My name is Carl Jarvis and I’m the author of The United States of Dysfunction: A Constitutional History of America’s Present Crisis.
Deeply impressed by the oath I took to “support and defend the Constitution” when I joined the Navy two decades ago, I’ve been fascinated by American constitutional history ever since.
In 2005, my fascination led to a series of conversations that I found very disturbing (and which I continue to find troubling to this day):
- In one conversation, a friend was talking about radical changes needed to address problems in our political process. His recommendations (of which he’s hardly the sole advocate) would have the effect of dismantling our Constitution.
- In another conversation, a recent college graduate (with a political science degree from an elite university) described a course of study in which the framers of our Constitution were portrayed not as courageous revolutionaries, but as self-interested plutocrats who wrote the Constitution to advance their own interests.
- In yet another conversation, a friend and I discussed the faltering role of political parties and what he viewed as the need for a third party to represent the views of unaffiliated, independent voters.
- In the background of all these conversations was the recent election in Iraq and the promise that America would spread democracy to benighted nations throughout the world.
As a result of these conversations, I began searching far and wide for the right book to counteract these sentiments. I wanted a book that would explain the goodness and greatness of our political institutions in terms anyone could understand.
What I found disturbed me even more.
Everywhere I looked, I found echoes of the sentiments expressed in these conversations. The books focused on everything but the fundamental order of our political process. Even those who spoke approvingly of the Constitution missed the point as they stressed the clauses but ignored the broader structure of the Constitution.
- One book I read purported to be about the greatness of America, yet this book scarcely mentioned the Constitution (and it did so in a barely favorable light).
- Another book I found contained a searing passage that accurately identified the root of the dysfunction we see today. But it stopped short of proposing any remedy to fix the problem.
- In yet another book, claims were made to the effect that we’d be far better off without checks and balances to limit the power of government. Public opinion was said to be the only restraint on power necessary.
With these thoughts swirling around in my head, I decided to write a book to fulfill the following requirements:
- It would show how we arrived at our present crisis in terms of history and structure, rather than merely focusing on political ideologies or charismatic personalities.
- It would show the good that can be done through our existing institutions, rather than echoing proposals to scrap, abandon, or radically alter our Constitution.
- It would show the specific actions we could take, if inclined to fix the problem, rather than merely appealing to prejudice and offering pie-in-the-sky remedies.
Today, The United States of Dysfunction provides a single, condensed, easy-to-read volume that contains the American constitutional history which explains how we got to where we are today.
Here’s an interview I did with David Hutzelman about The United States of Dysfunction, in case you’d like a “sneak peek” at the book:
Here are a few specific things you’ll learn when you read The United States of Dysfunction:
- The danger of present political trends in the United States and what will happen if we do nothing about the crisis we face (page 8)
- Why the revolutionary period that preceded the birth of our country holds the key to understanding the true meaning of our Constitution (page 12)
- The famous Writs of Assistance Case, tried in Boston in 1761, and how it relates to personal liberty in 21st century America (page 15)
- An old Whig maxim about tyranny and why it no longer applies (page 24)
- What would happen if we adhered to Plato’s theory of the right to bear arms (page 41)
- The critical reason why the Bill of Rights – and even the checks and balances provided by the Constitution – are not enough to secure liberty (page 46)
- The ultimate key to understanding, from a constitutional standpoint, what is happening to our country today (page 47)
- Why term limits don’t work (page 81)
- A critical principle of the original Constitution that we’ve abandoned (page 91) and why most people overlook the continuing relevance of this principle (page 93)
- What de Tocqueville said about the reelection motive and why his insight applies more than ever today (page 110)
- The radical change made to the organization of Congress in 1910 (page 123) and the effect it had on the lawmaking power of Congress (page 127)
- How the federal courts aid and abet incumbency gerrymandering (page 141)
- The 46-word executive order, issued in 1897, that paved the way for the growth of the federal bureaucracy and modern administrate state (page 155)
- Why Senate rules are not the sole cause of rampant abuse of the filibuster today (page 167)
- Why the Federal Reserve cannot be abolished without altering the structure of the political process that surrounds it (page 179)
- The forgotten 1925 law that dramatically expanded the power of the Supreme Court and led to the “government by judiciary” that many people take for granted today (page 203)
- What caused the near extinction of third parties from America politics between 1896 and 1903 (page 222)
- The single most effective structural change that we can make to restore government of, by, and for the people (page 240)
- The chilling parallel between ancient Rome and modern America and what we can learn from it today (page 252)