The Soft Dictatorship
Imagine a hypothetical country where small groups of unelected individuals can make law by simply sitting around a conference table deciding they want a new law, even if that law violates the constitution. Those unelected representatives could only be dismissed by the executive power and could essentially do whatever they wanted. Furthermore, imagine if the citizens of that country were not allowed to contest these decisions in court because they didn't have "standing" to do so.
Furthermore, imagine at least one of these agencies would be empowered to go seize the property and businesses of the citizenry without any possibility of outside judicial review. In our hypothetical country, it wouldn't matter if there were an elected body, because the agencies and executives could do pretty much anything they wanted while letting the people have the illusion of electoral control.
The country I am speaking of country isn't Cuba, Russia, or China. Startlingly, the country I am speaking of is the United States of America, bit by bit, and the resulting soft dictatorship is getting worse. The founders of the USA knew that government would always be the enemy of freedom. They knew that if it became easy to pass laws then the freedoms of the Constitution would be completely undermined by an avalanche of restrictive laws. To avoid this fate, they installed checks and balances in the Constitution to make it difficult to pass law as those laws. They would be truly dismayed by the situation we have now some 250 years later.
Currently there are literally hundreds of government agencies that have the power to "regulate" almost any aspect of our lives, from the food we ingest to the way we educate our children. Those agencies have created nearly 200,000 pages of regulations that have the power to deprive the citizens of property and liberty. Yet these regulations are not called law because laws, of course, have to be passed by Congress. Regulations are agreed upon by a small group of regulators that are out of the reach of the election process. All of this happens despite the fact that there is no constitutional basis for Congress being able to delegate the authority to make laws to a third party and the founders probably never conceived they would try to do such a thing. However these agencies have been passing "regulations" in direct violation of the Constitution for decades. For example, apparently Congress cannot pass laws to restrict the Second Amendment but the ATF can pass regulations that have the same effect.
One agency of the federal government in particular has been in direct violation of the Constitution for its entire existence. The IRS has the power to force citizens to incriminate themselves, violating the Fifth Amendment, and prosecutes trials under the premise that taxpayers are guilty until proven innocent, violating the Sixth Amendment. Finally the IRS can seize property and businesses and sell the property and business without a court order, again violating the Fifth Amendment.
In fact, the most terrifying organization in America is the IRS. They are universally feared, and for good reason. However, the IRS is arbitrary in their enforcement; several people in the Obama administration have committed outright tax evasion with no consequences. What would you call an agency with that kind of power and completely arbitrary enforcement?
The final piece to the puzzle of the soft dictatorship is the completely unconstitutional creation of executive orders. Not only is there no basis in the Constitution for executive orders, but executive orders are often used to outright violate the Constitution. Franklin D. Roosevelt used executive orders to demand the seizure of all gold owned by Americans and imprison all Americans of Japanese ancestry. More recently Bill Clinton used executive orders to bypass the Senate ratification of the chemical weapons convention and to try to prevent government contracts going to companies that opposed unions by using strike-breakers.
Republican progressives are no strangers to unconstitutional executive orders either. George W. Bush signed executive orders that, among other things, established an alternative government in the case of a presidentially declared emergency. Barack Obama has continued the tradition of unconstitutional executive orders by granting wide powers to Interpol in America and sealing his own records from inspection, and he is now looking for means to impose gun control through executive orders. If we consider that an executive order can only be overridden by the Supreme Court (which has only happened twice) or a supermajority of Congress, the power of the executive order is downright scary.
Unfortunately the picture is dismal at best. Every two years Americans elect their representatives and every six, they elect their senators. However these elections are little more than a sham to allow Americans to think they still have a republic. There is virtually nothing that the executive branch and regulatory agencies can't do anymore. In fact some liberal talkers have outright called for Obama to rule by executive order and he is heeding their call. When the Cap and Trade bill became impossible to enact, Obama directed the EPA to implement provisions similar to the core thrust of the bill anyway.
America isn't walking into a mine field; it is already deep within the field and in mortal peril of having freedom as we know it perish from the earth. Liberty, after all, is a relatively new experiment in humanity having been around a scant 250 years of several thousand years of human history. In fact dictatorship, autocracy, and tyranny are the norm. The problem with America right now is that people are too anesthetized by the latest reality TV show, celebrity trial, or sex scandal to pay attention to the fact that their freedoms are being stripped from them one at a time. The only hope is for America to finally wake up and return to the libertarian principles that founded the nation.