Oxon Hill, MD- Speaking on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, Utah Senator Mike Lee, Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, and radio host Dennis Prager argued that Democrats — and Republicans — have been slowly sacrificing the limited government of the American founders for a technocratic government. Prager even called this change “the undoing of the American Revolution.”
“Most of our laws, measured by volume, are no longer made by people who ever stand for election,” Lee explained. He mentioned that the list of regulations passed every year by administrative agencies dwarfs the laws passed by the people’s representatives in Congress. Hensarling added that “we have largely outsourced Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution to the executive, which by definition ought to be unconstitutional in the first place.”
New rules, regulations, and notices of 2013. The small stack on top is what was passed through normal means. pic.twitter.com/Wii6xYmALa
— Eric Carlson (@ericscarlson) January 12, 2014
The vast majority of national rules and regulations are written by agencies rather than Congress, and Hensarling gave one specific example: “It’s no longer Congress that creates laws for consumer protection, its the Orwellian-named Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where one unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat decides what card goes in your wallet and whether or not you can keep your banker if you like.”
How did this happen? It’s a long story, Lee and Hensarling said, and involves both Republicans and Democrats. Hensarling invoked President James Madison, one of the leading authors of the Constitution:
As Madison wrote, there are more examples of the loss of freedom to gradual and silent encroachment than by violent and sudden usurpations. This is something gradual. It actually dates back all the way to the Wilson Administration. It started to grow in the Roosevelt Administration, became overgrown in the LBJ Administration, and now it’s choking us to death in the Obama Administration.
From Woodrow Wilson to today, “there has been a self-enfeeblement of Congress,” Hensarling added. “We are losing the rule of law to the discretion of regulators, and thus goes separation of powers, due process, and thus will go prosperity and freedom if it’s not arrested now.”
The points Lee and Hensarling are making can be hard to follow. They argue that Congress has given up its law-making authority. The Constitution says that “the legislative power” — the ability to make the laws to govern the country — “shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” When administrative agencies make the majority of rules which govern the nation, however, this amounts to a transfer of that power to groups other than Congress — a clear violation of the Constitution.
But it is more than a violation of the Constitution — this transfer of power means that unelected bureaucrats make the decisions which dictate the lives of Americans. If Congress were making these decisions, the American people could vote against the sitting representatives, and effect change. Since bureaucrats are effectively passing law, however, the American people have little recourse. “Don’t surrender your freedom to the tyranny of expertise,” Lee declared.
Prager explained why this is important: “We have forgotten what we stand for: the moral significance of limited government.” The radio host explained that big government makes you a worse citizen — “the more you rely on government, the less you rely on yourself, your family.” He mentioned the character Julia from the 2012 Democratic National Convention video “The Life of Julia,” who has children with government support and no mention of a father. “You single women, you are married to the state,” Prager declared.
Prager argued that, when it comes to fighting this undoing of constitutional limited government, the left has an inherent advantage. “They seek power and we seek less power,” he said. A candidate who says “vote for me, I will reduce government” will not easily be able to defeat a candidate who promises to “expand the government and give you even more than you now have.”
Nevertheless, there is a path toward reform. Lee and Hensarling announced their Article I Project, which aims to restore lawmaking authority to Congress. Lee described the project as “an in-house think tank” for lawmakers to discuss and pursue ways of returning some regulatory and budgeting policies to Congress from executive agencies. When it comes to concrete legislation, Lee mentioned the REINS Act in particular, along with a law limiting regulatory compliance costs.
These reforms could not be more timely, Prager declared. He argued that Americans are losing the very nature of their country:
If you show a painting of the founders signing the Declaration of Independence…to the average college kid — we see great men who created the greatest country this world have ever seen. They see rich, white slaveholders. That is the undoing of the American Revolution — I don’t mean this in some poetic way — they’re undoing it! And that includes the power of Congress to represent “We the People.”
Returning lawmaking authority to the people’s elected representatives is not about giving Republicans or Democrats more power, it’s about preserving the vision of the founders, and the system which has allowed America to flourish. Without this, our country is falling to the tyranny of regulators, and from governments unaccountable to the people there can be no escape.