10/14/21

The Making of the Administrative State

 

The 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin famously said, gave America “a republic—if you can keep it.” We couldn’t. It’s not that the framers’ wonderful structure of self-government slipped away by carelessness. Rather, single-minded men purposely usurped it, and Ronald J. Pestritto’s America Transformed tells the tragic tale of how the Progressives, as they called themselves, deformed and abolished one of the greatest triumphs of the Western Enlightenment, in the name of Hegel, Darwin, modernity, and efficiency, all under the magician’s scarf of hocus-pocus fake democracy. The end result of this sleight-of-hand, though Pestritto’s gripping book is too polite to say so baldly, is that we now live under a regime without legitimacy.

We could not ask for a better debunker of Progressive trickery. The graduate dean and a professor of politics at Hillsdale College, Pestritto has been among the leading pioneers in the revisionist study of this era, notably with his earlier, groundbreaking Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism (2005). Indeed, the chief magus of this drama is Wilson, our first professor-president, who formulated the Progressive creed in his academic works of the 1880s, before he assumed Princeton’s presidency, with embellishments from ivory-tower colleagues Frank Goodnow, president of Johns Hopkins and founding president of the American Political Science Association, and the much younger Harvard law professor (and later dean) James Landis, who as a New Deal bureaucrat helped transform Progressive theory into a gargantuan governmental reality. Earlier in the political arena came pungent, energetic contributions from Theodore Roosevelt, and Progressivism transformed the messages that came from the elite pulpits and schools, as well. Continue reading

07/23/16

Why Are Voters So Angry?

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Summer 2016

They want self-government back.

Haunting this year’s presidential contest is the sense that the U.S. government no longer belongs to the people and no longer represents them. And this uneasy feeling is not misplaced. It reflects the real state of affairs.

We have lost the government we learned about in civics class, with its democratic election of representatives to do the voters’ will in framing laws, which the president vows to execute faithfully, unless the Supreme Court rules them unconstitutional. That small government of limited powers that the Founders designed, hedged with checks and balances, hasn’t operated for a century. All its parts still have their old names and appear to be carrying out their old functions. But in fact, a new kind of government has grown up inside the old structure, like those parasites hatched in another organism that grow by eating up their host from within, until the adult creature bursts out of the host’s carcass. This transformation is not an evolution but a usurpation.

What has now largely displaced the Founders’ government is what’s called the Administrative State—a transformation premeditated by its main architect, Woodrow Wilson. The thin-skinned, self-righteous college-professor president, who thought himself enlightened far beyond the citizenry, dismissed the Declaration of Independence’s inalienable rights as so much outmoded “nonsense,” and he rejected the Founders’ clunky constitutional machinery as obsolete. (See “It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More,” Summer 2014.) What a modern country needed, he said, was a “living constitution” that would keep pace with the fast-changing times by continual, Darwinian adaptation, as he called it, effected by federal courts acting as a permanent constitutional convention. Continue reading

08/7/14

It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More

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Summer 2014

It’s Not Your Founding Fathers’ Republic Any More
Presidents, Congresses, and courts are creating an elective despotism.

How far have we distorted the Constitution that the Founders gave us, and how much does it matter? A phalanx of recent books warns that we have undermined our fundamental law so recklessly that Americans should worry that government of the people, by the people, and for the people really could perish from the earth. The tomes—Adam Freedman’s engaging The Naked Constitution, Mark R. Levin’s impassioned The Liberty Amendments, Richard A. Epstein’s masterful The Classical Liberal Constitution, and Philip K. Howard’s eloquent and levelheaded The Rule of Nobody (in order of publication)—look at the question from different angles and offer different fixes to it, but all agree that Americans need to take action right now.

Several benighted Supreme Court rulings subverted the Fourteenth Amendment and crushed President Lincoln’s dream of binding up the nation’s Civil War wounds with malice toward none and charity for all.

Several benighted Supreme Court rulings subverted the Fourteenth Amendment and crushed President Lincoln’s dream of binding up the nation’s Civil War wounds with malice toward none and charity for all.


THE GRANGER COLLECTION, NYC

Before we scramble, though, we had better understand just what happened. There’s no single villain. As these books show, all branches of government conspired over more than a century to turn the Constitution that the Framers wrote in 1787, plus the Bill of Rights that James Madison shepherded through the first Congress in 1789 and the Fourteenth Amendment ratified in 1868, into something their authors would neither recognize nor endorse. Continue reading