It is a conventional opinion that the American political system is weak and fragmented. It is also a conventional opinion that this was by deliberate design -- that the American founding fathers believed in limited government, and designed a system to ensure it. As will be suggested below, important political and social interests are invested in this belief. It is therefore vigorously asserted, since in politics a sufficiently widespread belief that something is true can make it true in fact. Nevertheless, the realities of the American system do not necessarily bear out the rhetoric of weakness and fragmentation.
In a number of ways, it is certainly true that the American system is fragmented, if not necessarily weak. Numerous governmental functions that are performed by the national government as a matter of course in most countries are in the United States relegated to the states. In turn the states pass many of these functions on to local government. The standard form of identification carried by most people is a state driver's license, not a national identification card. Local police perform most law enforcement. They are not directly answerable, in a day-to-day administrative sense, to the national government or even the state government. Local government officials register marriages, property transactions, and much of the other fundamental administration of society.
On the other hand, an observer might ask whether there is an inherent contradiction between t