Nov 11, 2007

Robert Higgs on what the Constitution intended for the presidency

The people who ratified the original Constitution never intended the presidency to be a powerful office spawning "great men." Article II, Sections 2-4, which enumerate the powers of the president, comprise but four paragraphs, most of which deal with appointments and minor duties.

The president is to act as commander in chief of the army and navy, but Congress alone can commit the nation to war, that is, "declare war." The president is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," but only Congress can enact laws, and then only within the scope of its limited, enumerated powers. The presidency was intended to be a largely ceremonial position whose occupant would confine himself to enforcing federal laws.

But over time, abruptly during Lincoln's presidency and progressively during the twentieth century, presidents seized more and more power.

American liberty will never be reestablished so long as elites and masses alike look to the president to perform supernatural feats and therefore tolerate his virtually unlimited exercise of power. Until we can restore limited, constitutional government in this country, God save us from great presidents.

~ Robert Higgs, Research Director for the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review, "No More Great Presidents,", February 19, 2007

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