Rilalities XI

Electoral College: We can provide an answer to the debate over whether the Electoral College is an outmoded way of electing presidents in two simple sentences. America is a Representative Republic. It is not, as some have suggested in a variety of ways, a democracy. The distinction, as it pertains to the Electoral College and presidential elections, is that the American voter is not voting for a presidential candidate when they cast a ballot, but for a representative that votes on their behalf in the Electoral College meeting that occurs a month after the election to determine the official winner of the election.

Those of us that are not scholars cannot claim to know all of the ideas that went into the formation of America’s federal government, but one of their goals was to create a system that made change difficult. They made it difficult to pass legislation, they made the Amendment process even more difficult, and they instituted numerous checks and balances on the powers of the branches. The Founders also instituted federalism to give the states more power, and thus provide an even greater check on federal power. By doing so, we can make the educated guess that for all the consternation that the system the Founders created has caused legislators, and their constituency, their goal was directed more towards stability than it was the equal representation that a democracy can provide.

In that vein, the Founders created the Electoral College. The Electoral College was, in effect, a check on the majority to provide some balance for the minority. The Founders knew that the majority would rule regardless of their efforts, but they did not want the majority (i.e. the passions of the mob) to hold a tyrannical rule over the interests of those in the minority. The Representative Republic form of government was their answer to allow minority interests, such as those in modern day Nebraska and Kansas, to have some say in the manner in which the federal government conducted affairs. The Founders believed that Rome’s version of a Republic was a superior form of government, because it allowed its representatives to make tradeoffs, or compromises, to form legislation for the common good. The Founders also believed that the people would hold these representatives accountable for their tasked role of providing representation. If America were a pure democracy, the interests of the larger states in our union would hold a tyrannical rule on the minds of national politicians.  

Some state that due to the fact that such a large percentage of the nation’s population now live in urban areas of California and New York, the votes of individuals living in Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska are given more prominence, in the Electoral College system. They state that this violates the principle of voter equality, and they declare that this is a violation of a democracy, and it is, but the United States of America is not a true Democracy.

Those that pose this argument rarely encounter a counter argument, for it is tough to argue against the idea that our system of representation should be population based to provide greater voter equality, and that a vote from a citizen in Kansas is disproportionately more important than a vote from a citizen from California. One of the many counter arguments is that the Founders based three-fourths of our government branches on equal representation, as opposed to providing population-based representation. The only branch of our government that provides population-based representation is The House of Representatives.

A proponent of what they believe to be the more equal representation provided by the Electoral College might be willing to cede to the idea that the system we have in place regarding presidential elections is inherently flawed. They might also be amenable to changing it, if the opponents of the Electoral College were willing to cede that the other two branches of our government also provide population-based representation. If the proponent began his argument with the notion that we change the Senate to a population-based representation, most opponents of the Electoral College might be willing to compromise on that, as that would give the larger states more power in the Senate. Would these same opponents be amenable to changing the Supreme Court into a more representative body? The proponent could argue that the unelected nine jurists on the Supreme Court do not represent the population as well as the judicial branch could if fifty-one jurists sat on the highest court in the land. (This proposition suggests that Washington D.C. be included, and we would deem it necessary to have an odd number of jurists, I suspect). Not only would that provide more representation for a wider variety of interests on the Supreme Court, it would provide some dilution of the vast power the nine jurists currently wield. In this scenario, we could have Governors, or even State Legislatures, nominate jurists to make sure that the jurists represented their state well. The proponent could also argue that one president doesn’t represent the population well and that we might want to consider having fifty-one presidents, 435, or however many it takes to provide better representation.

Those that seek to “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all fifty states and the District of Columbia” have made strides to basically end the original intent of the Electoral College. The first and last question these reform-minded citizens should ask themselves, is if we are going to make changes to the federal government, the Electoral College, and the manner in which the government represents the people how far do we take it?

The idea that these reformers only want to change that which furthers their agenda is obvious, but there are other agendas. That question asks the question, ‘Can a reform movement make all of the people happy all of the time?’ Of course not, and they are not driven by that goal. Their goal is to satisfy a personal, partisan agenda. Most reforms begin as personal, partisan agendas, however, and if this action makes America a better place then we should all be for it. That’s the question. Would this National Popular Vote bill make the country a better place? It would provide greater voter equality of course, but the goal of the Founders was to provide the nation what they believed would result in long-term stability. Those efforts have resulted in the fact that America is still on her first Republic since 1776, and France is now on her fifth since 1792, so one could say that if that was their goal they have succeeded. If that stability is a direct result of all of the checks and balances on government power, including the check that the Electoral College places on what they believed would result in a tyranny of the majority, what would be the unforeseen and unintended consequences that could result from providing to such an action?  

Diet: “Pay attention to what you eat?” nutritionists say. We ignore some of the nuggets of information nutritionists provide, because some of them can go a little overboard. They suggest that we follow a plan that we don’t want to follow, from food we don’t want to eat, to smaller portions, to massive intakes of various vitamins and supplements. Most of us do not want to spend our free time reading ingredients, creating detailed charts of protein intake versus carbohydrate, and fiber. That could be overwhelming, and it could leave us eating nothing but grain and tofu. We may do this short term, but we don’t want to deprive ourselves of the goodies that make life enjoyable. Yet, from every philosophy comes a nugget of useable information.

“If you are what you eat, why would I want to mimic the diet of a person from the Paleolithic Era (AKA the Paleo Diet), if that person had a life expectancy of thirty-five point four years if they were a man, and thirty if they were a woman? Why would I want to mimic anything from an era whose highlights consisted of some use of tools, art that was limited to cave paintings, and whose controlled use of fire came so late in their existence?”

The answer to these questions, say some, is anatomical. The answer lies in various places along what Rob Dunn of the Scientific American calls “the most important and least lovely waterway on Earth”, and what he calls “a masterwork, evolutionarily speaking”. What Mr. Dunn is describing is the human body’s alimentary canal, or our digestive  tract. Rob Dunn also states that while “most canals take the shortest course between two points, the one inside you takes the longest.” The theory behind the Paleo Diet, put simple, is that we only eat food that which the human alimentary canal recognizes before enhancements and we added preservatives to the foods in various agricultural cultivations.

What’s better for the human body margarine or butter? The competitor to butter lists the tale of the tape. The makers of margarine state that it is a vegetable oil based product, as opposed to butter’s saturated fats. They state that butter contains milk, and milk is a dairy product, and anyone that knows anything about losing weight knows to eliminate dairy from their diet. Butter contains contain 100 calories per tablespoon, a typical serving size. One serving has 11 grams of fat, and 7 grams of it is artery-clogging saturated fat –about one-third of your recommended daily value! It also contains 30 milligrams of dietary cholesterol (10% of your daily value). Butter also contains vitamins A, E, K2, and it “contains a type of fat called butyric acid, which helps maintain colon health. It’s also rich in conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that may actually help protect against weight gain.”

Margarine is a plant-based alternative, but some margarine contains some trans-fats. Some margarine products suggest that they contain no calories, but most of the products have fewer calories than butter, so margarine is the winner right?

The question that Rob Dunn, and most enthusiasts of the paleo diet ask, and that which might be a usable nugget of information in the debate between butter and margarine is, what does your digestive tract consume in a quicker and more efficient manner? 

The human digestive tract does not process the imitation egg, for example, as well as it does a natural egg that is prepared in the most natural manner possible. The theory holds that weight can be lost, as a result of the digestive tract recognizing how to metabolize that egg in the most efficient, quickest, and most natural manner possible. The theory also holds that the more familiar our digestive tract is with the egg, butter, meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts that could be found in the Paleolithic Era, the more it knows what to do with the food that has been introduced to it, the greater the health benefits.

I may be wrong in my assertions here, regarding the import of the Paleo diet philosophy, but I do not believe it calls for an exact mimicry of the diet of the Paleolithic man. Rather, it suggests that based on the current evolutionary design of the human body, we should study the diet of the Paleolithic man. We should take some nuggets of information that we believe made the Paleolithic man healthier, in lieu of the more processed foods that have additives and preservatives that can inhibit processing food in the digestive system, and make choices on our dietary habits based on that information. The paleo diet does not call for a complete overhaul of our diet, in other words, it just provides details that allow humans to make choices. Mimicry is a stretch, in other words, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.


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