The last time Congress declared war was on December 8, 1941. In the years since then we have gone from a relatively limited executive branch — as spelled out in James Madison’s system of checks and balances — straight through the imperial presidency of undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam, to a rogue Presidency in which all bets are off.
Historian, economist, and foreign policy expert Ivan Eland has written a new book linking the cancerous growth of the military and executive branch to Congress’s on-going abdication of responsibility.
War and the Rogue Presidency: Restoring the Republic after Congressional Failure is Eland’s latest with the Independent Institute. Senator Rand Paul calls it a must-read for “for anyone seeking a safer, freer, and more peaceful world.”
I’ve covered the growth of the administrative state dozens of times on my show, but Eland has a fresh take on how the erosion of checks and balances has taken place — not all at once, but in a ratcheting of executive power during wartime.
He shows how most major economic interventions have their origin in war: whether its taxes (i.e., income tax, progressive taxation, double taxation, tax withholding, tax expenditures, the estate tax, gas taxes, etc.) or social programs (i.e., Social Security, expansion of Medicaid, public housing and rent control, grants-in-aid to state).
Even government regulation of marriage, as opposed to the common law tradition, arose out of a Civil War interest in monitoring the moral activity of widows receiving pensions from the government.
Eland walks readers through this surprising history — including Abraham Lincoln’s “inept autocratic” wartime presidency — and the attempts by Congress to push back against growing executive authority.
Eventually, he brings us to the present, in which Congress has pretty much stopped trying to check the President’s authority.
Eland makes an especially convincing case for conservatives to oppose the “rogue presidency.” He writes:
CONSERVATIVES SHOULD BE leerier of jumping into wars, not only because wars kill and destroy and because the American superpower might become overextended, especially in a time of high national debt and fiscal crisis, but also because war makes the government — that is, the executive branch — expand rapidly at home, even in areas unrelated to national security.
President Trump and the current Republican Congress are at an inflection point. After so many decades endless wars, we may be finally reaching agreements in Afghanistan and elsewhere to bring troops home. Yet Trump continues to face stiff pressures from advisors like John Bolton, who not only warn against troop drawdowns in the Middle East, but seem to be banging the drum for war in other distant regions like Iran.
Listen now to learn how Congress can resume its constitutional authority to declare war, and constrain the rogue elements of the executive branch in their thirst for power.
- Buy War and the Rogue Presidency
- Donald Trump should take the Afghanistan deal, bring all troops home USA Today, Aug. 21, 2019
- Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy | A Libertarianism.org Guide