My reply to this gradeschool friend, who is now working on the European supercollider, was this:
I keep trying to put my finger on a technical term which refers to the maturation of systems, and how they tend to devolve once they attain that mature state...
Maybe the term doesn't exist. But it strikes me that our constitutional form of government has evolved to such a an overdeveloped point where gaming the system is the main function of its participants, rather than the straightforward operation of that system.
Of course it would be naïve of me to think that there ever was a time when our U.S. government operated in some "pure" form. It was imperfect from the start, and only achieved some of its most fundamentally necessary features within our lifetimes (e.g. civil rights, Freedom of Information Law, environmental protections). Anyone
who has read about the first 20 years of the Republic knows that our system was made problematic and distorted in awful ways even by some of its own Founders. (Alien & Sedition Acts, anyone?)
And yet those early partisan battles and maneuverings seem almost quaint by comparison, in that they were so relatively clear-cut and pungeant. Today everything is about process, lobbying, spin, influence, and running even simple motions through a wildly hyperdeveloped system until they are deformed beyond recognition.
Give me Congressmen beating each other with hickory walking sticks and fireplace implements on the floor of the House over today's impenetrable murk and utterly corrupted machinations... We indeed seem to have lost our way.
Obviously, that final paragraph is tongue-in-cheek: I'm not actually keen to see the type of incivility that has been revived by the Teabaggers return to Congress. But I do really wonder what is that word is which describes the tangled, obstructed mess that our government has become -- because as Orwell taught us in The Politics of the English Language, you can't think clearly without expressing oneself clearly.
Any ideas -- either about that missing word, or about the state of our 21st Century democracy in general?