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Executive Order Isn't Dictatorship...Yet

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Depending on whom you ask, The National Defense Resources Preparedness Order signed by the President on Friday is either a sign of a coming dictatorship, or it is nothing more than reauthorizing the Defense Protection Act of 1950.

Even if it is harmless in intent, it is jarring that a President can sign an order making him the sole dispenser of all resources in the nation. And yes, he would have control over pretty much everything. And even if it is nothing more than a bit of legislative housekeeping that has been going on since the Cold War it does raise some interesting 10th Amendment Issues.

Granted, it may be part and parcel of how the U.S. has done business for the last 60 years and we may only be finding out about it because the digital age throws open the door on a whole host of things heretofore unknown by the voting public. But it does beg the question: does one branch of government really need all that power?

Just because we’ve been doing things that way since 1950 does not make it a sound principle of government, no matter what party is parking their stretch limos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.-Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

After all, what constitutes an emergency? And of what size must that emergency be before the Executive Branch can begin directing what happens to food, water, livestock, or as one line states:  “Upon such approval, the Secretary of the resource department that made the finding may use the authority of section 101(a) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(a), to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market.” What are the criteria that will allow a cabinet member to control distribution of a product or service?

Now I am not saying that the need for such an order would never arise, it may well. There could be any number of attacks or catastrophes that might merit such an intervention. But are there safeguards in place to prevent an unmerited intervention? Who ultimately makes the decision to hand so much power over to the Executive Branch? Where are the checks and balances that make certain that no one branch exercises its will over another?

Suppose the Executive Branch decides that an emergency exists in a state, and must therefore make use of the powers under this order. But supposing the governor of that state has decided he or she has the situation in hand and does not need the intervention of the Federal Government? Who is the ultimate arbiter of control? Apparently it is Congress, which is not exactly a relief.

This act has been around for some time, and one wonders why the American people are concerned about it now.

Perhaps they would feel more comfortable with this Executive Order if the States were allowed to chart their own course for health care, and the Supreme Court was not needed to determine the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate. Perhaps people would be less concerned about this if they did not see the Interstate Commerce Clause growing year by year. Perhaps if  they did not have an Administration pushing green energy companies that are his campaign donors, this would not raise eyebrows. Perhaps if the NLRB was not opposed to the idea of a Right to Work State, this would not give them cause for concern.

Perhaps if they did not have to contend with specter of an Independent Payment Advisory Board, or an EPA intent on regulating all waters in the United States, navigable or otherwise, they would not be so interested. Perhaps people would be less concerned about this if the Federal Government would adhere to the Left’s constant screed that church and state remain separate, and get out of the business of telling religious organizations that they must pay for birth control even if it violates their principles.

Although this Executive Order may have been around in one form or another for 60 years, given the developments in the political arena over the last three years, now may well be an excellent time to dust off the Tenth Amendment, and let Americans decide just how much power they wish to see vested in D.C, and whether or not Washington has gotten too bug for its constitutional britches. 

Americans of all political stripes have at times had a bad habit over the years of thinking that because their party is in power, the exercise of government without restraint by the governed is a good thing. In other words if my opponents are against it, I must by necessity be for it. That is a precarious position to take.

It may be all well and good to cede power to a government with which you agree. But should that government change hands, the power you cede it will remain with that government. And then you will be the first to scream about your rights being trampled. A limited government remains limited, no matter who is in power.

A note to my friends on the Left: You may think all of this talk about a smaller government, the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment is nothing more than toothless Tea Partiers clinging bitterly to their religion and guns. You could not be further from the truth. The message has been and remains that a government that is unchecked in its scope will one day show up somewhere that even you don’t want it to be, abrogating rights you hold dear.. And then you can assert your freedom all you want and Occupy Whatever You Wish. But by that time it may be too late.

You see my friends, the Constitution does not just protect us “bitter clingers”; it protects you as well. It may have been written by a group of rich white men, but the truths it contains have not changed. What has changed is our understanding of to whom it applies. And it applies to all Americans, no matter their color, religion, nationality or political persuasion. And the government you are so eager to let in the door today may be the government you can’t evict tomorrow.

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