Constitutional scholar Gordon Wood, while speaking at Boyd Law School a few years ago, said the Constitution could be boiled down to just one word: “Mistrust.”
The gist of the document is to hold a tight rein on power by dispersing it among many and setting liberties off limits to even the majority of voters.
As Congress and the president jockey for ways to manipulate the economy, to appoint a consumer protection czar with unprecedented powers and budget, to spend more and more on entitlements that redistribute money among the citizens, to control more and more of the private sector through law and regulation, perhaps it is time to harken back to the concepts on which this nation was founded.
In 1748 Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu laid down the blueprint that James Madison and other drafters of the Constitution embraced. He wrote:
“The political liberty of the subject is a tranquillity of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another. When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.
“Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression. There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.”
Madison echoed this rationale in Federalist Paper No. 51 when he wrote:
“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
In Federlist Paper No. 47, Madison wrote:
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
This is why that NPRI suit over executive branch employees sitting in the state Legislature is so important.
At the federal level, even those with the best intentions can monumentally screw things up. They need to be reined in and reminded of the principles on which this country was founded.