The Administrative State’s Threat to the American Constitution

Sunday, May 5, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Mike Johnson
May 5, 2019

We should be appalled of the inroads that the Administrative State has made into American governance and the peril the Administrative State poses to our Constitution. Our founding fathers were dedicated to an avowal of government based on fundamental principles; popular sovereignty, limited government, checks and balances, separation of powers, judicial review, and federalism.

The just powers of the government were to be derived from the consent of the governed. This affirmation of popular sovereignty and limited government can be examined quite simply. Should the people control government, or should government control the people? The founders opted for government of the people.

A major concern of the drafters of the new Constitution was the danger of tyranny and the avoidance of paths to inadvertently slide into tyranny. They feared tyrants such as King George III, but also worried about the “tyranny of the majority,” the downfall of democratic initiatives over the ages.

In Federalist #47, James Madison wrote:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

The founders thus strived to separate the three functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, one from another; the principle of the separation of powers and the principle of checks and balances so intricately woven into the finished document. They recognized the frailties of human nature and used checks and balances, often setting ambition against ambition, as forces to constrain self-interest and restrain tyranny.

The founders did not consider the three branches of government to be equal. They anticipated that the legislative branch would be the most powerful (by virtue of the authority to make law) and that the judicial branch would be the least powerful of the three. Their concern with the power of the legislative branch was such that, as another of their checks and balances, they divided it into two chambers; a House of Representatives, elected directly by the people, and a Senate, appointed by the state legislatures. In this manner, each chamber would check the other, reducing the chances of a tyranny by the legislative branch.

Each piece of the mosaic was debated in depth during the four exceedingly hot months of the summer of 1787. All but three of the pieces were achieved by consensus; the three others addressed compromises on slavery, the rights of small states, and the electoral college.

John Steele Gordon, in a February 2019 article in Commentary Magazine, said:

To put it simply, the creation of the United States Constitution was the most successful act of statecraft in human history. (snip)

Within a century of its founding, the United States had grown from an undeveloped country dependent on the export of raw materials to the largest and most dynamic economy in the world. This was an exceptional, not to say astonishing, achievement.

The people of the United States under this exceptional Constitution have prospered and flourished. Various nations of the world have emulated aspects of the American experiment and they too have thrived. The Constitution is almost 250 years old with few amendments that have not altered, with the notable exceptions of the 16th and 17th, the principles and checks and balances of the original document.

But our Constitution is under attack from within.

The Constitution came out of the Civil War essentially intact with amendments to incorporate the end of slavery and a commitment to equal rights for all. The federal government came out of the war much enlarged.

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