Note: See Reagan EO on Federalism
We the New Federalists advocate individual, family and community rights and responsibilities in acts of self-governance, as set forth by our Founders, in originally establishing our nation by the Declaration of Independence and later codifying our governing principles in our Republic’s Constitution. We begin from our Founders’ premises, that self-evident truths exist, and are the only right ground for political declarations that offer a decent respect for the opinions of humankind in establishing a nation among the powers of the earth.
We call ourselves “Federalists” because we humbly acknowledge that our guidance derives from the original ideals and principles of federally distributed powers as explicated by The Federalist Papers. But we are “New” Federalists for two basic reasons: first, because we are well aware that the cautionary warnings of the Anti-Federalists have proven true about the central government embarking on a long crusade of usurpations and encroachments that have substantially abridged the rights of individual citizens and state and local governments; and second, because we follow in the tradition of New Federalism that was implemented under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, but has since then languished. We strive to reassert the principles of New Federalism, to roll back those abridgements and infringements of our rights as plainly set forth in our Founding Documents.
We hold, as our Founders declared, that all humans are created equal, as image bearers of Our Creator, who made us all as morally choosing beings whose proper condition is freedom. We further hold that this freedom is expressed in terms of our possession of unalienable rights, just claims that we possess inherently and that can properly neither be revoked or surrendered, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through our freely chosen actions. The political consequences that flow from this view of our human nature are seriously limiting to the permissible reach and scope of governments over us. The chief consequence of this view is that the purpose of government is to secure these rights for its citizens, and that the only just and legitimate government is one based in the consent of those governed, who freely assent to it. Another serious consequence that follows from these beliefs is that we have a moral duty to alter or abolish any government that fails to secure these rights to us. And that is why we New Federalists advocate the timeless and enduring truths set forth in our nation’s Founding Documents, and based in our Judeo-Christian heritage.
We note, though, that our current circumstances in the 21st century are not greatly different from those surrounding our Founders, who remarked on the long train of abuses and usurpations whose ultimate design seemed clearly to abrogate all the citizens’ rights and render them subjects of an absolute despotism. The Founders’ impending tyranny arose under an unjust king; ours derives from a centralizing and increasingly powerful national government that intrudes into ever-growing aspects of our lives, and prevents us from freely exercising our acts of self-government. We New Federalists therefore seek a return to our foundation on the principles of self-government.
We seek a new birth of federalism because we seek a new birth of freedom, both for ourselves and for our posterity.
Honoring Our Founding
We New Federalists begin from the proposition that our Founding Documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, bind us in perpetuity as a nation, because the Constitution contains its own internal provisions specifying how revisions to it may be made. We affirm therefore that the rights and powers acknowledged or assigned by our Founding Documents may not permissibly be reassigned, transferred or outright revoked without proper constitutional authorization. In particular, two branches or levels of government may not properly agree to reassign constitutionally specified responsibilities or duties between themselves or to any other body without formally amending the Constitution. Nor may any rights belonging to the people be properly abridged or limited by any agency or institution of government, unless in accord with and as a consequence of due process in our courts of law.
However, we recognize that our Founding Documents are today honored more in the breach than in the observance. We further assert that this condition is the root of our most pressing national problems; the evasion of duties and responsibilities spelled out by our Constitution has produced the worsening crisis of accountability in our governing processes, imperiling our self-government and endangering this system of ordered liberty, as proper constitutionally prescribed remedies can only be brought to bear against those bearing their appropriate constitutional powers.
We thus urge all citizens, elected and appointed representatives, and officers of our government to return to the plain meaning of our Founding Documents, reassuming their appropriate roles, rather than relying on contorted interpretations and distorted extensions of them. But our country did not arrive in this predicament overnight, and avoiding unneeded upheavals may require returning to our foundations in a gradual, measured manner. To achieve the goal of once again fully honoring our founding, we propose the following, as beginning steps.
Constitutional Authorization Report
Not all legislation contemplated or enacted by Congress is constitutional. For example, the 1st Amendment stipulates that Congress may not make laws establishing a national church or preventing citizens’ free exercise in religious acts, and the 10th Amendment states that those powers not specifically delegated to the United States are reserved to the separate states or to the people. This means that there are bounds beyond which Congress may not permissibly legislate, no matter how worthy or desirable the proposal’s intention.
Moreover, Congress squanders our common resources and undermines its own legitimacy by proposing legislation that will not pass constitutional muster. We thus urge both chambers of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, to revise the rules of their respective proceedings (as authorized in the Constitution, Article I, Section 5), requiring that no legislation may be brought to the floor for consideration, unless a majority of members of the body shall have signed a report giving specific citation and affirming detailed reasons why the proposed legislation is authorized to Congress by the Constitution. (We believe these prior Constitutional Authorization Reports, together with current lists of congressional signers, for all proposed and enacted legislation, should also be made widely available to the public, so that citizens may review the constitutional reasoning of their elected representatives. And the availability of such reports to the courts will facilitate judicial reviews and decisions regarding constitutional challenges to laws enacted.)
Final Sunset For Prior Legislation
Even more damaging than proposed congressional actions in the future, though, are those pieces of past legislation, driven by whatever good or bad intentions, that were not specifically authorized to Congress by our Constitution. Furthermore, the requirement to reconsider each piece of prior congressional legislation still in effect would be unwieldy and would prevent Congress from fulfilling its duties and responsibilities to meet the challenges of the present and near future. We propose therefore that Congress pass a blanket Final Sunset for all prior legislation to expire, and we recommend a period of no more than five years hence, unless the relevant bill is reintroduced for a vote under the Constitutional Authorization Report requirement. (This would provide Congress with a power akin to the President’s “pocket veto,” and it would avoid counterproductive squabbling over those “settled questions” that fewer than a majority of Members still support as constitutional.)
We also urge that all state legislatures adopt similar State Constitutional Authorization Reports as part of the rules governing their own proceedings.
Oath Of Office Violations
The Constitution mandates that all Members of Congress, all Members of State Legislatures, and all judicial and executive branch officers of the United States and the several states “shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution.” We propose that these oaths be taken seriously, as binding on our representatives and officers once more, by returning to private life as rapidly as possible those who violate their oaths of office. We do not suggest this as a means of foreclosing differences of opinion, or as a method for limiting the robust levels of debate and dissent that enliven and strengthen our civic life; this proposal is intended only to remove from office those representatives and officers clearly ignoring the plain language of our Founding Documents, with the intent of abusing their powers of office to subvert those documents defining their offices.
The Constitution allows each chamber of Congress to expel a Member, with the concurrence of two-thirds (Article I, Section 5), and we urge both the House of Representatives and the Senate to create and convene permanent committees or subcommittees to provide speedy review of charges, under the public signatures of three Members, and giving precise constitutional citations and detailed and corroborated evidence, that another Member has violated the oath of office. If this review establishes that the charges have merit and foundation, the matter should be brought to the chamber floor for a vote of expulsion.
Executive And Judicial Impeachment
The Constitution provides that all civil officers of the United States, including the President and the Vice President, may be impeached on the basis of “high crimes and misdemeanors” (Article II, Section 4), which certainly includes violations of the oath of office. We urge Congress to invoke this underutilized tool more frequently, and especially when executive and judicial branch officers repeatedly and egregiously act in ways not specifically permitted to them by the Constitution.
The Constitution further provides that the judges of the supreme and inferior courts of the United States “shall hold their offices during good behavior” (Article III, Section 1). Congress should adopt the sense that “good behavior” in judges rests on adherence to their oaths of office to support the Constitution, and that violation of their oaths is cause for removal from judicial office, including immediate impeachment, if necessary in cases of egregious violations of support of the Constitution. We also urge the Senate to adopt standard periodic reviews of the “good behavior” of judges, reviewing their records of decisions and comportment at least once every five years after confirmation, and to terminate the appointment of any judge not receiving affirmation of “good behavior” from a majority of Senators.
State Of The Union Colloquy
The Constitution states only that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union” (Article II, Section 3). This custom now involves an annual address given to both Houses of Congress assembled in the chamber of the House of Representatives, with the Vice President and the Speaker of the House presiding. Furthermore, the advent of modern communications has made this no longer merely a report to the Congress but also an address to the nation as a whole. We lament that the evolution of this custom, from such a modest requirement of the Constitution, has added to the trappings of the presidency so as to render the office seemingly more imperial than executive, and the President himself to appear as a grandiose ruler rather than an elected servant of the people, who possesses no greater rights than any other citizen of our free republic.
But nothing in the Constitution mandates that these conditions must persist. We propose therefore that Congress extend an invitation to the President to appear and speak in congressional chambers under the condition that the President engage in a colloquy with Members of Congress by accepting questions from the floor, immediately upon conclusion of his address. As modern Presidents routinely engage in press conferences, taking questions from journalists, this opportunity for Members of Congress to present queries and challenges directly to the President should be no undue burden.
Given the current lack of adherence to constitutional limitations, and the generalized lack of understanding of constitutional boundaries set for our federally distributed and separated and balanced powers, which at times now shade into downright hostility toward the plain sense of our original Founding Documents, we do not favor a Constitutional Convention at this time.
A More Perfect Union
The Constitution provides that our government possesses a federal structure, in order to serve the objective of self-government through republican representation. As the Declaration of Independence makes clear, governments are instituted in order to secure the rights of individual citizens, and governments derive their just powers solely from the consent of the governed. We New Federalists believe that our nation has currently strayed from this understanding that the only valid purpose of government is as guarantor of individual citizens’ rights, substituting in its place various purposes and intentions that, whether designed for good or ill, have abridged and infringed those rights. And because the nation has lost this perspective on the legitimate objectives of government, the federal structure outlined with detail and specificity in the Constitution is no longer honored. This straying from constitutional boundaries is worrisome in and of itself, both because it calls into question the legitimacy of the government and because it inhibits the government from carrying out those legitimate functions authorized by the Constitution. Further, though, a government that has lost focus on its only valid purpose will embark inexorably on a course of systematic violations – and ultimate destruction – of its citizens’ rights. Coupled with the observation that the twentieth century has seen governments kill tens of millions of their own citizens, this is cause for deep concern.
The Declaration of Independence asserts plainly “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” This was the basis of our nation’s founding, and this remains the cornerstone that should guide understanding of the respective powers, duties and responsibilities for guaranteeing rights of citizens of the United States, under that “more perfect union” envisioned by the nation’s Founders.
The Constitution limits the powers of government by division of those powers into separate branches and levels of government. At the national level, the central governing powers are divided into the coequal legislative, executive and judicial branches, so as to offer checks and balances on the unbridled exercise of ruling authority over the states and individual citizens. Moreover, the Constitution is explicit in listing the few and restricted powers that are assigned to the United States, together with the powers that are prohibited to the several states. As the 10th Amendment makes clear, “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.” This means that only those powers, responsibilities and duties the Constitution explicitly authorizes are legitimate for the national government, and all that is not so authorized is forbidden.
We believe that the Constitutional Authorization Report, as described elsewhere in this Platform, would assist in returning the existing overgrowth of government power to the narrow channels of constitutionally limited federalism – if honestly and faithfully followed by Congress and the state legislatures. However, more is certainly necessary to overturn the violations of federalist principles existing in this 21st century, in such an orderly way as to avoid wrenching dislocations of civic and governmental functions.
The major sources of such violations of federalism involving the separation of powers have arisen through executive and judicial usurpations of legislative functions appropriately exercised only by Congress. These usurpations have, in turn, served to centralize power within the national government, violating the federalist principle of preserving states’ rights and powers. As additional measures to restore a more perfect union to our country, as envisioned by our nation’s Founding Documents, we propose the following.
Restoration of Congressional Powers Act
Congress should adopt legislation restoring to direct congressional jurisdiction and purview all the powers, duties and responsibilities explicitly entrusted to Congress under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, whether by this action Congress outright abolishes or merely transfers away from the executive branch any departments, regulatory agencies or federal bureaucracies, or whether by this action Congress rescinds any existing treaties or agreements with international and private agencies or organizations. Congress should further state that none of the agencies under its jurisdiction shall be empowered to promulgate any regulations, orders, statements or advisories that have the force of law, as the Constitution vests legislative powers only with Congress, and these legislative powers may not permissibly be transferred away to any other entity.
For example, the constitutional provision that “Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises” in no way permits Congress to reassign this power to a tax collection agency such as the Internal Revenue Service, which currently exercises that power beyond the direct jurisdiction of Congress. Similarly, the constitutional provision that “Congress shall have power … to regulate commerce with foreign nations” yields Congress no authorization to transfer this power away from itself and to an international body such as the World Trade Organization. And likewise, the constitutional provision that “Congress shall have power … to establish an uniform rule of naturalization” does not properly allow an executive department bureaucracy like the Immigration and Naturalization Service to wrest exercise of this power from Congress.
Furthermore, we urge Congress, once having jurisdiction over such agencies as persist under its purview, to follow the guidelines for returning powers and responsibilities to the states that were laid down by President Ronald Reagan in Executive Order 12612, from October 26, 1987.
Restoration of Executive Boundaries
Much of the mischievous violation of federalism has resulted from the profligate use of presidential orders (executive orders, presidential proclamations and presidential directives) exceeding the powers and responsibilities vested in the executive branch of government. Correctly viewed through constitutional authorization, presidential orders are limited in application and effect solely to the executive branch. We New Federalists therefore support actions of Congress to restore the separation of powers between the Congress and the President.
For example, we support as a minimal gesture legislation expressing the sense of the Congress that any executive order that infringes on the powers and duties of the Congress under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, or that would require the expenditure of federal funds not specifically appropriated for the purpose of the executive order, is advisory only and has no force or effect unless enacted as law (such as 1999’s H. Con. Res. 30).
More importantly, though, we urge effective measures to restore the separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch. Such measures include repeal of the War Powers Act, termination of states of emergency, termination of presidential or executive authority to declare states of emergency, and requirement that each presidential order include a statement of the specific constitutional or statutory provision granting authority for the proposed action (as in 1999’s H. R. 2655).
We also encourage efforts to bring challenges to presidential orders in appropriate United States courts by Congress and its Members, by state and local governments, and by aggrieved individual citizens whose liberty and property rights have been adversely affected by presidential orders.
Moreover, a New Federalist President should reimplement President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12612, from October 26, 1987, directing all executive branch officers and agencies to operate according to federalist strictures limiting the role of the national government to solely its enumerated and authorized powers.
Restoration of Judicial Boundaries
The Constitution’s Article III, Section 1, vests judicial power of the United States in the Supreme Court and “such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution specifies the very limited extent of cases subject to judicial power. According to The Federalist Papers, the constitutionally authorized role of the judiciary in dealing with the Constitution and its impact upon the laws passed by Congress was certainly not to ascertain “the spirit of the Constitution,” but rather it was to examine the words within the Constitution as “the standard of construction for the laws, and that wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution.”
Assuredly, our present-day federal courts have far exceeded the authority of their offices. Among other lines of faulty justification contrary to constitutional authorization, the federal judiciary in recent times has cited the 14th Amendment in striking down state laws, in the process creating a single, centralized superstate unlike any national government projected by this nation’s Founding Documents. This era of judicial activism, to date the most arrogant violation of the Constitution, can be traced to 1936, when in a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Justice Hugo Black penned the words, “We must attempt to ascertain the spirit of the Constitution to interpret it.” That flawed statement, in contravention of the restrictions placed on the federal judiciary by the Constitution, upset the delicate system of checks and balances among the three branches of government designed under the Constitution’s model of government.
We New Federalists thus support congressional actions intended to return the federal judiciary to the limited role described in precise terms in Article III of the Constitution. In particular, the Constitution’s statement that Congress “may from time to time ordain and establish” inferior federal courts surely implies that Congress may restrict the time during which such courts are ordained and established. We recommend Congress adopt a five-year sunset on authorization for each such federal court inferior to the Supreme Court, together with the five-year review of all judges assigned to such courts, to ascertain whether those judges have exhibited the “good behavior” of adherence to their oaths of office to support the Constitution, as described elsewhere in this Platform. This process of reconstituting the federal courts, in rotation every five years, should facilitate removal from office of judges not demonstrating this understanding of “good behavior” prior to being once again being properly authorized by Congress.
Moreover, though, occasional unconstitutional lapses of the courts may necessitate immediate remedy, by actions of Congress, the President, or perhaps even both. We urge these other federal branches of government to be ever vigilant to excesses of the courts. We urge Congress to override any extra-constitutional decisions of the judiciary, by enacting legislation removing from judicial purview any matters in which the federal courts overstep permissible boundaries. We also urge the President, under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, to exercise the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses” incorrectly decided by the Supreme Court or inferior federal courts and in contravention of the Constitution’s plain meaning.
Restoration of States’ Rights and Powers
The surest guarantee of states’ rights is a federal government that restricts its operations only to the enumerated powers specifically listed in the Constitution, as part of honoring the 10th Amendment. Absent a self-limiting national government, the states have little recourse for restoration of their rights and powers, beyond developing parallel programs solely within their respective jurisdictions and refusing participation in national mandates.
Nevertheless, we suggest states develop 10th Amendment strategies to reclaim their rights and powers, whether by bringing court cases or by lobbying Congress, and we urge the states to stand ready to reassume their proper constitutionally specified roles once federalism is reimplemented throughout the nation.
However, there are two constitutional amendments, both dating from 1913, which have had supremely deleterious effects on the balance of power between the states and the national government, and both of which should be repealed. We thus urge action to amend the Constitution by repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments.
Repeal of the 16th Amendment
The 16th Amendment to the Constitution introduced direct taxation of incomes from United States citizens, replacing the indirect levies that had previously been used to fund the national government. In fact, this amendment overturned the Constitution’s statement (Article I, Section 9) that “no capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”
We New Federalists would favor returning to the Constitution’s original plan for funding the national government. We further support simultaneously repealing the 16th Amendment, in the process abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and replacing this onerous, burdensome direct tax on incomes with an alternative levy, preferably in the form of a tax collected by the states on behalf of the national government and held within the jurisdiction of the states until Congress authorizes spending funds in the respective states on constitutionally authorized matters in adherence to federalist principles. We believe this change would substantially alter the skewed balance of power between the states and the national level of government, by no longer automatically amassing large funds to Washington, D.C., for subsequent redispersal to the states. (Only those few monies needed to fund the direct operations of the national government, such as congressional allowances and funding for operations of Congress, would be sent from the states’ accounts to the nation’s capital.)
One such alternate source of funding would be a flat-rate income tax collected by the states on behalf of the central government. This replacement revenue source would have the benefit of gradualism in implementation, especially for those states whose residents are already subject to taxation of their incomes.
However, a national sales tax can be considered greatly preferable to a flat tax on incomes, because we believe such direct taxes necessarily are in violation of the 4th Amendment’s guarantees of “the right of the people to be secure in their … houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” We believe that the IRS has now amassed such a large collection of centralized information about individual American citizens, that the 4th Amendment cannot be realistically viewed as still having any force or effect in regard to personal, private financial dealings. And merely devolving maintenance of such intrusive records by the states in data bases linked to the central government conveys no return of constitutional guarantees. Only destruction of existing collected records and replacement of such corollary information collection by an entirely different system will restore the full complement of individual rights acknowledged under the 4th Amendment.
Repeal of the 17th Amendment
The 17th Amendment to the Constitution brought election of Senators by direct voting of citizens in each state, replacing the previous method of election of Senators, as given in Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution, providing that Senators be chosen by each state’s legislature. We New Federalists believe that this amendment has had severely deleterious effects, both in reducing the relative power of states with respect to the national government and, ironically, in decreasing the level of “democratic” representation of citizens by their Senators. We thus support repeal of the 17th Amendment.
We view this proposal as seriously needed to return to a more appropriate balance between the states and the national government, as well as restoring a more appropriate balance between the two chambers of Congress. In the Constitution’s original, thoughtful design, the House of Representatives was the only body whose Members were directly elected by citizens, the term of office was purposely short at two years, and those actions of government of greatest effect on citizens were assigned to this chamber of Congress. By contrast, the Senate was designed as a more deliberative body, with Members providing a bridge between responsiveness to their respective state legislatures and the national level of government, and serving six-year terms of office. However, with the advent of modern telecommunications and the growing expense of statewide campaigns, Senators now find themselves more responsive to monied “special” interest groups, which can provide campaign donations, thus less responsive to the concerns of their respective state legislatures, and so by extension, less responsive to direct appeal by their state’s constituents.
Restoration of Representative Republican Elections
In order to restore the faith and confidence of the American people in the representativeness and trustworthiness of elections, we New Federalists favor restoration of an electoral process controlled at the state and local level rather than by national-level judges and bureaucrats. All matters relevant to district boundaries, electoral procedures, and campaign activities are the proper province of the states and the people. We support abolishing The Federal Election Campaign Act, together with its 1974 amendments, and we favor disbanding the Federal Election Commission.
The Electoral College was created in accordance with Article II, Section I of the Constitution, which provides, “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress: but no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.” Although the Constitution does not specify methods for electing these electors or how they cast their votes, its wording suggests that prominent individuals from each congressional district, and from the state at large, should be elected or appointed as electors that represent that district. We favor returning to this arrangement, in which voters could vote for three individuals, one to represent the voter’s district and two “at large” representatives to represent the voter’s state.
We do not support voting by Internet, nor do we favor continuing any system of machine-readable ballots that are not simultaneously readily readable by visual scanning. We support a return to the use of paper ballots by all state and local election officials, together with an evidentiary chain of physical custody of ballots, which permits recourse to a manual counting process of ballots overseen by, and accountable to, voters of each respective precinct, should any challenge be lodged to the announced election results.
English As Official Language
We New Federalists also support actions to declare English the official language of the United States and all states forming our union. We do not favor this proposal to denigrate any culture or national origin of citizens of this Republic, nor is this proposal intended to discourage citizens from learning and using other languages. We favor declaring English the official language of all levels of government in this country in order to promote greater understanding and to strengthen the bonds of commonality and community necessary for all citizens to understand each other and the laws and documents that in fact bind us together as a citizenry.
A major cause the Founders cited as justification for declaring the American colonies independent was that the king had “obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” that he had “made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries,” that he had hewed to double standards in matters before the courts by protecting his soldiers through mock trials while denying trial by jury to colonists, that he had often transported colonials overseas for trial, and that he had pursued a course of treating the free system of laws so cavalierly that justice was no longer possible.
It is therefore unsurprising that of the 10 constitutional amendments composing the Bill of Rights, fully half deal with matters of citizen rights in courts of law. This demonstrates the great importance the Founders placed on citizens having recourse to just courts. The experiences of colonists in the courts established by the king had proven that fair, just laws could not be based in the interpretation of courts subject to a single dominion but that the only possibly just laws were necessarily treated as equally binding in application to all judges and parties standing in court disputes.
As discussed elsewhere in this Platform, citizen rights are best guaranteed by courts that follow the constitutionally specified plans for their operations. A judiciary that stays within the narrow bounds laid out in the Constitution for this branch of government views its role as serving to guarantee individual citizens’ rights and states’ rights, as described plainly in the Constitution, in cases of dispute. As also discussed elsewhere in this Platform, however, the courts in our land today have lost sight of their proper constitutionally defined role. Our courts have substituted in its place usurpations of legislative powers and functions; and the courts have further failed to uphold the separation of powers as clearly set forth in the Constitution’s model for our government, by refusing to rein in an overreaching executive branch of government. We New Federalists believe the remedies described elsewhere in this Platform, including adopting the sense that judges engage in the “good behavior” required for retaining office only while honoring their sworn oaths to support the Constitution, will aid in rectifying this abandonment of principles restraining the judiciary to its constitutional bounds. Similarly, periodic review of judges’ records on these grounds, together with term-limited courts, should also assist in these efforts.
The effects of the American judicial system’s failure to enact the judiciary’s constitutionally defined role have been massive and monumental. Among the victims of this failure are individual citizens who no longer are accorded their just and fair rights, communities terrorized by criminals no longer restrained by appropriate punishments meted out by the courts, and the portion of the citizenry at large that has lost faith in our government’s ability to restrain itself.
Nevertheless, although the state of the courts is spiraling deterioration, as a result of taking on improper functions and powers while shirking specifically defined duties and responsibilities, we New Federalists can clearly set forth a few essential justifications and lines of reasoning that ought to restrain our courts. We therefore affirm our support for the following principles when at issue in United States courts, and we suggest that these principles be defended vigorously and argued robustly in our courts of law.
The most fundamental right that courts should guarantee individual citizens is the right to life. The Constitution’s 5th Amendment states that no person shall be “deprived of life … without due process of law.” Currently the courts fail in upholding the right to life because of flawed assumptions on two grounds.
First, the courts have faultily arrogated to themselves the power to define which classes of humans are accorded the right to life, and which are not. As the Declaration of Independence so boldly and clearly affirms, God endows all humans equally with these rights, so that no court decision may permissibly define away these rights for any human, and certainly not en masse for any separate and defined classes of human beings. Second, the courts have faultily abandoned the principle of ensuring equality before the law when acceding to the view that certain different classes of individual humans bear rights that others do not.
These two entwined strands of deeply flawed assumptions, in contravention of the principles upon which this nation was founded, have produced bad judicial decisions in several areas. The consequences of these lines of faulty reasoning have been clear – and clearly devastating to the foundational principles of rights and equality. If the courts may properly define rights away for any group or class of citizens, then the courts may properly define away, and thus deny, rights for all citizens. If individual citizens’ rights are not treated as inhering in perpetuity in the individuals themselves, then no rights can truly be claimed to exist.
One major set of such faulty judicial decisions asserted a right to privacy that included a right to abortion. A similar set of improper court reasoning decided a right to euthanasia, or more aptly, the “right” to grant physicians permission to participate in killing.
Another set of flawed judiciary actions involved retreat from adherence to ensuring equal rights of citizens before the law, by settling on specific categories of classes and groups that would be recognized by courts in contradistinction to members of other groupings that would not be so recognized. But equality under the law demands no cognizance of group membership or characteristics in having access and recourse to courts. If such definitions are retained, there is no equality before the law. Hate crimes laws, for instance, have violated this principle of equality, as have general court-endorsed definitions of citizen classes on the basis of private sexual preferences or practices.
In a similar vein, an abandonment of seriousness regarding the rights to liberty and property has been manifest in United States courts. Arguably, excessive taxation, for instance, can be viewed as a denial of the rights to both liberty and property. Taxes higher than necessary for constitutionally specified purposes of government can be equated to involuntary servitude, as well as to “takings” of private property “for public use without just compensation” (5th Amendment).
However, we New Federalists support the death penalty, as implied by the constitutional provisions explicitly citing capital offenses, as well as the 5th Amendment’s indication that a person may properly be deprived of life after due process of law in the courts. But simultaneously, as noted elsewhere, we believe a principled position concerning the death penalty requires that it be treated with absolute equality on all sides. For example, we do not support reserving the death penalty only for capital crimes against certain classes of citizens but not other classes, as defined in terms of characteristics of victims. If punishment is held to have a deterrent effect, then reserving the death penalty for certain classes of citizens only, say, for federal officials and officers but not for private citizens, violates the principle of equality before the law, by failing to protect equally as a consequence of unequal application.
In general, we believe that the courts should be guided by the 9th Amendment’s statement, “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and the 10th Amendment’s provision that “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.”
We New Federalists favor justice that adheres to a firm and clear understanding of federalist principles, defending such principles in every decision. We believe that in court decisions relevant to disputes about powers assigned to the levels of government, judges should be guided by the 10th Amendment’s statement, “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.”
Ensuring Domestic Tranquility
In setting as a proper overall objective of government that of ensuring domestic tranquility, the Founders were referring to a general peaceable set of conditions of life in this country. Part of this involved the ability of citizens to live in circumstances that were settled and secure, with no domestic insurrections, and with their neighborhoods and communities adequately protected from predatory criminals abroad in the land. Yet another part of ensuring domestic tranquility involved Congress setting the relationships among the states, especially in regard to such issues as financial matters of commerce and interstate trade, and legal matters including extraditions between states, so that the states and their respective residents were treated uniformly and equally by the national level of government. That these concerns have little currency is a measure of how small the common understanding of federalist principles is today.
Under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, Congress is specifically assigned the power to regulate commerce among the several states, to coin money and regulate its value, to fix standards of weights and measures, to establish uniform rules of naturalization, to make uniform bankruptcy laws for the nation as a whole, to provide punishment of counterfeiting securities and coins, to establish post offices and post roads, and to provide for calling forth the militia to suppress insurrections and repel invasions.
As discussed elsewhere in this Platform, we New Federalists believe that Congress has reassigned these specific powers, duties and responsibilities to such an improper, constitutionally impermissible extent that the legislative role is no longer being sufficiently served as defined under our Constitution. We have thus urged Congress to reassert those powers by returning to direct congressional purview those agencies and organizations that now exert these powers independently of Congress. For example, New Federalism urges that all banking and money decisions be returned to Congress, including repeal of the Federal Reserve Act, restructuring of the Federal Reserve System, and bringing related monetary and valuation decisions back into compliance with the Mint Act of 1792.
As the Constitution specifically notes, Congress bears responsibility for matters related to national borders and immigration and naturalization, as part of ensuring domestic tranquility. We favor Congress exercising these powers and responsibilities, rather than executive branch agencies operating independently of Congress, except for occasional but ineffective hearings that cannot accurately be deemed “oversight.” The interdiction of illegal drugs and other contraband at the borders has relevance to matters of common defense and national security as well, given the possibility for large-scale terrorism from miniaturized weapons of mass destruction.
Another necessary component of domestic tranquility throughout the United States involves citizens who freely exercise their responsibilities within their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities. The bedrock of peace and safety at home is peace and safety in the homes of families and individual citizens.
The Common Defense
We New Federalists believe that as citizens we all bear a more generally dispersed responsibility for the common defense than is today generally assumed in our country. We support a return to a less professionalized military, which today is often viewed and treated as a separate segment of United States society, in favor of the model of part-time but “well-regulated” citizen-soldiers clearly suggested by the Constitution. Of course, returning to the Constitution’s original formulation for coordinated participation in the common defense will necessitate coordination and cooperation from citizens, the military services, the states, Congress, and the President acting in the role of Commander in Chief.
The Role of Citizens in Defense
When volunteer forces in the United States military replaced conscription, many American citizens adopted the belief that they may adequately discharge their responsibilities to provide for the common defense of our nation, by paying their income taxes. Quite perniciously, though, these volunteer military forces have in recent years been treated as willing volunteers for any overseas assignment whatsoever in service to political or diplomatic maneuvers, instead of as a last resort in service of the nation’s security. This circumstance has been worsened by the fact that wealthier segments of American society have mostly disdained military service since World War II, so that our political leaders have often found participation in conflicts of dubious relevance to national security to be more acceptable than would have been the case, had the duties of military service been borne more generally throughout the nation. Military forces organized around the model of citizen-soldiers, more akin to current National Guard forces, replacing the career-oriented, professionalized military, are the preference of New Federalists for these reasons. Of course, the transition back to more equitably distributed responsibilities for provision for our common defense is an undertaking of major proportions, especially in light of the technological advances that have modernized the arts of war and issues of national security. This long-term project must begin with a change of perspective about the fundamentals of defense at home and abroad, which has certainly been accelerated with the need to defend against further terrorist attacks as lethal as those of September 11. 2001.
Support for the 2nd Amendment
The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution gives the clearest rationale for the position we New Federalists take in regard to issues of the common defense. As this amendment plainly states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” As noted elsewhere in this Platform, the Declaration of Independence recognizes that the only legitimate purpose of government is to secure the rights of its individual citizens, and that the only legitimate government is one based in the free assent of its citizens. However, concomitantly the individual citizens bear responsibility for the defense of that government. Hence, the right to bear arms in defense of the government, which guarantees individual citizens’ rights, resides solely and in perpetuity with the citizens themselves. This right may not permissibly be reassigned to any other body or agency, as a government so constituted will inevitably embark on a train of decisions, proposals and abuses that will in the end render the state neither secure nor free. Infringements of the 2nd Amendment have already begun this process in the United States and must be rolled back.
When individual citizens knowledgeably and responsibly exercise the right to keep and bear arms, they may freely engage in acts of self-defense, defense of family, and defense of the nation itself against incipient tyranny from enemies both foreign and domestic. The evidence from multiple sources is overwhelming, indicating that an armed populace is both freer and safer than any group protected by a professionalized police or military force. Recognition and appreciation of this truth must be the cornerstone of any principled approach to matters regarding common defense.
We thus consider infringements on the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms through gun control measures to be impermissible constitutionally, and we therefore support programs that train children and youth with age-appropriate materials and procedures in the safe but effective handling and use of firearms, as preparation for assuming their proper roles, once adults, for bearing responsibility for the defense of this nation. Materials such as the Eddie Eagle series, which warn small children of the dangers of firearms, are an excellent starting point for a successful education in personal skills necessary for enacting the role of citizen-soldier. Similarly, firearms training by Boy Scouts troops and other private organizations can build on healthy attitudes toward the safe, appropriate use of weapons of defense. We urge parents to avail themselves of such materials and programs to teach their children, and we encourage parents to support introduction of these educational plans to the curricula in their children’s schools.
Although we New Federalists prefer significant changes in the structure and composition of military forces serving the common defense, we nonetheless remain fervently committed to honoring the service to our country of veterans. Their contributions to the preservation of American freedom and to advancing the cause of liberty throughout the world are worthy of our deepest gratitude. We New Federalists thus support providing equitable pay and benefits to our service members on active duty, providing them with adequate tools and weapons during their terms of service, and maintaining generous health, education, and other benefits promised to veterans as compensation for their national service. We oppose efforts by agencies at any level of government to remove or reduce any promised benefits or compensation to veterans and their survivors, including pensions, educational benefits, and health care services.
The Role of Government in Defense
Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes … to … provide for the common defense … of the United States,” as one of the three specifically authorized broad purposes of congressional spending on behalf of the nation as a whole. The Constitution further specifies that Congress bears the power of decisions regarding national security matters, including the power to declare war, to raise and support armies for a period not to exceed two years, to provide and maintain a navy, to set rules for military forces and exercise authority over military bases, to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militias maintained by the states, and to call forth the militias when needed to serve in defense of the United States. The Constitution also assigns to the states the responsibility to appoint officers to their respective militias, as well as the authority for training each state’s militia “according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”
Taken together, these constitutionally defined assignments of powers within our federal system of government suggest that, as with so much else in our present-day governing practices, our nation has strayed far from honoring the complementary roles that were set out for serving this legitimate purpose of government. We New Federalists believe that insufficient attention has been paid to the Constitution’s 3rd Amendment, which states, “No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” This amendment implies that the Founders desired conditions of peace with only minimal burdens on the citizenry to support the military. The language from the Constitution also indicates, though, that a national navy may properly be maintained for extended periods of service, while standing land-based forces forming an army should be raised for limited periods of service (not to exceed two years) and reauthorized for longer durations only after congressional consideration. Clearly, the Constitution places greater emphasis than seen today on armed forces trained and maintained within the states themselves as militias, then called into national service only under extraordinary circumstances decided by Congress. We New Federalists support efforts to return to this model of citizen-soldiers, while at the same time preserving our national security interests in the increasingly dangerous world of today’s rogue nations, international terrorist organizations, and spiraling proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Congressional Oversight for Defense-Related Exports
The Constitution provides that Congress assumes sole power in regulating commerce with foreign nations, and we believe that Congress should exercise that power with an eye to restricting exports on military-related technology that may endanger our national security. This is the only position consonant with serving to provide for the common defense. We New Federalists therefore support close cooperation between Congress and military experts on technology and products of defense-related significance in restricting such exports as necessary to protect the nation’s security. Nevertheless, as such restrictions on exports can also be viewed as “takings” of property belonging to United States citizens and business organizations, we simultaneously support following the guidelines of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that no “private property be taken for public use without just compensation,” and providing proper reimbursement in such cases.
Military Base Closures
Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution assigns to Congress power to exercise exclusive legislation and authority “over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards and other needful buildings.” This means that Congress alone is constitutionally permitted to reach decisions about those sites chosen and maintained as military bases for defense of the nation. Further, Congress may not properly pass this exclusive authority over to any other body, such as the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), in order to avoid difficult decisions and evade direct accountability to voters for participation in such decisions.
Ballistic Missile Defenses
Under current world conditions, perhaps the single most pressing need for the common defense of the American people is to complete an adequate system of protections to secure against ballistic missile attack. We New Federalists believe that the Constitution’s assignment to Congress to provide for the common defense now assuredly demands that Congress authorize all necessary expenditures to finish projects necessary to research, test and build such missile defenses as rapidly as possible. We support, for example, ongoing expansion of the sea-based Aegis systems for theater defenses, as well as continuing research, development and implementation for land-based and space-based adjuncts to this defensive shield. Moreover, because we do not believe that any treaty can permissibly override the Constitution’s assignment of duties and responsibilities, we applaud the negotiations in regard to rescinding the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (with the now-defunct Soviet Union) that removed dubious impediments to deployment of such defenses for United States citizens.
Defense Against Terrorist Attacks
Another pressing need in today’s security environment is for appropriate protections to avert terrorist attacks as deadly as – or possibly, even deadlier than – the coordinated assaults of September 11, 2001. We New Federalists support the doctrine of preemption of terrorist threats that can be credibly and prudently foreseen in the nexus between international terrorist organizations and states that sponsor terrorism while simultaneously pursuing acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Where reasonable requests for alliance against terrorism are met with duplicity and deception, a military response may be our nation’s recourse of last resort for properly fulfilling the duties of common defense.
Commander in Chief
The President is Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, as well as of the militia when those forces raised by the states are serving the United States (Article II, Section 2). As noted elsewhere in other contexts in this Platform, the constitutional assignment of powers and responsibilities can in no way be shirked or surrendered, absent constitutional amendment. Because this role of Commander in Chief is defined under the Constitution, it is constitutionally impermissible for the President to change this role and definition, through arbitrary exercise of executive decision, by assigning troops to foreign commanders or to international operations not under his direct control. We New Federalists therefore believe that participation by service members of United States military branches in any international operations or functions can only be constitutionally proper when all existing chains of command within U.S. forces are completely preserved throughout the duration of the assignment. In particular, we hold that it is impermissible to order service members to swear allegiance to any body outside the jurisdiction of the Commander in Chief, or to wear any uniform or insignia not specifically authorized and under the control of the Congress. Further, we do not believe that the duty of “peacekeeping,” when undertaken in concert with international forces in foreign lands, can reasonably be extruded from the Constitution’s specification that military campaigns are for the common defense of the United States. – unless performed as a temporary mission following congressionally authorized military intervention serving to protect citizens.
Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution states, “The Congress shall have power … to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations.” Article II, Section 2, assigns the President to “have power, by and with the consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” While acknowledging shared divisions of role in foreign dealings, these constitutional passages place greater responsibility for international relations with Congress, as closer republican representatives of the American people, than with the executive branch. Because efficacious diplomacy is certainly a necessary tool and adjunct of the common national defense, this is consistent with other passages from the Constitution. However, we New Federalists note that diplomacy, as currently practiced on behalf of the United States, is more often treated as the province of the State Department, operating under the jurisdiction of the executive branch, and decidedly at loggerheads with the Congress. We thus support a return to the Founders’ plan for a greater congressional role in international relations than is currently the case, in order to more closely follow the requirements of the Constitution.
In particular, we hold the view that Congress may not permissibly, absent constitutional amendment, transfer its responsibility for defining and punishing offenses against international law to any other body, including (but not limited to) any international tribunal or court. We further adhere to the view that, consistent with the belief that the Constitution is binding in perpetuity, treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate become domestic law, rather than superseding the Constitution. Treaties are therefore, under this understanding, revocable by a majority vote in Congress.
We are decidedly wary of the continuing usefulness of the United Nations under its existing forms of operation. In general, we favor replacing multilateral organizations and arrangements with a system of bilateral alliances, as only bilateral treaties and agreements remain under control of the two populaces represented. Multilateralism, almost by definition, transfers authority to an unaccountable agency or bureaucracy, and away from direct responsiveness to the consent of the governed. By contrast, bilateral compacts can be revised or revoked, should such demands arise from citizens of either nation party to the agreement.
Given the New Federalist principles about the proper purposes of government in guaranteeing individual citizens’ rights, we do not support direct foreign aid, and especially not direct government-to-government foreign aid spending. We New Federalists further believe that our alliances with other powers of the earth should always be predicated on the extent to which those powers support and defend the God-bestowed rights of individuals under their jurisdictions. We thus encourage that all such alliances be evaluated in regard to their ability for advancing the cause of freedom throughout the world, in order to increase the numbers of those who enjoy the blessings of liberty.
The General Welfare
Perhaps no phrase found in the Constitution has been more distorted in actual use and application than the provision that one broad purpose of our government is to promote the general welfare throughout the United States. The Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, assigns Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes … to pay the debts and provide for the … general welfare of the United States.” Certainly, if the Founders had meant this purpose to include any action that might possibly benefit citizens generally, the Constitution itself could have been limited to this solitary statement. Justice, defense, and liberty, after all, are of good effect on the general welfare of the nation as a whole.
But the Founders also ratified the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, affirming, “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.” Thus, the general welfare cannot reasonably be stretched to allow the national level of government to perform functions and exercise powers beyond those specifically and explicitly listed in the Constitution. As James Madison described the limitations on interpretation of the general welfare clause, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one….”
As discussed elsewhere in this Platform in other contexts, when any branch or level of government fails to enact its constitutionally defined role, the damages are multiple, including that: the role is typically abrogated, with the legitimate function performed improperly (if at all), the constitutional patterns and processes of accountability are eroded, the government loses legitimacy in citizens’ eyes, and citizens’ liberties are diminished. In matters related to promoting the general welfare in the United States, the most egregious violations of federalist principles have arisen from the national level of government taking from citizens their proper role in exercising the free choices of self-government in regard to their personal, family, and community decisions. And when unlimited central government undertakes such roles and responsibilities as are constitutionally reserved to the states or the people themselves, the capabilities are destroyed of individuals, private organizations, and neighborhood, local and state governments to respond to real problems that require solutions. Members of Congress have incorrectly cited the general welfare clause as justification for legislation in matters concerning health care, education (including loans to students), agriculture, foreign aid, and domestic crimes, all of which are better left to those closest to the underlying problems.
The Constitution makes clear, through the further explanation of specifically enumerated powers, what the Founders meant when referring to promoting the general welfare throughout the United States. The Founders meant by this defense of the nation, as discussed elsewhere in this Platform, and the preservation of the nation’s economic integrity. Thus, this provision of the Constitution authorizes Congress to take actions in matters that affect the economic prosperity of this country in relation to other nations, including encouraging creativity, invention, and entrepreneurial activities of citizens and setting uniform laws related to economic exchanges and transactions across the land.
The Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, states that Congress shall have the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” and “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” for effective copyright and patent protections. As discussed elsewhere in this Platform, Congress may not permissibly reassign or transfer away these constitutionally specified powers, absent constitutional amendment. We New Federalists urge Congress to reassert its responsibilities for all policy-setting functions related to domestic and foreign trade and authority over copyright and patent policy. All matters involving the general welfare of U.S. citizens, measured in terms of their financial and economic well-being related to regulation of international commerce, commerce between the states, and copyright and patent protections, are the proper province of Congress rather than any executive branch department, agency, or international body or organization. Additionally, the Constitution provides that Congress has “power … to establish post offices and post roads,” which suggests that to serve the end of the general welfare, Congress may appropriately construct and maintain an interstate highway system as necessary infrastructure for communication and transportation within the United States.
The general welfare of the American people, assessed in terms of their material prosperity, is also affected by governmental decisions related to money, trade, taxation, and national indebtedness. We New Federalists favor movements toward the maximum levels of freedom in economic exchanges, and concomitant noninterference by government, as is feasible under conditions in which government must extract fees to fund operations. The Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, specifies duties, imposts, and excises as legitimate revenue-raising levies Congress may lay and collect, in addition to taxes, to pay national debts and fund national operations. As described elsewhere in this Platform, we favor tax reforms in which revenues for the central government are collected and held in accounts by the states, as replacement for the national income tax; we also favor movement toward matching levels of taxation of cross-border transactions, in the form of duties and imposts. We support efforts to retire the national debt on an orderly and timely basis.
As discussed in relation to providing for the common defense, we believe Congress has an essential duty to restrict defense-related exports that may endanger national security. Similarly, we support limited use by Congress of the power of embargo against other nations, when assessed as being in the interests of the general welfare of the United States as a whole. Nevertheless, we oppose the awarding of “most favored nation” or “normal trade relations” status, when utilized as a diplomatic tool in negotiations with tyrannical regimes that do not guarantee the rights of their citizens, and thus are not properly viewed as legitimate governments.
Similarly, we oppose programs that expend national funds and use national resources on behalf of overseas financial endeavors and investments of specific industries and enterprises. In particular, we vigorously oppose use of U.S. military forces to protect financial interests of businesses abroad.
The New Federalist interpretation of the plain language of the Constitution is that those activities not explicitly authorized to the national government are prohibited to it, and are properly left for citizens to secure themselves, through private efforts or through programs at lower levels of government. We therefore favor elimination of congressional action in regard to all matters on which the Constitution is silent, including the following subjects not specifically mentioned in the Constitution: aid to specific industries such as agriculture, education (including student loans), energy (except insofar as related to the common defense), the environment, health care, and pensions. However, as the nation has extracted money from taxpayers in exchange for promises of health care (such as Medicare) and pension benefits (including Social Security programs), in the process preventing citizens from using those funds in accord with their own free decisions concerning their personal welfare, we strongly support continuing these programs for current recipients while gradually transferring responsibility for such programs back to the citizens themselves.
Secure Blessings Of Liberty
Liberty is guaranteed not by government restrictions on citizens, but rather by restraints placed on government interference with citizens’ free exercise of rights and responsibilities. Casting a view around the landscape of debate and conflict in the United States, one commonality readily apparent is that this definition of liberty is not often understood or defended, even by those who claim it as their banner. As one example, the American Civil Liberties Union incorrectly calls censorship not those efforts of government bodies or agencies to restrict availability of materials but instead the actions of citizens to protect their children from exposure to harmful age-inappropriate pornography. We New Federalists urge, as the first defense of liberty, a return to this plain sense of the meaning of the concept: that liberty is the ability of citizens to freely act and freely exercise their choices within the limited constraints imposed by clear, constitutionally authorized laws applied equally to citizens. We further urge citizens to reclaim the responsibilities that should be theirs, but have irresponsibly been wrested from them by our current levels of overweening government.
We believe that the proposals advanced in this Platform will assist citizens in restoring their lost and rapidly eroding rights and liberties, by offering specific actions that citizens may support for ensuring that government restrain itself. But the only secure liberty is the one that citizens secure for themselves through their free exercise of self-government in actions and decisions.
Integrity and Honorable Service in Leadership
Perhaps the most greatly needed government action for securing citizens’ liberties is restoration of the highest ethical standards in leaders. Too often these days, elected and appointed officials of government view themselves as rulers or caretakers of the public, rather than as citizens equal to all other citizens, but whose proper role is serving the public through restrained representative actions. Officers of government all must swear oaths prior to entering office to support the Constitution. The first guarantee of returning integrity and honorable service to government is demanding that these oaths of office be taken as seriously binding on all officers of government. As described elsewhere in this Platform, we New Federalists favor removal from office for any government official in violation of these oaths to the Constitution, and we propose specific measures to review officials’ records in office and any complaints of oath violations lodged against serving government officeholders.
But this is surely not enough to make certain that those putatively serving to represent the citizens do not then turn to serving their selfish interests, at the expense of the citizens and their liberties. We favor legislation prohibiting any past officer of government from subsequently representing any foreign government or other foreign interest, either public or private, with the aim of affecting America public opinion or public policy regarding foreign relations, diplomacy, or trade. Similarly, we encourage legislation containing specific restrictions on lobbying of government by former officials for extended periods subsequent to their service to the country.
Another pressing need concerning integrity in government, to secure citizens their liberties, is ensuring that all government documents and records contain accurate, honest, faithful information. In particular, all records related to government revenue and spending must adhere to honest budgeting and reliable accounting methods. Similarly, we favor legislation determining the rules of proceedings for both chambers of Congress to require that the Congressional Record present a completely accurate record of proceedings as they actually transpired, with no provisions that remarks be revised or extended, and allowing insertion into the Record of only those materials used as exhibits or references during floor speeches and debates.
Moreover, we New Federalists support a return to the model of citizen-legislators, instead of the professional class of lifetime politicians who know no other trade or business. To serve this objective, in defense of citizens’ liberties, we propose that all congressional pensions be eliminated, and that federal pay for Members of Congress be replaced by per diem allowances for only those days on which Congress is in session. (We also support similar changes in state legislators’ pay and benefits as well.)
As discussed more extensively elsewhere in this Platform, election reforms are also essential for restoring citizens’ confidence that they have been guaranteed representative republican elections, which form the bedrock for securing the blessings of liberty.
Even more than this, though, the officers of government must return to a view that embraces accountability to the citizens whose liberties they are entrusted with guaranteeing. As discussed in multiple contexts throughout this Platform, evasion of accountability to the citizens has become the watchword of government careening purposely out of control. Two concrete lines of approach to restoring accountability in government involve withdrawing from entangling alliances that supplant representation of citizens with representation of foreign entities, and returning to an emphasis on government that serves to ensure citizens’ liberties.
Withdrawal from Entangling Alliances
We New Federalists favor withdrawing from international institutions with overweening goals in direct conflict with citizens’ liberties, which purport to serve some kind of hazy global or international interests. For instance, the United States should withdraw immediately from any institution that proposes any form of taxation on U.S. citizens, or that proposes any restrictions on freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Recent actions and inactions of the United Nations are especially troubling in this regard, as the UN Security Council has attempted to delay or subvert the constitutionally specified duty of providing for the common defense against terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens. If the UN cannot, or will not, be reformed toward a more modest set of goals that return control of the representatives to their respective populaces, we favor the U.S. taking steps to curtail its participation in the UN.
Ensuring Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms
The basic requirement, in turning the emphasis of government toward a reassertion of appropriate defense of citizens’ rights, is for officers of government to view their role not as having first claim on citizens’ resources, but rather as seeing any intrusions on citizens as a last resort – and only for those limited functions attendant to exercise of explicitly assigned constitutional powers of government.
Major efforts of government are needed to restore individual citizens’ rights and freedoms in several areas. However, some of the most pressing topics of urgent concern involve privacy of information and asset forfeiture laws in conflict with the 4th Amendment’s guarantee of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures….” Another set of subjects requiring quick responses of government involves property rights, regulatory takings and other matters relevant to the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” And, in regard to the federal system of justice, citizen freedoms are at risk through current court practices at odds with the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”
Furthermore, in general all levels of government should be admonished by the 9th Amendment’s statement on the limitations of government concerning the defining of citizens’ rights: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
As noted above, the final security for individual citizens to enjoy the blessings of liberty arises from their own adamant assertions and free exercise of those freedoms that are rightly theirs. Because our current government seems ever ready to overstep the clear bounds set for it by the Constitution, the citizens must strengthen those other institutions of civil society that compete with the state as centers of influence and power. In particular, citizens should urge that government at all levels undertake actions that support rather than undermine natural families, and that encourage private, voluntary organizations to ameliorate problems in neighborhoods and communities.
Alexis de Tocqueville was perhaps the earliest commentator on America to recognize the efficacy in the United States of free exercise within voluntary institutions. He correctly identified these acts of freedom as the source of America’s goodness. This truth still endures, even as various incursions of government have damaged the capabilities of voluntary institutions to respond to the needs of citizens.
Free Exercise of Faith
Apart from the right to life, no other right is more inherently intertwined with our national experiment in ordered liberties than the right of free exercise of religious faith. A citizen’s view of the world, human nature, and right conduct as applied to matters of appropriate concern to government, all derive from religious beliefs and principles. And while beliefs and principles cannot be forced or constrained by actions of government, the free exercise of acts of self-government can be improperly limited by government. Citizens must therefore be ever vigilant in asserting their rights to act on their faith in the public square, whenever and wherever any act of government threatens to impinge on the freedom of religion or of religious institutions and organizations. In particular, citizens must demand that government not intrude beyond its proper sphere in redefining moral questions, and that faith-based groups fight all forms of government interference with religious expression, when acting on commands of faith in public arenas.
The most fundamental unit of society, based in our human nature, is the natural family consisting of the voluntary union of one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage covenant, for the purpose of commitment to each other and to their children. The relationships between marriage partners and between parents and children form the foundation upon which all other social forms and associations rest. Citizens bear the ultimate responsibility for creating strong and durable bonds in their marriages and family life, but the government bears a concomitant responsibility to support rather than discourage the formation of those natural familial bonds. For instance, institutions of government have no legitimate power to redefine marriage as anything beyond the natural covenant of man and woman, or to redefine families as any collection of persons whatsoever.
All other voluntary associations derive from the practices and lessons that come from family life. As the Constitution’s 1st Amendment makes plain, these free associations are guaranteed, as Congress is prohibited from “abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
Free Exchanges of Ideas and Commerce
The healthy exchange of ideas through debate and discourse enlivens our representative republic, strengthening citizens’ understanding of each other as equal participants in our common existence as a nation. The free exchange of ideas also stimulates the levels of creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship necessary for promoting the progress of science and the success of useful arts. Free exchanges in commerce and contracts between citizens are guaranteed as a consequence of the Constitution’s Article I, Sections 9 and 10, which provide that no preferences be given among states of the Republic, that states lay no duties or imposts on exports or imports between states, and that states make no laws “impairing the obligation of contracts.”
These areas of free exchange form the currency of liberty, in the decisions citizens freely reach to secure their material and political prosperity, as yet further blessings of liberty secured to our nation by adherence to the federalist principles of our nation’s Founding Documents.