This is such a simple concept and one that everyone needs to consider. Requiring our politicians to live under all the laws they pass is the single best protection of your freedom that you can have. John Trenchard makes a similar point in Cato’s Letter #60:
“The only Secret therefore in forming a Free Government, is to make the Interests of the Governors and of the Governed the same, as far as human Policy can contrive. Liberty cannot be preserved any other Way.
How do you keep the interests of the politicians the same as the interests of the people? You make your politicians as much like regular citizens as possible. That means no special “perks” of office – like fancy pensions for example – and it means that politicians must be subject to every law they pass in the same way that average citizens are.
Under those circumstances, a politician can’t do anything to you that he isn’t willing to do to himself first. That means that your representatives can’t take away your freedom unless they take away their own as well. Now THAT’S an effective way to protect your freedom.
I touched a little on where this concept appears in the Constitution here as well.
In this clip I tried to explain the dangers of allowing President Obama to decide to use the military without Congressional approval. It’s possible that you felt it’s not fair to say that it’s possible that this president might use our armed forces for something horrible like a coup. Which is fine – that situation is hard for me to imagine as well.
However, when it comes to government we can’t only think about the present. We always have to think about the precedent we’re setting for the future. Are you sure the next president can be trusted with complete control over the military? What about the one after that?
For people like you and me who have always had a peaceful nation to live in it’s hard to imagine our government doing something horrible to us. But all you have to do is take one look at what is going on in the Ukraine and Venezuela right now to see that it is possible. And we must have the foresight to protect ourselves from those situations before they happen so our country never has to go through something like this:
What’s most interesting about this particular violation of the Constitution is the way it highlights the other ways that we are violating the Constitution. If the way we interpret one section of the Constitution causes another section to become completely nonsensical, that’s a flashing neon sign that we’re doing something wrong.
In this case, we’ve been allowing executive agencies to create laws. Now that an executive agency (the Department of Health and Human Services) has enacted a law that violates our Freedom of Religion it raises some tricky questions. The 1st Amendment – which protects our God-given freedom of religion – says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Notice that the president and executive agencies aren’t mentioned.
So then is this mandate technically Constitutional? After all, Congress did not make a law violating our Freedom of Religion. Well, the birth control mandate does violate the spirit of the 1st Amendment for sure. But the fact that the 1st Amendment leaves our rights completely unprotected from this type of abuse by the Executive Branch tells us that something critical about the way this law was enacted.
The reason that the 1st Amendment ignores the president and his executive agencies is because there was no need to bring them up. The Constitution gives ALL legislative power to Congress. There was no need to protect us from the president violating our Freedom of Religion because the Executive Branch has no policy making powers.
This situation makes it even more obvious that the Founders did not intend to give any law-making powers to the Executive Branch – and that every last one of the hundreds of thousands of regulations that have been passed by executive agencies are unconstitutional.
The point of this clip is very straight forward. President Obama keeps talking about what he can do to implement his agenda without Congressional approval – but the Constitution doesn’t give him any authority at all to do that. As Charles Pinckney of South Carolina explains in this quote, the president is almost entirely dependent on Congress:
“He is commander-in-chief of the land and naval forces of the Union, but he can neither raise nor support forces by his own authority. He has a revisionary power in the making of laws; but if two thirds of both houses afterwards agree notwithstanding his negative, the law passes. He cannot appoint to an office without the Senate concurs; nor can he enter into treaties, or, in short, take a single step in his government, without their advice. He is, also, to remain in office but four years. He might ask, then, From whence are the dangers of the executive to proceed? It may be said, From a combination of the executive and the Senate, they might form a baneful aristocracy.”
The bottom line here is that the president is the head of the executive branch of government – he has the power to execute the laws passed by Congress. But he has absolutely no power to create policy in any way. The president is must wait for Congress to pass the laws that he will be executing.
And no – just because Congress won’t send him the laws he wants isn’t a sufficient reason for ignoring the Constitution.
Written by Chad Kent
Saturday, January 18, 2014 17:14
My Constitution Revolution this week on The Chris Salcedo Show focused on President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Here’s the clip:
There you have it. The clip makes it beyond clear – these recess appointments were unconstitutional. But why does it matter when the vacancies happen?
The answer to that goes back to why the Founders put this clause in the Constitution to begin with – and it wasn’t so the president could do something if the meanies over in the Senate wouldn’t confirm a nominee that he really, really wanted super bad.
Here’s the deal. Back when the Constitution was written, travel and communication took a long time. When Senators left Washington D.C. it could be weeks before they were able to return. In that case, imagine if someone important in the federal government died while the Senate was in recess. That could make it extremely difficult for the government to function.
The Founders decided that it made sense to plan ahead for a situation like that. The idea behind the Recess Appointment Clause is, in the event of some type of emergency where a vacancy happens in the executive branch, the president can go ahead and put someone in that office so that the government can continue to function. Then, when the Senators came back from their recess they could handle filling the vacancy through the normal process.
President Obama wasn’t facing a situation anything like that – there was no threat of a crisis in government if he didn’t get these appointments to the NLRB. His intent here was solely to circumvent the Constitution because it was putting limits on his power.
If we value our freedom at all, this has to stop. The kind of bald power grab that President Obama has attempted here exactly is what the Constitution was written to prevent.
The concept here is extremely simple. The Constitution was designed to limit the power of government, not to limit the liberty of the American people. Knowing that that was the intention of the Founders is important to keep in mind when interpreting the 1st Amendment. It tells us that the purpose of the 1st Amendment was not intended to limit the religious liberty of the people of this country in any way.
When you read the 1st Amendment as a normal person and not a lawyer, it isn’t terribly complicated:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
It doesn’t get a whole lot clearer than that. It states only what Congress can’t do – it says nothing at all about what the people can’t do. This shouldn’t be confusing at all – but somehow the judges and lawyers in this country have found a way to do it.
Beyond the simple language the Founders put in the First Amendment, they even went a step further in the preamble to the Bill of Rights and told us exactly what they were trying to do!
“THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”
In other words, they are telling us that the reason that the Bill of Rights was passed was to further restrict the power of government. Because of that, we must read the 1st Amendment as a limit on government – and not a limit on the religious liberty of the people in any way whatsoever.
So any court ruling that tells us that its unconstitutional for a high school student to talk about God during their graduation speech or for kids to pass out candy canes at school is complete and total nonsense.
You might be wondering how we got here. Well, most of today’s judges will tell you that the 14th Amendment requires the Bill of Rights to be applied to state and local governments. This application of the 14th Amendment is where most cases about religious liberty come from.
However, this interpretation of the 14th Amendment is simply incorrect. The people who ratified the 14th Amendment didn’t discuss the idea of applying the 1st Amendment to the states and they certainly didn’t debate the possibility of limiting the religious liberty of the American people. The authors of the 14th Amendment had absolutely no intention of applying the Bill of Rights to the states. That is simply something that federal judges read into that amendment at a much later date as way of giving themselves – and the federal government – much more power.
That method of interpreting the Constitution is illegitimate because it allows our politicians to take power for themselves that the people never intended to give them. As Founder James Wilson taught us:
“The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.”
Written by Chad Kent
Friday, December 27, 2013 17:50
Here is the very thought-provoking Constitution Revolution segment from last weekend (which you can hear during The Chris Salcedo Show on The Blaze Radio every Saturday morning):
This is the John Locke quote I mentioned in the clip:
“For nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom, i.e., make me a slave.”
This quote has always fascinated me because it brings up a brilliant question – why would someone need control over you if they weren’t planning to do something to you against your will?
To illustrate that, let’s look at the Post Office. The federal government offers a mail delivery service that it is entirely in charge of operating. As a citizen, you are free to choose if you want to use that service or not.
So even though the federal government is involved in mail delivery, it does not have control over the package delivery industry. FedEx and UPS offer very competitive services for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the Post Office.
On the other hand, when our politicians made the poor decision to get the federal government involved in the health insurance industry they didn’t just design a program to offer health insurance to lower income citizens. Instead they chose to take control over the health insurance industry as a whole.
Now you no longer have the freedom to decide if you want to purchase health insurance or not. And insurance companies are no longer allowed to decide what types of coverage will best serve their customers and their business – the government has dictated what types of insurance they are required to offer.
It would have been much easier for Congress to create some sort of program that offered a subsidy to people with low incomes who couldn’t afford to purchase health insurance. But they didn’t. So we should all be asking ourselves the question:
Why would the politicians work as desperately as they did to pass Obamacare – and take control over the health insurance industry – if they didn’t plan to force you do to something you don’t want to do?
Written by Chad Kent
Monday, December 16, 2013 09:27
Here is my Constitution Revolution segment from this weekend:
The basic idea here is that the Founders didn’t give us three branches of government just because it sounded like a good number. They gave us three branches because there are three jobs a government has to be able to do and they wanted to keep those jobs separated.
By putting each of the jobs of government into distinct branches, they were making sure that the people in each of those branches would have to cooperate before the government could function. That means that if one branch got corrupted and wanted to take the country in a wild, tyrannical direction the other two branches would be there to stop that from happening. Essentially, all three branches would have to become corrupted for our country to truly head in an oppressive direction.
But, as I said in the clip, today we allow the executive branch to perform all three jobs of government. How is that possible? Think executive agencies like the EPA, HHS, or the IRS. A lot of these agencies are given the power to use all three functions of government on their own.
Take the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for example:
Who rights OSHA regulations? OSHA
Who enforces OSHA regulations? OSHA (you’ve probably heard of OSHA inspectors)
If you are accused of violating an OSHA regulation, where will your case be sent? Most likely to some administrative court run by the people at OSHA
In other words, the people inside of OSHA can write a rule, decide that you’ve violated their little rule, and find you guilty of violating that rule all by themselves. Does that sound like a good idea? It shouldn’t. After all, there’s a reason the phrase “judge, jury, and executioner” has a negative connotation.