20 January 2009

Hail to The Leader

"The War between the States established...this principle, that the federal government is,...the final judge of its own powers." ~ Woodrow Wilson,Constitutional Government in the United States, p. 178

This day we have inaugurated our Twenty-eighth Constitutional Dictator (a.k.a., our Forty-fourth president), under the "American System". In true, "American" fashion it was a peaceful transfer of power from one ruling junta to another. Well, it's change anyway. We can be thankful for it. Such as it is. The machine over which our new Leader will preside, however, has been there for about one hundred fifty years, and still is. That didn't change.

I know it sounds (what's the word?) disrespectful to call him a dictator. But the fact is, he is, not because of any fault or moral failure on his part, but by virtue of the nature of the office to which he has ascended. He now presides over a government which is, as Wilson observed, the final judge of its powers. Such a government is of the essence of dictatorship, however benevolent, however democratic. And so have they been since good ol' (dis)honest Abe, who would be rolling in his grave to see a black man at the head of the tyrannical government he fought so hard to establish. I can take great pleasure in that, anyway. Anything Lincoln would despise is something I can take pleasure in.

Our government is dictatorial by virtue of its justifications for its increasing size, power, and scope. In his book Constitutional Dictatorship, Clinton Rossiter argued that constitutional democracies must learn the lesson of the Roman Republic (oh, how I wish they would!): adopt and use emergency procedures that empower government to deal with crises beyond the ordinary capacities of democratic constitutional governance while at the same time ensuring that crisis procedures are subject to constitutional controls and codified temporal limits. This government -- this constitutional dictatorship -- has moved non-stop from one national crisis to another since the War for Southern Independence. Such a government is, by virtue of operating beyond the ordinary capacities of democratic constitutional governance, dictatorial. It exists in its present form (and has done for almost one-hundred fifty years) for no other purpose than to manage crises. It is simply a crisis-manufacturing-and-managing machine. (At the very least, if it does not actively create crises, then it does so inadvertently. And when it does not create crises, it certainly baptizes them.) If we could ever be crisis-free (yeah, right) we could dispense with the need for the machine.

The machine over which Bush (America's sole dictator, to listen to left-statists) presided is not only going to be left in place, it is likely to get even bigger, if His Beatitude's inauguration speech is a true indicator of his "change we can believe in". Change which will still be dictated from the top down in order to respond to ever more threatening crises -- education, healthcare, economic unfairness, global climate change, cats and dogs co-habitating. That much won't change. Just like he said: The question is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works. The crises are there; they are real, and they are insurmountable without big government. If they were smaller crises, then, no doubt, we could get by with a little government. Sadly, little government is not on the side of history.

There is one thing I wish Rossiter had taken into consideration. It's one thing to speak glowingly of a "constitutional disctatorship". It's another thing to have one. It's not much of a constitutional dictatorship when the ruling junta is the one deciding whether it has exceeded its constitutional limitations. And let's not have any talk about the Supreme Court being there to reign it in. This is likely to be a Supreme Court, soon, populated in the main by judges who buy into the Living Document Hypothesis. A "constitutional" dictatorship whose powers are limited by a living document, is a dictatorship whose powers are not limited by that document. It's a dictatorship whose powers are limited only by judicial fiat.

Of course, that could mean that, rather than a constitutional dictatorship, we have a sort of consular government, with the Executive playing the role of one consul and the Supreme Court playing the role of the other. Of course, in this case only one of the consuls has veto power of the other.

A constitutional dictatorship. The Founders would be so proud.

Note: With this posting, I do not strike out in any sort of new direction. Anti-"federalism" has been a consistent theme of this blog since I started it. If there is anything new here, it is in making clear that my sentiments are not limited to Congress and the Federal Courts. My failure to be explicit in regard to our Twenty-seventh Dictator was out of a habit of deference, and an attempt to give due consideration to the fact that we are at war. I think an ever-increasingly hostile tone toward both the Big Government Left (i.e., Democrats) and Big Government Right (i.e., Republicans) has been more than evident since at least the campaign season. I know it would have been nice to make this new tone more explicit after Obama's term. But I have no desire to wait another four years (or, gulp, eight) before I cease this habit of deference. Had McCain been the winner he'd be getting this. The people have spoken.


About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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