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Power and the Law

The Obama Administration has been held in contempt by a New Orleans judge, for extending its offshore drilling moratorium in defiance of a court order.  The Administration has also declared its intention to continue implementing ObamaCare, in defiance of a federal court judgment that the inseparable “individual mandate” is unconstitutional.  These incidents highlight the difference between power and the law.

In these examples, political power has allowed the Obama Administration to ignore the law.  Part of that power lies in the President’s insulation from consequence.  It’s not very likely he will be impeached and removed from office for ignoring these court decisions, and no other sector of the government seems able to apply any meaningful sanctions.  The ObamaCare situation will swiftly escalate to the Supreme Court and be resolved one way or the other, but the damage from Obama’s illegal offshore drilling moratorium is done – that industry has been essentially destroyed.

The Left’s notion of a “living Constitution” is based on the idea of power overriding law.  Some aspects of the “living Constitution” have been stretched and pulled beyond anything resembling their originally intended purpose, “authorizing” the federal government to do virtually anything it wants.  This is profoundly contrary to the function of the Constitution as a body of supreme law that should restrain the actions of the government.

The assertion that we shouldn’t allow silly Constitutional phrases, scribbled two centuries ago, to block especially noble and compassionate government action also uses power to dissolve law… as we see in the case of the “individual mandate” judgment against ObamaCare.  The Constitutional principles that protect private citizens from being ordered to purchase a product weren’t meant to be suspended because they’re preventing ambitious politicians from implementing a really neat plan.  The sovereign rights of some were not meant to be overridden by the desperate needs of others.

If the only requirement for exercising government power becomes the compassion and virtue of a given agenda, then we have conceded infinite power to the ruling class, because the power to judge compassion and virtue will rest in their hands.  The law then becomes an instrument of power. 

Consider the fabled ObamaCare waivers.  The ability to dispense immunity from this law conveys immense power upon the President.  ObamaCare becomes a weapon against everyone who is still subjected to it.  Power comes from compulsion, and compulsion requires weapons.

The very weight of our massive legal code brings power to the government.  Virtually everyone in America is in violation of some obscure law at any given moment.  The IRS can’t figure out the tax code it is charged with enforcing.  For ordinary Americans, the law is a maze, and those who draw the maze are mighty.

A large government can never be truly lawful, because it gains much of the power which sustains it through unequal application of the law.  The Administration recently granted a waiver from crushing environmental regulations to a California power plant project, which is of great interest to Obama’s cronies at General Electric.  The blanket of statism smothering our economy has many holes, tailored to favored interests.

In a just and limited State, the law dilutes power, rather than sustaining it.  We wouldn’t have nearly as much political corruption if our politicians didn’t have so much valuable power to sell.  An adversarial media can act as a check on power, by howling at violations of the law – as the most certainly would be doing, if President John McCain was ignoring federal court orders, and destroying jobs in the process.  A sympathetic media, on the other hand, can confer virtual immunity to the law by ignoring such violations.

The Left loves to talk about bringing “power to the people,” especially when praising a messianic figure like our current President.  Well, the Obama government can wipe out industries, and compel the people to purchase health insurance.  The people have no ability to influence Obama’s behavior at all, as they could see from a State of the Union address that blithely ignored the landslide election just a few months ago.  In the absence of iron laws the State cannot ignore, it is very clear where the power lies.

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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