America is becoming a nation ruled by decree

02 Jul

Our country is supposed to have a rule of law not rule by decree. What do I mean by this? Rule by decree is where the powers that be (historically kings), rule by many arbitrary decrees that can be changed at their whim and do not universally apply to all citizens. Compare this to rule of law, where laws are not arbitrary or abundant, but few and universally apply to all.

America has gone far from this ideal of rule of law and has become in many ways a country ruled by many large and small “kings” which issue arbitrary decrees. There are two main ways in which we have become a country ruled by decree:

  1. Explicit rule by decree is where a government has abdicated its law making authority to another agency.  If you want to recognize where this type of rule by decree is in place look for phrases like “Some Agency has decided ____ will not be allowed.”  Examples:
    1. The federal government created the TSA and leaves much of the rule making to the arbitrary decisions of the TSA bureaucracy.  This has resulted in violation of constitutional rights and abhorrent procedures which most Americans detest – all in the name of security but in many cases without real security benefits (c.f. Security Theater).
    2. New York State DEC changed the environmental regulations to prohibit open burning.  This rule change was made without legislative approval since that power had been delegated to the DEC.
    3. Some town zoning boards make decisions or exceptions on a case by case basis rather than by laws which universally apply to everyone.  Other times they may use their power to hinder permits based on personal vendettas rather than uniform treatment of all.  Also towns on their own discretion will give tax breaks to individual companies to attract jobs.  Tax breaks are great, but they should universally apply to all.
  2. Implicit rule by decree due to selective enforcement of law.  This rule by decree is enabled by the sheer volume of laws currently on the books – civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate estimates the average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day.  Examples:
    1. A prime example on both the Federal and State level is housing and mortgage fraud.  There have been a few low level prosecutions, but overall the justice system has tuned a blind eye to pervasive law breaking by the big banks.  A Tampa-area mortgage banker was sentenced to 15 years of prison, while Angelo Mozilo (former CEO of Countrywide) got no prison time but only a fine of slightly more than 10% of his wealth [link].
    2. Selective enforcement may not be as visible on a local level (unless it happens to you or a friend), but it is often used to intimidate, as in a recent case in Rochester.

America should not be a nation ruled by decree.  The law should be clear and simple, and the government should give out no favors.  I believe Americans are beginning to realize how far we’ve gone from the rule of law and are looking for a return to smaller, simpler government with firm rule of law and no favoritism.


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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Political Theory


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