Last month’s debt-ceiling deal was a small assertion of the prerogatives of Congress—an institution that in recent decades has shirked its duties and diminished its own power. The representative legislature is a British-American innovation from the 17th and 18th centuries that proved a mighty engine of nationhood. It has become so thoroughly associated with legitimate government that even dictatorships such as China and Russia operate faux legislatures.
But modern times have been unkind to this great inheritance. Legislatures are being undermined by instant communications, missionary bureaucracies, politicized courts, the ideology of expertise, and the progressivist quest for a democracy of personal rights and group identities.