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Decorrupting Government: The United States Board of Overseers


  • Bruce M. Owen

    () (Stanford University)


This essay considers whether the organizational arrangements established by the Constitution of the United States remain effective in promoting “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which are the purposes of government according to Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. I conclude that they are no longer effective, and explore organizational reforms to address this failure. Specifically, the Constitution lacks a provision for substantive review of laws and regulations for consistency with the purposes of government—a function known in the private sector as quality assurance. The judicial power deals with legislative threats to life and liberty, but we need a better way to interdict threats to well-being. I propose the creation of a new branch, provisionally called the United States Board of Overseers, with responsibilities and powers analogous to those of the Supreme Court, but focused chiefly on the people’s opportunities for well-being rather than protecting life and liberty through the rule of law. For reasons of political legitimacy the eleven Overseers are chosen by lot from a College consisting of millions of citizens qualified by age, education and (middle) income. In political terms, the proposal is intended to counter the current power of the oligarchy over the legislature and the administrative state with a strongly democratic institution representing the principal victims of oligarchic power, the middle class. Given the difficulty faced by the oligarchy in containing the destabilizing and inefficient excess greed of its members, the proposal is also in the collective interest of the one percent. Protection for the poorest is included in the proposal.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce M. Owen, 2013. "Decorrupting Government: The United States Board of Overseers," Discussion Papers 12-010, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:12-010

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    References listed on IDEAS

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