James Catron

Following the example of the Iroquois and the advice of Montesquieu, the Founders created the Separation of Powers Doctrine in the Constitution. The best way to ensure strong personal freedom was to ensure a weak government; divide the legislative, executive and judicial powers of government into independent, opposing branches.

Even so, many Patriots opposed the Constitution. Patrick Henry said, "I smell a rat and it stinks of monarchy." He meant strong central government, but he was unacquainted with either socialism or bureaucracy. To counter these fears, the Federalist Papers were written to convince the states to create the Federal government. The Anti-Federalists failed to persuade the states that the Federal government would eventually become an empire unto itself, ignoring and trampling the states' rights.

The Federalists won, the states adopted the Constitution, and the export of American-style democracy began in earnest. However, despite efforts to emulate our American Way, European nations, by the early 1900's, were forming ever stronger central governments. Staggering under the Great Depression, America followed the European path and elected an aristocratic President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who argued, "The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people."

A willing Congress passed FDR's programs, creating strong administrative agencies of the Executive Branch with legislative and judicial powers, reuniting that which the Constitution had divided. The Supreme Court repeatedly held these laws to be unconstitutional violations of the Separation of Powers Doctrine by margins of five to four.

FDR responded by attempting to pack the Supreme Court. As the number of Supreme Court Justices is determined by Congress, Roosevelt tried to have legislation passed to increase the number of justices so he could appoint a winning margin. The scheme was too dictatorial even for a New Deal Congress and did not pass, but one member of the high court was sufficiently convinced to switch sides, and reunification of the separated powers then passed muster. It is waggishly called "the Switch in Time that Saved Nine.

Today, the wisdom of the Founders and the folly of FDR are clear. Executive agencies promulgate regulations that have criminal penalties, try offenders before administrative law judges, and execute the sentences.

Liberty means freedom; freedom means absence of restraint or control. To govern means to control (American College Dictionary, 1966). Therefore, freedom is the absence of government. Total freedom is anarchy, the law of the jungle, but "That government that governs least, governs best," as Jefferson said.

To argue that liberty can only be continually protected by strong government is self-contradictory gibberish, and FDR's reunification of that which the Constitution separated has resulted in an American strong central state at the expense of individual liberty.