A Breakdown In The Rule Of Law

Posted by Neil Bradley on

Over the past several months opinion pieces appearing in such places as The Washington Post, National Review, and The Wall Street Journal have talked about the emergence of an “Imperial Presidency.” While some may wish to simply chalk this up to partisan criticism of the incumbent President, even The New York Times in a recent A1 article examined “an increasingly deliberate pattern by the administration to circumvent lawmakers…” 

Less noticed, but perhaps even more important – especially to the over 20 million Americans currently out of work or underemployed – is the link between a breakdown in the rule of law and reduced economic growth and individual prosperity.

Property rights and rule of law are essential for the proper and efficient functioning of society and the economy. Clear, transparent, predictable rules that are applied without preference or prejudice allow individuals to invest, build businesses, and create jobs. When there is a breakdown in the rule of law, increased uncertainty leads to reduced investment and less growth.

While Administrations of both political parties have been known to test the bounds of the limits of their power, the breadth of the breakdown in the rule of law in recent years has reached new levels. In the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal’s annual Index of Economic Freedom, the United States scores lower today on the rule of law than it did in 2008. As the 2012 report notes, “Corruption is a growing concern as the cronyism and economic rent-seeking associated with the growth of government have undermined institutional integrity.” Individuals and businesses are increasingly forced to rely on the courts to enforce their most basic substantive and procedural rights.

Over the past year-and-half, the Committees of the House of Representatives have investigated and documented numerous break-downs in the rule of law. Today, Majority Leader Cantor’s office has released a report that compiles over 40 separate examples that span the breadth of government, including instances where the Administration has attempted to:

  • Tell a private business in what state it can locate;
  • Tell a religious institution which employees are “religious” under certain federal laws;
  • Regulate the internet;
  • Rewrite Federal education law;
  • Created new “Super” regulatory agencies; and
  • Significantly restrict America’s energy resources.

As this report notes, House Republicans have acted to prevent and overturn the President’s harmful actions in order to return economic growth, opportunity and certainty to the American people and American job creators. However, the majority of the bills the House has passed are sitting idly in the Democrat-led Senate, without any action on the part of Democratic Leader Harry Reid or President Obama. 

Throughout our nation’s history, presidents have sought common ground and achieved legislative success with opposing party leaders. Many of the laws identified in this report that were circumvented were achieved in that manner. Congressional authority must not be disregarded to suit political interests, create unpopular regulations and to avoid the hard work of bipartisan negotiation that has been a hallmark of our Republic since its inception. The over 20 million Americans looking for work deserve no less.

Click here to read the full report.

– Neil Bradley is Majority Leader Eric Cantor's deputy chief of staff for policy.

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