Mises Daily Articles
Destroying the Rule of Law
The hordes of lawyers that Al Gore has employed to help him try to overturn the presidential election through voter fraud are the latest example of how the rule of law is being destroyed. Florida election laws are clear as a bell in disallowing hand recounts unless there is fraud or machine failure, which Gore is not claiming is the case. The election should have been certified as over with George W. Bush the winner after the overseas absentee ballots in Florida were counted on November 18, as required by law. But in America today our rulers are increasingly above the law.
This has ominous implications for freedom and prosperity, for the rule of law is arguably the most important constraint of all on arbitrariness in the exercise of government power. A rule of law that is based on the concept of natural rights to life, liberty, and property minimizes the misuse of governmental coercion for private ends. Unchecked by the rule of law, certain politicians over the past century have looted their nations’ treasuries, enslaved their people, and murdered millions of their fellow citizens. As John Locke wrote in his "Second Treatise on Government", the end of the law is "to preserve and enlarge Freedom."
In recent years Americans have sat idly by while their government waged a full-scale assault on the rule of law in its quest for unlimited power. The Clinton administration acknowledged no constitutional limits on governmental power whatsoever, and met barely a peep of protest from the Republican Congress (Ron Paul is the lone exception). Clinton proposed a federal program for virtually every "problem," real or perceived, that one can imagine, from such monstrous schemes as socialized medicine to federal micromanagement of school uniforms, school building repair, the length of hospital stays, and the hiring of children to conduct sting operations on cigarette vendors. Former Surgeon General Joyclyn Elders even advocated a federal masturbation education program (ostensibly to reduce the incidence of AIDS).
When Congress balked at Clinton’s unconstitutional power grabs, he simply issued hundreds of "executive orders" that were a way of raising his middle finger to the Constitution. As Clinton flak Paul Begala described these orders, "Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool."
The Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate for many executive branch appointments. Clinton ignored this by making dozens of "temporary" or "recess" appointments of persons who remained in their jobs for years thanks to the acquiescence of the Republican Congress, which apparently has no more respect for the Constitution than Clinton does.
The federal government has confiscated millions of acres of land by declaring it a "national monument" or part of its "American Heritage Rivers Initiative," a program to nationalize America’s rivers and the land surrounding them. There were a few protests by local politicians, but once again the American public was largely unconcerned and so were their congressional representatives.
The Constitution also requires a declaration of war by Congress, yet Clinton waged a war on Kosovo, bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan, continues bombing Iraq on an almost daily basis, and militarily intervened in numerous other countries without asking for or receiving authorization by Congress. This too is as much Congress’s fault as Clinton’s. Ultimately, it is the fault of the American public.
The American public has also slept while the federal government over the past eight years has waged an assault on the First Amendment. First there was the collection of over 900 FBI files including sensitive personal information on former Republican executive branch officials. This information has undoubtedly been used to blackmail some of them into remaining uncritical of Clinton.
The administration has never given up its quest to get its hands on private medical records of all citizens; it has sought to put "Clipper Chips" in all computers so that the government can spy on all computer communications; and it took advantage of the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building to enact a "Counter-Terrorism Act" that greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on all private communications.
The Clinton administration ignored the Fourth Amendment by asserting a "right" to conduct warrantless searches and mandatory drug tests in its prosecution of the disastrous war on drugs under the guise of "national security concerns." Drug police have conducted warrantless searches of entire apartment buildings and have confiscated private property without due process under the "asset forfeiture laws."
The Constitution also forbids ex-post facto laws, but in their quest to plunder the tobacco industry federal, state and local governments have enacted legislation or asserted in court that the common law principle of the assumption of risk (i.e., that smokers themselves know they are taking a health risk) should be ignored retroactively so that governments could sue the tobacco industry for decades of "damages." Once the legal precedent is established that individuals are not responsible for their own consumption choices, the state is free to attempt to plunder virtually any manufacturer of any product while chipping away at our personal freedoms. Most Americans seem completely unconcerned about this trend as well and support the "war on tobacco."
Most Americans are probably unaware that the political assault on the Second Amendment is largely funded by the federal government with research grants to anti-Second Amendment university researchers. The federal Centers for Disease Control has even gone so far as to declare gun ownership a "disease" to justify its expenditure of tax dollars on seminars that train lobbyists how to lobby for gun-control laws. Once the government takes sides on a policy issue it has the ability to drown out all other voices.
The absurdly-named "Justice Department" has been staffed with political hacks who can be relied upon to look the other way while executive branch officials commit all kinds of high crimes and misdemeanors and behave unconstitutionally. Janet Reno is Exhibit A in this regard, as are convicted felon Webster Hubbell, who was Clinton’s first choice to run the Justice Department; Eleanor Acheson, Hillary Clinton’s Wellesely College roommate; Sheila Anthony, the late Vince Foster’s sister; Frank Hunger, Al Gore’s brother-in-law; and Kent Marcus, former chief of staff of the Democratic National Committee.
With this crew in place the Clinton administration was able to violate campaign finance laws with reckless abandon; shake down Indian tribes for campaign contributions, Mafia style; cover up myriad other illegal shakedown operations run by the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and his successors; exercise claims of "executive privilege" without legal challenge; use the taxpayer-financed Justice Department as its own private law firm for its impeachment defense; cover up the mass murder at Waco and the cold-blooded killing of a mother holding her newborn baby at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; pardon 16 Puerto Rican terrorists just to help Hillary out with the New York Puerto Rican vote; and myriad other crimes. As the New York Times editorialized on May 10, 2000, "Janet Reno has consistently failed to enforce the law against top Clinton administration officials."
Clinton is now a convicted felon, having been found guilty of multiple felonies by a federal judge in Arkansas, a conviction he did not contest. He faced no consequences of this conviction, however, other than a $90,000 fine which likely was paid indirectly and surreptitiously by a campaign contributor.
He was impeached but not convicted, which truly placed him above the law. Is there any wonder that his understudy, Al Gore, brazenly attempts to commit vote fraud in broad daylight, in front of television cameras for all the world to see? Most Americans, in their ignorance and laziness, have become indifferent to the rule of law. If such indifference continues the tyranny and criminality of the Clinton years will pale in comparison to the destruction of freedom that is yet to come.