“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”- Lord Acton (1834-1902).
Back when I was in school, this one maxim about governance made the greatest impression on me. Drawing on the history of the Roman Republic, the founders of the United States of America, structured our government to reduce the possibility of the abuse of power. We have three co-equal branches of government, Executive (The Presidency), Legislative (The Congress), and Judicial, (The Courts). It also follows that the individual sovereign states have that sovereignty to check the power of the Federal Government.
So I get a little perturbed when demagogues rail against the Constitution and its built in safeguards against the accumulation and abuse of power.
Are these structural safeguards fool proof? Obviously, they aren’t. But following these precepts is the best chance we have to maintain our personal liberties against the overreach of megalomaniacs in government.
This republic has always been vulnerable to attack, from persons or institutions who want to nullify this system of limited government. Every four years, we elect a President who can issue Executive Orders, that circumvent the power of Congress, whose Constitutional mandate is precisely to make the laws. The Executive Branch enforces the laws that Congress enacts. A President or an unelected administrator (“bureaucrat”) cannot make up a law or embellish a statute. The Executive “executes” or carries out the will of The Congress, who makes the laws. We, The People, elect The Congress, who write the laws.
Congress also authorises the collection of taxes and issuance of debt to fund the activities of the Executive Branch, i.e. , the military, the National Weather Service, the FBI, The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, etc, ad nauseum. Through the “power of the purse”, Congress has a check on the Executive Branch. The intention is limiting power to avoid tyranny.
At every level, petty individuals want to use government for personal enrichment. Corrupt city governments are numerous, from New York’s Boss Tweed in the 1870’s to Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot today. So we teach Civics to educate the citizenry on the purposes and limitations of government.
Limited Government. That is the whole point of our governments in the United States. Limitations to power isn’t the guiding principle of the government of The Peoples Republic Of China, just to name one government among many.
Think about that.