“Too many programs, once started, are automatically reauthorized and become part of the permanent bureaucracy,” Spalding writes. That’s why Congress should “periodically review and authorize anew every major program, creating an ongoing mechanism that would work against the steady, automatic expansion of government. Rather than assuming their permanence, Congress should subject government programs to regular reevaluation of their authority, purpose, and effectiveness.”
But these days, Congress passes 1,000-page bills that most members have no time to read, let alone consider. Instead of deliberating, American lawmakers spend much of their time overseeing an unelected bureaucracy of regulatory policymakers.
In fact, Spalding notes, “Although the Constitution vests legislative powers in Congress, the majority of ‘laws’ are promulgated by administrative agencies in the guise of ‘regulations’ --a form of rule by bureaucrats who are mostly unaccountable and invisible to the public.”
Of course, as lawmakers retake their traditional role, judges will need to reduce their intrusion into policy-making.
“It is generally supposed that judges have the final say concerning every constitutional question,” Spalding writes. “These arguments need to be challenged and overcome in the public view, both as a matter of historical accuracy and a necessary condition for reinvigorating limited government, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. By allowing the Constitution to be treated as a malleable document, we should not be surprised that the ‘living’ Constitution has deadened the political mind of many Americans.”
Sad but true. In the years ahead, let’s hope that Spalding’s book becomes a textbook to reopen our students’ political minds.
The principles of our Declaration and our Constitution must again become “an expression of the American mind,” as Thomas Jefferson once said. We can -- and must -- insist that our leaders again abide by true constitutional principles. But we also must rediscover these principles as a people if we are to reclaim our future.