Stephen Smoot

The British Parliament over three centuries ago knew a tyrant when they saw one.  Stuart kings of the 1600s, each in their own way, worked to absorb as much political power into the throne as possible.  Charles I in the 1640s proved so obnoxious that he was relieved of his head.  His son Charles II worked at a much slower pace, preventing the need for rebellion.  The last male Stuart king, James II, found himself fired by Parliament.

They then “hired” James’ daughter Mary who brought her husband William along.  Before they could assume the throne in 1689, Parliament presented a contract known ever since as the English Bill of Rights.  Our own Founding Fathers borrowed heavily from some of its ideas.  Violations of it were cited as reasons for independence.  Some of its cherished principles became foundations of American law.

One of the complaints against James II was found within.  It said that he assumed and exercised “a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament.”

In other words, the kings assumed the authority to establish and then violate laws at their own whim, obliterating rule of law.  If fear of such action only remained in the memory of history.

The Obama Administration always kicks out its most politically problematic material on Fridays.  March 16 was no exception.  That is when the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order sneaked past the mainstream media.

This was intended to update the Defense Production Act of 1950, enacted in the first few days of the Korean War.  According to the FEMA website, it was passed by Congress to give President Harry Truman the authority to prioritize contracts, protect from anti-trust legislation companies organizing to meet national security emergencies, and also to decide which resources go where during war or other emergencies.

By the 1970s, the provisions of this act were used to try to promote the creation of new technologies within the defense field.  In other words, DPA protection became another tool of crony capitalism.

Back to Barack Obama.  Why is he suddenly so interested in updating this act, by executive order, no less? 


Stephen Smoot

Stephen Smoot currently is Director of Academic Programs at the National Journalism Center, a project of Young America's Foundation. He previously taught American History for ten years at various colleges and universities and received his doctorate from West Virginia University in May 2011.