The United States Constitution is a unique document. It is the foundation for how the federal government is structured and sets the basis for the relationship between the federal government, states and citizens. In what might be a surprise to most Americans, the Constitution does not confer rights on them. Their rights are bestowed by the Creator as detailed in the Declaration of Independence, the document that established the United States of America in the first place:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
What the Constitution does is prohibits the government from infringing upon those rights. Nor does the Constitution articulate all of the rights that citizens have. The 9th Amendment of the Bill of Rights states as much very clearly:
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
What made the Constitution of the United States unique was the fact that for the first time in human history there was a written constitution that clearly defined the powers the national government had, and most importantly, clearly articulated the limits to that power.
Implicit in that Constitution is the concept called the Rule of Law. The 10th Amendment makes clear that the powers of the federal government are limited to those delegated in the document:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
And therein lies the problem. The United States is supposed to be a nation ruled by laws, not by men. As Hayek explains in The Road to Serfdom:
“Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principle know as the Rule of Law. Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand — rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge”
In other words, for a free country to exist, men’s actions must be taken in the presence of previously established, well defined and clearly articulated laws. Otherwise his every move will be taken under the threat of potential illegality, arbitrarily imposed at the whim of those who have accumulated the most power.
I cover this basic Constitutional information simply to contrast it with actual actions of the current occupant of the White House. Our Constitutional Professor in Chief is either ignorant of the Constitution or simply feels like it does not apply to him. Regardless of the cause, today in the United States we are very much moving towards a Rule of Man and away from the Rule of Law.
Really? Some examples please…
There is the takeover of Chrysler. In a typical bankruptcy the secured debtholders get first dibs on the company’s assets. That is the way the law is written and that is the basis upon which secured lending takes place. President Obama threw out the rule of law and coerced Chrysler’s secured debtholders into accepting $.29 on the dollar while paying his friends at the UAW $.40 on the dollar for their unsecured obligations, eventually giving them 55% of the company.
No doubt lenders will henceforth think twice about committing their resources to borrowers given the fact that government can come in and arbitrarily adjust their contracts.
Then there is the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB made news last year by illegally seeking to decide for Boeing where it could invest its money. The lawlessness of the board didn’t fall far from the tree… This January, President Obama, seeking to circumvent the Senate’s advise and consent role appointed 4 people to the NLRB via recess appointments despite the Senate being in pro-forma session. Pro-forma session? Certainly that must mean that the Senate was not really in session so no actual business could be done, right? Actually… Not according to the President. Just the previous week he was so sure the pro-forma session was real that he signed into law the payroll tax extension bill that was passed during such as session. Either pro-forma sessions are in session, or not, but they can’t be both. It’s like being pregnant, one either is or isn’t, you can’t be both. This is a perfect example of Rule of Man vs. Rule of Law. Unfortunately for the United States the Rule of Obama supersedes the Constitution in that battle.
There are many others of course but the most egregious is of course Obamacare. The Constitution clearly does not give the federal government the right to force consumers to purchase anything; not healthcare not Twinkies, not tooth paste, not even green cars. Despite that, Obama and his Reid / Pelosi led Congress decided to pass a law that does just that – purchase health insurance. If Uncle Sam has the right to force you to purchase health insurance under the threat of jail, then the Constitution becomes nothing but a relic of a once great nation that was once governed by the Rule of Law.
President Obama is a free man’s worst nightmare. Even for those foolish enough to support his statist, redistributionist, green policies. Why? Because he is the epitome of the Rule of Man. Rule of Man simply means that the person in control of the mechanism of government can do whatever he wants to do, and while it’s exercised by your guy that’s great, but what about when someone you disagree with gets into the position of power? Without the Rule of Law to guide and constrain government actions, a nation will quickly devolve into a tyranny of men. Not sure about that? At the Constitution’s bicentennial a quarter century ago could you have imagined that the government could dictate what you must feed your kids for lunch, could require you to buy anything at all simply because you’re alive or force churches to provide contraception or abortion benefits? I don’t think so.
Welcome to the Rule of Man. We’ve seen this play itself out before, where someone comes to power legitimately and then manipulates the rules to give themselves virtually unlimited power. That’s how Hitler did it. That’s how Chavez did it. That’s how Putin’s doing it again. Can you imagine a Barack Obama unfettered by the concerns of seeking a second term? One shudders to think…