The United States of the American Revolution and of 1787 (the year the US Constitution was written) was dramatically different than the Untied States of today. The 1787 Constitution written for that time was meant for the country and the world in which the country existed during our nation’s young independence. Our nation today in many ways does not resemble the nation of 232 years ago, and in many ways has moved far beyond what the Constitution was imagined to deal with.
In New Localism authors Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak look at the ways in which the American economy and American governance are changing and co-evolving and what that means as we move forward. With regard to the Federal Government and Constitution they write, “Programmatically, the basic architecture of the American Federal Government is in contrast to the fact that American demography and wealth are metropolitan.”
At the time that our constitution was written, our nation was more agrarian than industrial. Wealth was tied up with land owners who had vast plantations and farms. Many of our founders, like Jefferson even though he was absent when the Constitution was written, praised bucolic values and had an almost romanticized notion of the good life being one of space, freedom, and simple farming lives.
Our nation today has moved far away from the view of the nation that our Constitution was designed for. We have outpaced the imaginations of our framers and the way we live and the lives we romanticize are far different than the visions of the framers. American cities are dynamic engines of productivity and economic growth today, while American farms are often forgotten, have become large conglomerates, and are often stuck in a battle between hiring cheap immigrant or low skilled labor and automation. For the time being, government is reacting by not reacting. Instead of changes and adaptations at the Federal level, we see a shift in governance and problem solving to the local level. The shift involves not just local government, but new networks that have come together in an adaptable framework to include actors and groups outside government. This is helping, for the time being, cities and metropolitan areas to respond to the challenges of the world today with new and innovative solutions, helping our nation which has outpaced its design adapt to a new, globalized world.