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Tags: Donald Trump | Media Bias | National Debt | Russia Probe | leviathan | administrative | swamp

The Time Is Ripe for Genuine Reform

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By    |   Tuesday, 30 July 2019 04:25 PM

What was it that led the colonists of British North America to agree to engage in a war with England? Historians still debate all the causes of the American Revolution, but, from the vantage point of almost 250 years, we can now understand that most important was a widespread perception that our British rulers, and the British Parliament especially, had grown completely corrupt.

As great American historians such as Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood have demonstrated, the Americans, seeking to avoid the corruption of governments that most European thinkers regarded as inevitable over time, constructed a new frame of government — our federal Constitution.

A document which checked the power of the central government, by forcing it to depend, to a great extent, on the cooperation of state and local governments — and the American people in general.

Thus, what was built was our extraordinary structure of checks and balances, of dual state and federal sovereignty.

While a monarchy and an aristocracy could be relatively easily corrupted by the temptations of concentrated power, it would be much more difficult to ruin a decentralized republic devoted to the principle of the sovereignty of the people.

Unfortunately, the structure that our Framers put in place has now eroded.

A government of checks and balances gave way to government by judiciary, as the Warren Court and other jurists replaced the rule of law with their own policy preferences.

Beginning in the New Deal years, and accelerating in recent administrations, the U.S. Congress ceded their legislative power to administrative agencies.

The federal government, aided by constitutionally usurping decisions by the federal courts, ultimately succeeded in diminishing the power and the discretion of state and local governments.

The federal leviathan grew into the monster it has become today.

A monster embraced, indeed, by politicians who ran on a platform of providing the needs of our citizens (and, in some cases, even undocumented aliens) from cradle to grave.

That creature, aided by platoons of politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, academics, and a sympathetic mainstream media, has the capacity for previously unknown power.

Since "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," as Lord Acton’s maxim has it, the U.S. has come to close to the kind of corruption giving our Framers’ their worst nightmares.

The best explanation for the election of Donald Trump in 2016 is that many Americans, perceiving the corruption of those in power, and the concomitant loss of the citizens’ freedoms, thought that their only option to salvage liberty was to turn to an outsider — one who promised to "Make America Great Again," and do so by lowering taxes as well as tame the regulatory state.

This, of course, is what Mr. Trump has done, and the economic progress he and his administration have accomplished by the modest tax and regulatory reform Republicans have managed to pass are the proof of the wisdom of his undertaking.

Unfortunately those in power before Trump, and, in particular, the denizens of what he calls "the Swamp," or "the Deep State," or which we might describe more neutrally (though no less accurately) as the administrative state (bureaucracy) have fought back, with attempts to weaken and undermine the Trump presidency.

The most egregious of those efforts, of course, was the Russia Collusion imbroglio, and the Mueller investigation, which we are now learning was a plot hatched by officials in the Obama administration, aided by Clinton campaign operatives, and quite possibly helped by foreign intelligence agents.

The election of Donald Trump was, probably correctly, perceived as the greatest threat in a generation to the accumulated power of the administrative state.

It fought back.

The last gasp of that fight was  reflected probably in the hearings last week, during which  U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was essentially revealed as a  perhaps unwitting participant in the concoction of spurious legal theories and dubious spinning of facts; each designed to give Democrats ammunition for an impeachment battle against the president. But Mueller’s unfamiliarity with his own purported report, and his inability to defend its assertions have probably sunk any impeachment efforts.

It's now time for the American people, having dodged the impeachment bullet, and having now seen the duplicity and danger in the Russia "collusion delusion," to take further steps to tame the power of the heretofore described administrative state.

One of our boldest and most sagacious public intellectuals, lawyer Philip Howard, has begun to lay the foundation for just such a dramatically broad, bipartisan effort.

Recognizing that the regulatory apparatus especially at the federal level, is still stifling our development, and working with an organization called Common Good, Howard has called for "rebooting Washington," ending the regulatory morass which is still stifling the nation.

This is an effort the current administration ought to embrace.

The time is ripe.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.


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It's now time for the American people, having dodged the impeachment bullet, and having now seen the duplicity and danger in the Russia "collusion delusion," to take further steps to tame the power of the administrative state.
leviathan, administrative, swamp, state
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 04:25 PM
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