A Call for a Return to Federalist Ideals
Government in the United States today is very different than it was just a few short years ago. Management of economic policy, welfare, Social Security, and health care have all come to be controlled in greater parts by the federal government. Many citizens, including myself, feel that the government, specifically its executive branch, has become intrusive and overreaching relative to both the desires of the American people and what the Federalists would have wanted for our country. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay advocated for checks on the powers of the executive and tried to ensure that the United States executive would not act like a monarch in order to protect the will of the people, and to prevent another monarch from rising to power when they knew our country and its citizens could thrive and succeed as a representative democracy. The Federalists’ original intent regarding the executive branch has been set aside. Restoring Federalist ideals will improve the state of our country.
To provide a specific example of how the executive branch has departed from Federalist intent, president Barack Obama’s appointment of czars to oversee various industries and issues contradicts the concepts laid out in Federalist Paper #69. Obama is not the first president to have czars, but he has many more of them (most sources put the number somewhere around twenty, but the actual count is difficult to determine because ‘czar’ is not always the actual job title). They form a ‘shadow government’ in which they, rather than confirmed cabinet officials, control important aspects of government.
The practice of creating czars contradicts the Federalist principle that the executive should not have the power to create offices in government. In Federalist #69, Hamilton explains, “The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints all offices, but can create offices… There is evidently a great inferiority in the power of the President, in this particular, to that of the British king…” (Hamilton). Obama’s circumvention of the confirmation process could be considered a clear violation of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution and therefore contrary to the Federalists’ vision. Czars are autocratic rulers by definition (Dictionary.com). The arbitrary placement of more than a dozen people who have basically unlimited power goes against what the Federalists intended for our country. America had just emerged from a monarchy, and the Constitution would not have been ratified if it allowed for this kind of executive action.
Additionally, many actions taken by the executive branch in the name of saving the economy represented a massive expansion of the power of the federal government and an unprecedented intrusion into the private sector, and are directly contrary to Federalist ideals. Republicans and Democrats alike, beginning with former president George W. Bush’s taxpayer bailout of the automakers and continuing to the present day, demonstrate a lack of restraint and separation of power the Federalists knew would be critical to the success of their brand-new country. The executive branch closed car dealerships around the country while allowing others to remain open, put TARP funds originally reserved for banks to alternate use, and selectively put public funds into private firms, many times without the consent of the other branches. Essay after essay published under the name Publius emphasizes the importance of limited government and a balance of power—numbers 47, 48, 51, and 69 are only a few—because they had learned from direct experience that giving one branch all the power puts personal freedoms in danger and is not in the best interests of the country as a whole.
My argumentation based on what the Federalists thought the character of the executive should be compared to the king of Britain is not to say that I think the United States is going to become a monarchy anytime soon—I do not think Americans would ever accept that. However, I do believe that the executive branch has begun to exercise an alarming amount of power in recent years. The Federalists have proven to be extraordinarily visionary thinkers, and their ideas deserve attention today more than ever.
“Czar Definition | Definition of Czar at Dictionary.com.” Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2009. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/czar>.
Hamilton, Alexander. “The Federalist #69.” Constitution Society Home Page. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa69.htm>.