10.09.2013 0

And now a word from our founders

founderBy Rick Manning

James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Madison had been kind enough to leave a series of writings talking about what the document means, how the various branches of government should operate and the powers each enjoy?

What may be shocking to many voters is that Madison and others provided just such a blueprint through a series of arguments written during the difficult multi-year long ratification process for the Constitution.

The resulting compilation of the most important of these writings is known as The Federalist Papers, the oft assigned and ignored reading project in entry level political science classes.  With the current “crisis” of a shutdown of approximately 13 percent of the federal government, it is reasonable to wonder what James Madison would think about the House of Representatives using the power of the purse to stop the implementation of bad policy.

If only Madison had thought to write about this subject, we would at least feel that the government is working as it was intended rather than sense that everything is out of control.

Here is the good news — he did in a document known as Federalist Paper number 58 where he writes,

“The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Contrary to those who contend that the House of Representatives’ use of the power of the purse is unprecedented or undemocratic, what the House is doing is exactly what James Madison argued that they should do as he was attempting to get states to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

The fact that Obama and his minions continue to make this argument either reveals that they are woefully ignorant of the basic premises of the Constitution, or are deliberately attempting to undermine the our nation’s foundational document by playing on the people’s general ignorance.

Perhaps a remedial course on constitutional government should be required of all elected officials focused upon the document itself and the arguments for and against it before they are allowed to cast a single vote.  At least then, we would know that those who openly attack the operating principles of our government are not acting out of ignorance.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy & Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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