America was founded on a vision of freedom, a search for liberty. It was also designed to limit what the government is responsible for, recognizing to some degree those issues that should be determined by private entities, making citizens responsible for their own best interests. However, from the 18th century, policies have been creeping in increasing the power of the Government, under both major parties, that have expanded regulation, oversight and legislation in previously privatized areas.
Those two dirty words, government overreach, has become a bain for many Americans who cannot fathom the need for such extensive intrusiveness and the need to control all aspects of modern life and industry. They would go so far as to say that overreach is unconstitutional as it imposes on those individual liberties and transgresses over their limits of authority. It was never intended for the Government to impose on the market with their economic reforms or welfare impositions.
Many believe that although less government regulation will not provide a perfect system, it will still be better than its public control. Collective effort should be voluntary not enforced by law. But this yearning to take control of the public sphere still came in, perhaps through influences from Europe, where although the pursuit of everyone’s happiness and equality was the main goal, there is a somewhat elitist element in that a few in power are determining what the majority’s true interests are.
This constitutional decline could be seen to have started with the law of the land. Common law was the rule of the people where individual judges made decisions based on facts and those precedents were recorded to form a body of jurisprudence. This was slowly taken over by statutory law, which exists at both the state and federal level. This is seen as law influenced by politics – public policy that is a representation of those in power and those that can influence a direct digression from the American Constitution. The steady erosion continued with a series of court decisions after the Great Depression that transferred substantial legislative making powers to Government administrative agencies, during Roosevelt’s administration.
Government overreach is so opposed as it seen to impose on constitutional rights even if you agree with their proposals. Initiatives such as Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act, designed to lower healthcare costs); Common Core (initiating state standards for education); the former the Patriot Act (a law signed in during Bush Jr.’s administration to provide the Government with powers to intercept and obstruct terrorism, now expired); and a clean water rule (a rule to strengthen the 1972 Clean Water Act designed to protect all American waters with a “significant nexus” to “navigable water” from pollution) are some of the examples where Americans feel that the State has exercised too much control at the cost of individual liberties and rights. For example, property rights, the right to choose a healthcare provider or rights to privacy.
In some cases lobby groups have succeeded in fighting attempts at federalism, by pushing back on gun control. States, such as Florida have exercised their 10th amendment and set up watchdog style commissions to keep an eye on measures that transgress constitutional limits.
The spectrum of programs within this debate is wide and the views on each of them are far reaching. Those that oppose the Patriot Act and those that oppose gun control may sit at two ends of the political sphere but the basic principle of protecting individual liberties, the constitution and ensuring some fair representation by allowing state laws and states to represent their residents rather than the cabinet that gain exclusive access to the oval office is something that can be agreed upon.
The Government is there to represent the will of the people and it must govern in accordance with the Constitution and protect all that it represents. At the same time it needs to be held to account and Americans see that very same document to do just that – limiting the powers of government to prevent unconstitutional laws from creeping in.