Tensegrity in the structure of the United States
By adimovk5 in Culture
Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 11:01:15 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
Tensegrity is a term used in architecture.
What is tensegrity?
The tension of the different parts of the structure gives the structure its strength. Separately each part is a burden on the structure. Together the parts make the structure strong.
“The word ‘tensegrity’ is an invention: a contraction of ‘tensional integrity’. Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder”
Richard Buckminster Fuller (excerpt from Synergetics, p. 372.)
Tensegrity structures are distinguished by the way forces are distributed within them. The members of a tensegrity structure are either always in tension or always in compression.
The United States has a similar tensegrity.
The legislative, executive and judicial
branches are balanced against each other. The writers of the Constitution feared the concentration
of power that might occur in a central government. They divided the central government's powers so that
no single branch could dominate. Each has independent authority but it is limited by the other two.
Legislative power was vested in Congress. Executive power was vested in the President. Judicial power
was vested in the Supreme Court and inferior courts. Congress was to make laws. The President was to enforce laws. The
courts were to settle disputes. The pure ideal didn’t last long.
Today the courts legislate from the bench and enforce their own decisions. Congress holds Congressional
hearings that operate like courts and creates agencies that enforce laws. The President issues Executive
Orders that have the force of law and his agencies sometimes act as judge and jury. Each has
encroached on the powers of the others. A balance still remains but it isn’t the structure created by
THE POWER LEVELS
The federal, state and individual form another power triangle. The constitution gives the federal
government certain powers and forbids it other powers. In Amendment
10, the relationship between the three is made clear:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states,
are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
The federal government was to have only those powers specifically given to it. The states and the people
were to have any powers not forbidden to them by the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson had much to say
on the subject:
“Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at
such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance,
be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens;
and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite public
agents to corruption, plunder and waste.”
The federal government has increased its share of power at the expense of the states and individuals.
Some of the powers it has taken were not granted by the Constitution. Some of it is taken in exchange
for grants of money from the federal purse. However, the state governments still serve as a check on
federal power and so long as regular elections occur, politicians are never far from unemployment.
Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800. ME 10:167
“While smaller governments are better adapted to the ordinary objects of society, larger confederations
more effectually secure independence and the preservation of republican government.”
Jefferson to the Rhode Island Assembly, 1801. ME 10:262
The writers of the Constitution had studied ancient Greece and knew of its philosophy:
Aristotle was also an opponent of democracy, but his method of determining what was good government
was not to draw up schemes for perfect states. Instead he looked at governments as they actually
operated. He divided the Greek states into three categories: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Each
had their virtues, but each tended to degenerate: monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and
democracy into mob rule. He thought a mixed government, which combined the three methods and guarded
against their failings, would be best.
They constructed a mixed government. The executive is an elected monarch (rule by one). The legislature
is an elected aristocracy (rule by merit). Both the executive and legislative are periodically elected
to prevent their degeneracy into tyranny and oligarchy. In the Greek sense, tyranny was rule by one
without regard to law. Oligarchy was rule by a group without regard to merit. The judicial branch is an
appointed aristocracy. It is chosen by the elected monarch with the approval of the elected aristocracy.
The judicial branch serves for life but has no power other than to resolve disputes. The other branches
make laws and control the government.
The last form, democracy, was the form the writers feared most. Again and again in history they saw
unstable democracies fall into mob rule. And yet, they believed the power to rule ultimately comes from
the people. They decided on representative government. The power of the people, of democracy, is
represented by a House of Representatives who serve as a buffer between the people and the law.
Political parties were not part of the original plan
for the United States. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned:
“They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force;
to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful
and enterprising minority of the community… However combinations or associations of the above
description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to
become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the
power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very
engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
They chose not to establish parties as Constitutional institutions. However, in a growing nation,
factions were inevitable. Eventually factions did form in a struggle for power between two friends, John
Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The first parties differed mainly over whether the federal government should
be stronger than the states or vice versa.
Today’s political parties struggle over different matters. There are two main struggles. One is the
fight over economic rights. Should government control the economy or should the economy be a free
market? The tension between the two causes the economy to be somewhere in the middle. The other main
struggle is the fight over personal rights. Should people have a right to choose or should the
government legislate morality? Again, the tension causes personal liberty to fall between the two
Currently, the Republican party is for morality by law and against government control of the economy.
The Democrat party is for control of the economy and against morality by law. Most power is concentrated
in these two factions. Third party factions occasional rise and force a change. In times of near balance
between the two major parties, third parties can influence the course of the country.
THE ECONOMIC ISMS
Capitalism was present in the United States when it was born. The country had neither the wealth nor the
ability to have much of anything else. Capitalism is the private ownership and private control of
resources. Pure unfettered capitalism failed
There are cycles in
economies. The economy grows and shrinks. In the 1920s, speculation and easy credit drove the stock
market beyond the normal trend line. In 1929, the speculation bubble burst. The economy couldn't
recover. The recession worsened and became worldwide. People were bankrupted. Governments collapsed.
Fascism gained favor.
Governments tried a multitude of methods to rescue their economies. The most successful method was
fascism. Fascism is private ownership and state
control. Mussolini’s Italy was the most successful example. People from every nation sent observers to
Italy to learn, including the US.
Many laws were created that controlled economic
behavior. The excesses and defeat of the fascist governments in the Second World War ended the
popularity of this method.
Socialism is government control plus government ownership. In the United States, quite a few
institutions are socialist:
...a certain degree of such state ownership and planning is common in economies that would almost
universally be considered capitalist... In the U.S., a semi-private central bank with close ties to the
federal government, the Federal Reserve, regulates lending rates, serving as a “bank of banks.” Also,
governments in capitalist nations typically run the post office, libraries, national parks, highways,
and (in the case of the US) NASA... State, provincial, and local governments within a capitalist system
can operate and own power companies and other utilities, parks, mass transit including rail and
airports, hospitals and other medical facilities, and public schools (often including a number
The economy is a now mix of capitalism, fascism, and socialism. Sometimes private ownership and private
control works best. Sometimes government controls must be used on private property. Sometimes it's best
for the government to both own and control. As economic methods none of the three is inherently bad or
inherently good. They are tools and the correct tool must be used at the correct time for each purpose.
E PLURIBUS UNUM
The struggles of the various forces for supremacy have the potential to destroy the country if any one
succeeded. Fortunately, the opposing forces balance each other out. Like yin and yang, the forces balance each other
and give the whole strength.