[ExI] Is the USA doing too much to prevent COVID-19?

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Mon May 4 14:43:45 UTC 2020

> On May 4, 2020, at 6:13 AM, spike jones via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote: 
> From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On Behalf Of John Clark via extropy-chat
> >…And so does the possibility that we won't even have an election on November 3, and please don't tell me both those things would be unconstitutional, I already know that.  John K Clark
> Ja, so why worry?  The constitution is the reason why POTUS has any power at all.

No, the president or any ruler anywhere has power simply because others — those who are ruled acquiesce and obey. Now, sure, those who are ruled might hold something like the Constitution or legal traditions and such in high regard. But ultimately any ruler has ‘any power at all’ because those they rule acquiesce and obey. Take away that, and they cease to rule. 

> Without that, he is just another person.  If POTUS stays within the ConUS, he commands the military.  Otherwise not.  Do let me assure you, if POTUS could possibly by any means seize power, they would have done it a long time ago, starting in the late 1700s.  The founders knew this and and wrote the law so that POTUS couldn’t.  They understood the intoxicating effect of power.  So they limited it.  The system works.

The COTUS doesn’t enforce itself. See above. The reason it has any play in US politics is because many of the rules hold it in high regard, though it seems misplaced here because the history of constitutional restraint in the US (or anywhere because constitutions go back to ancient times — as far back as the Ancient Greek city-states) is sketchy. It really seems to align more with who controls the commanding heights and how much those who can and do effectively resist erosions of restraint.

Add to those, the political history of many nations — and the US is no exception here — has been one of executive power increasing and eroding restraints. Robert Higgs outlined this process as a ratchet effect: crises arise, emergency measures are taken which increase the power of the rulers, the crises resolve, there’s a relaxation of power but never back to previous levels. (Higgs focused not so much on executive power as on just government in general. Cf. his _Crisis and Leviathan_.)

Heck, early in US history, the current Constitution’s limits was pretty much ignored when the Federalists controlled all branches of the central government. Even before that, what happened with the Articles of Confederation? The limits and restraints they imposed on the national government were set aside and ignored, no?

This should be quite scary because regardless of whether Trump leaves office this year or by 2024, he’s definitely turned the ratchet (as did Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc. ad nauseam) many times. Also, regardless of the stability of any political system, including constitutional ones, they can all break down. An ancient example is the Roman Republic, which lasted much longer than the US has been in existence, but eventually faced severe tests, especially under Marius and Sulla and then were civil wars and the Republic ended with a dictator effectively in charge for life.

> Given our current situation, I would think it is governors we need to watch.  There are some of them who think their word is law.  But every state has a legislature, and the legislature makes law, not the governor.

I wouldn’t ignore overreach at the state level, but let’s not ignore it at the national level either. Currently, both state governors and the president can continue to expand their respective powers and even have clashes without checking each other. (In fact, antifederists — those who opposed the 1789  Constitution — argues that separation of powers didn’t mean each separate power would check each other as they could all expand by limiting the power of those they ruled.)


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