A Condensed Version of: Properties of Empire by Garet Garrett.
Compiled and Edited by Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
Part II. 1952
The first characteristic of an Empire is the dominance of the executive branch of government.
Nowadays “ executive” means a great deal more than was intended by the Constitution, which created a government with three coequal powers. These three powers could annul each other’s work and none of the three was the sovereign or in any way could have the final word. Instead, the founders put sovereignty safely beyond seizure—in the hands of the people. If the people really wanted a law that the Supreme Court declared to be unconstitutional, they could change the Constitution through the peaceful procedure set forth in the document itself.
This works well for a Republic but an Empire needs an executive that can act immediately.
The Federal income-tax law of 1914 gave the government unlimited access to wealth and power that could be used for social purposes. Then World War I followed. These two events marked a large increase in the power of the executive. Then the Great Depression, the revolutionary Roosevelt regime, and World War II all happened in rapid succession causing Executive Government to explode. In the time before these events, executive power was only the power to execute and administer the laws. After these events, it meant the power to govern.
Only a few years earlier Congress spoke for the people. Now the President does. The President, the embodiment of the executive principle, stands between Congress and the people and assumes the right to express their will.
He plays on the emotions and passions of the people in order to influence their thinking. He controls the largest and most powerful propaganda machine on earth. The government’s ideas are broadcast by the administration from Washington. Furthermore, the government has printing and duplicating plants of its own (the Government Printing Office) through which it applies the subtle propaganda technique of briefing editors, writers, educators and selected social groups on the government’s point of view. In addition, every government agency has a public relations staff. Since Congress has no such propaganda machine, it is constantly under pressure from the people who have been influenced by the President’s.
Congressman Harnes summarized it this way: “…individual liberty and free institutions cannot long survive when the vast powers of government may be marshaled against the people to perpetuate a given policy or a particular group of office holders. Nor can freedom survive if all government policies and programs are sustained by overwhelming government propaganda.”
Then, as now, the Federal bureaucracy fought every attempt by Congress to stop its expansion. The tax-supported propaganda machine used distortion, misrepresentation and out right chicanery to muster overwhelming pressure for continued growth in Federal Government. Senator Douglas said that there was no pressure group “more persistent and skilled in the technique of getting what it wants” than the bureaus of Executive Government.
In time Executive Government became a “fourth entity” that acts “in a dimension of its own with a force, a freedom and a momentum beyond any control of the law-making power.” This entity is so vast, has so many parts and is so shapeless that no mind can comprehend it.
Eventually Congress asked former President Hoover to organize a commission to study it and attempt to make it intelligible. The full report of this commission was never published because of its great length. A bare bones summary was more than 250 pages long. But, essentially, the Commission said: “The executive branch is a chaos of bureaus and subdivisions” and that “Thousands of Federal programs cannot be directed personally by the President.” As a result, government is administered by bureaucrats who are not elected by the people.
The Hoover Commission had no mandate to criticize or suggest that any activities be discontinued. Its assignment was to say how the bureaucracy might be organized for greater efficiency. An efficient bureaucracy may cost less but it is much more dangerous to liberty than a bungling one. (Editor’s Note: Do we really want an “efficient” secret police or administrator of gas chambers?)
It was just such a bureaucracy that strangled Rome. Bureaucratic growth is both a symptom and a cause of the increasing power of the executive principle. There are several ways in which the executive principle is aggrandized:
(1) By delegation— Congress delegates its Constitutional powers to the President.
(2) By reinterpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.
(3) By innovation – the President does things not specifically forbidden by the Constitution because the founders never thought of them.
(4) By the appearance of administrative agencies with power to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law.
(5) By usurpation – when the President confronts Congress with something he has already done which Congress cannot repudiate without exposing the government to ridicule. Examples include: By-passing the Senate by signing an executive agreement in place of a treaty (which requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate); going to war by agreement with the United Nations and without the consent of Congress; or sending troops to join an international army by agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
(6)Finally: the powers of Executive Government increase as the country becomes more and more involved in foreign affairs— because, by tradition and the terms of the Constitution, foreign affairs is the realm of the President. Only the President can receive foreign ambassadors and negotiate treaties, with two limitations. First, any treaty must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. (As pointed out above, this may be avoided by signing “executive agreements” with foreign countries instead of treaties.) Second, ambassadors appointed by the President must be approved by the Senate. (Again, the President sometimes avoids this by sending personal representatives on foreign errands.) And finally, in both peace and war, the President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the point of which was to make civil authority supreme over the military power.
Today executive power is no longer coequal. It is the dominant power as Empire requires.
To be continued
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