Liberals to the Law: Get Lost!
After eight years of listening to liberals hyperventilating about the illegalities of President George W. Bush, it is really annoying for conservatives to watch the utter disregard for the law coming from the Obama administration.
The jewel in the crown of this imperial presidency is of course the pre-holiday decision violate the text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and delay the employer mandate for Obamacare by a year.
People have started arguing about whether or not Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution applies to the president: "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." After all, the government has gotten so big and complex that the president can't hope to dot every "i" and cross every "t" in every law that gets passed. He has to prioritize these things.
None of the above applies to Republican presidents, of course. They must obey the letter of the law, or else.
The Obama administration's flight from the law was analyzed and predicted half a century ago by Friedrich Hayek. The whole point of Hayek's thought, from The Road to Serfdom to the three volume Law, Legislation and Liberty was that big government had a fatal flaw in its heart. He argued that the complex responsibilities of modern government could not possibly be defined by cut-and-dried law. Big government necessarily required administrative flexibility if it was to work at all. But then, of course, it would no longer be a government of laws. That's why the welfare state was a road to serfdom, the feudal rule of the administrative bureaucrats.
To the young liberal like Ezra Klein, the extralegal antics of Obamacare are not a problem (H/T Reihan Salam). Congress should just come back for another try.
Congress should use the next year to improve the employer mandate. There are plenty of better ideas out there: The Senate Health Committee's bill used [blah blah blah]. The House bill tied [blah blah]. We can do better, and we should.
You would think that Congress is just planning a wedding, not how to force the entire health care system under the liberal yoke. The "we" in "can do better" has no place for anyone except liberals.
But there is another problem with the president ignoring the law as written. It is the whole question of why we have law at all or any limits on the power of the government and the ruling class.
The reason we have laws and limits on government is not just an embarrassing holdover from the past. It is not just to give Republicans a chance to obstruct the president's important initiatives.
The reason we require that the president "take Care that the Laws shall be faithfully executed" is that the governed in all places harbor a natural suspicion about their rulers. They tend to worry that the government will abuse its powers. Think liberal paranoia about Richard Nixon. Think liberal paranoia about, oh, anything conservative or Republican. The point of a government of laws is not so much to do the right thing. The point of a government that obeys the law is that it helps keep the opposition from crawling over broken glass to get to the polling booth at the next election and change its ruling class for another one.
That is the central problem of "czars" in the White House, of EPA closing down coal-fired electric generation, or Obamacare waivers, or Obamacare voided deadlines. It feeds the natural suspicion of any non-liberal American that their federal government is up to no good, and will make it difficult or impossible for the ordinary citizen to get a fair shake.
"Clanless, lawless, hearthless is he who is in love with civil war," says Homer. And if we suggest that politics is civil war by other means, we can see that the lawless liberal is taking an oblivious first step to civil war.
Liberals in the Obama administration and elsewhere are so convinced of the truth of their issues, from health care to climate change that any means to advance their progressive agenda seems justified to them. The fact that they are forced to change a few deadlines, or push climate change through the EPA rather than Congress doesn't seem like anything to get worked up about.
Liberals are wrong about this, as about so many things on which they refuse to listen to other voices.
Liberals may think that politics is just about issues, but they are wrong. Politics is about avoiding civil war; it is about calming the fears of the opposition. A ruling class that that doesn't faithfully execute the law is provoking the opposition into raising a head of rebellion.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism. Get his Road to the Middle Class.