our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals… assuring that economic development, new technologies and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions (Green Party, 2000).” The Constitution itself was written with the intent that “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity (Constitution)”.
The intent to provide for future generations by taking the path seen as most sustainable is common to both documents. Having explored all ten Key Values of the Green Party, we can see that many of the more specific public policy Values either are, or could be, in conflict with the Constitution as it is defined today. However, the question remains: what do the Key Values express about the Green Party view of human nature? The first and most obvious view expressed in these values is that representative democracy is a broken system.
The values are predicated on the idea that, given small enough government and enough regulation of social behavior, society will naturally gravitate to social and economic equality. The Green Party believes that economic and social equality are not offered by the current system, and that regulation of these is required to produce an egalitarian society. Representative democracy is seen as control of society by the upper stratum, and not as a workable overall government system. The second facet of human nature expressed in the Green Party Key Values is that humans are fundamentally greedy and, unless constrained by social or legal restrictions, are not inclined to shepherd environmental resources, act in a non-discriminatory or egalitarian manner or to offer other citizens a fair chance at success.
Finally, the Green Party’s key values express the view that the unarmed, demilitarized society will lead to a society free of violence. If violence and aggression come from a standing army, the clear answer is not to maintain a standing army or a weapons arsenal. The Green Party’s values are wide-ranging, hopeful and imaginative. Many of the more general statements of policy, such as Value 9 and Value 10, are consistent with the Constitution and express great optimism in the future of America. Unfortunately, some of the more specific policy objectives are not consistent with the Constitution as it stands and, if they were to be implemented, would require changes in the Constitution via Amendment (or Revolution) to be legal.
ReferencesTen Key Values of the Green Party. Retrieved April 19, 2007 at http://www.gp.org/tenkey.shtmlConstitution of the United States. Retrieved April 19, 2007 at http://www.law.emory.edu/cms/site/index.php?id=3080.