In his biography on Benjamin Franklin, The First American, 2000, H.W. Brands recounts words uttered by Mr. Franklin as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention: A matron of Philadelphia demanded to know, after four months’ secrecy, what he and the other delegates had produced. “A republic,” he answered, “if you can keep it.”

The ‘Founding Fathers’ understood the need for ‘virtue’ in the people, and checks-and-balances in the government — if the United States was to succeed and endure. The recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, which prohibits the government from restricting independent political donations from corporations or unions, resulted in $7 billion being pumped into the just completed U.S. elections.

Commentary: It’s hard to overstate the consequences of Citizens United in undermining checks-and-balances and personal integrity. It has perverted an already perverted U.S. election process and contributed to dysfunction in the U.S. Congress. People are talking about dealing with America’s problems without admitting that most of her problems are self-inflicted.

The conundrum for any society seeking to be free is not to be undone by the wrongheaded exercise of freedom, by individuals or institutions.