This article was written exactly one year before the next major American election and poses a significant question for readers about their personal, business and national future: “What is the proper role of government in our lives?”
This extremely important issue is one not usually framed as the crux of an election. First, I suggest you reread the history of the founding of this country. (The CATO Institute in Washington, D.C. provides free or very inexpensive copies of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.)
History shows that an administrative state always seeks to extend its reach to magnify its powers, always elevating community welfare over the rights and liberties of individuals. Minions of the state often seek to eliminate legal boundaries with regulations and laws that deny the consent of the governed. The grim fact is that strong central government of any size has usually resulted in horrors such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or the Pol Pot and Chairman Mao monsters that litter civilization’s landscapes.
Our country is blessed because the Founders recognized that the closer the people are to their elected government, the more freedom and prosperity flourishes. They also recognized that declarations of state sovereignty are empty without political mechanisms to assure a strong and vibrant society. It is not by accident that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are conspicuous for they do not prohibit.
Remember that limited government was not the same as small government for the Founders. The issue was in dividing sovereignty between federal government and states. Limits were, therefore, not on powers but on the topics entrusted to care. The supremacy clause of the Constitution gives preference to federal government for matters within its purview. A major and recurring problem for the people is defining what the purview of the governmental body is.
Clearly, the Founders expected that disputes between jurisdictions (for example, on enforcement of immigration matters) would be resolved better than what the nation experiences today. Competing state and federal interests confuse unrelated matters (profiling or deportation of aliens) because the Constitution is quite clear. It does not grant federal control over immigration but grants Congress power “to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” This example shows how all government branches overreach authority and how some (Congress in this case) under-reach in attempts to avoid responsibility. These are not minor affairs – they are terribly important distinctions that citizens must understand. Voters must require federal, state and local governments to discharge their responsibilities so each does what it is authorized to do and not do what it is not authorized to do.
It turns out that Congress can intercede and correct excesses of the administrative state of federal government by not appropriating tax money to any agency overstepping authority. As is usually the case, the legislative branch of government at all levels is the primary culprit in failing to balance the processes of an administrative state. The public has recourse, but it is not informed about exercising available options. And to hold any government agency or individual accountable entails an increasingly difficult and tedious process. Mechanisms must be practical, and recall of elected officials is too cumbersome. But American citizens can ask elected representatives for a Constitutional Convention where two-thirds of states can call for amendment to the law of the land. That has been done 27 times quite quickly and successfully. Never forget that the Constitution does not prohibit (and I say this with thoughtful reserve) revolution.
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution requires “advice and consent” of the Senate for appointments of Executive and Judicial branch employees but does not define which officials require confirmation action. So, America gets “czars” who do the Executive branch bidding or get ideologues appointed to the Judiciary with a political agenda and intent to legislate from the bench. This is not what the public wants, and it is certainly not performed in a manner that the Founders intended. America has defined processes to make constitutional changes that the citizens desire.
What could restore state’s rights and restore public confidence in how federal government operates? How about starting with a Constitutional amendment saying that when a majority of states resolve that any Executive or Judicial branch official denigrates state’s sovereignty, that person is removed from office upon that charge and an election held to replace that person immediately. A concurrent Amendment should be that no elected person can receive a pension from their federal job or receive any exemption from federal, state or local laws or regulations affecting them personally.
Think about it. IH