Post-Veto Authority

G. Stolyarov II
Issue XXIII - July 11, 2004
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The United States Constitution grants the executive the ability to veto legislation passed by Congress, thereby creating a check against abuses of power by a majority that seeks to infringe upon the rights of any number of individuals. Nevertheless, this safeguard is far from infallible. A President who favors the expansion of government is sufficient to bring about a permanent growth in the Leviathan. Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal to veto the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, for example, ushered in an era of scrutinizing state controls over the food people ate and the types of products companies were permitted to produce. Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to veto the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 established ex post facto laws by which any company could arbitrarily be declared guilty of “monopolistic practices.” Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs initiated farm subsidies, halting a rise in the standard of living of American consumers, expanded the size of government some 300%, created a quasi-Hitler-Youth Civilian Conservation Corps, initiated a blatant penalization of the rich for being rich through a monstrously graduated income tax, and destroyed the economy of the Tennessee Valley by means of a government monopoly on electricity in the region. These monstrous violations of individual rights were not only not opposed, but outright devised and promoted by the Roosevelt administration. Most of them, including the social security program, which acts as a black hole for taxpayer funds, still exist today.  Loopholes in the current Constitutional system have permitted power grabs by special interest lobbies and demagogical politicians, made at the expense of everyone else, to have lingering effects on the lives of Americans seventy, ninety, or even one hundred years later.

            In order to have a chance of reversing the usurpations of power by the behemoth State, it is necessary to pre-empt further abuses of Congressional authority. Like Andrew Jackson or Grover Cleveland, the next rational President would need to issue an unprecedented amount of vetoes in order to ensure that individual rights remain secure. However, this is not enough. So long as the legacies of the (Anti)Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Clinton era continue to persist in the legislative codes, the Leviathan can only be arrested in its development, and but partly, since many existing laws present government officials with arbitrary authority to expand their jurisdiction over anything they see fit to regulate (as with the drug war, income tax collection, corporate and stock market regulation, and zoning codes). The solution is thus self-evident: all the above pernicious intrusions upon individual liberty must be repealed as soon as possible. Given the disposition of majoritarian legislative bodies in our era to perpetuate the trend of government growth rather than reverse it, there can be little hope of obtaining such repeals through Acts of Congress. It is necessary to establish an independent authority that will explicitly target bills that constitute violations of rights, but shall not be permitted to bar the passage of legislation that in any manner reduces the role of government or the obligations government demands of its citizens.

            This power shall be referred to as the post-veto authority, owing to the fact that the legislation it will address has already been passed without an executive veto. The post-veto authority should be given jurisdiction over the entirety of positive legislation passed during the history of the United States, with the exception of the United States Constitution itself. It shall possess the ability to permanently repeal any such legislation, and no other authority shall be able to override this abolition.     

A positive legislation shall be defined as any legislation that demands a greater degree of obligation from any citizen or resident who is not a government employee than would have been demanded had the legislation not existed. For example, a tax raise entails additional (illegitimate) obligations on the part of the citizen to surrender his property to the government, and is liable to be post-vetoed. A tax cut, on the other hand, diminishes a citizen’s obligation, and cannot be repealed. Moreover, the creation of a government commission to expand the scope of the social security program is liable to be repealed, but the creation of such a commission to reduce the program’s scope is not, provided that the government expenses of carrying out the reduction are smaller than the government expenses of maintaining the program’s status quo. Thus, the post-veto authority cannot bar government from enacting any means that would effectively result in deregulation.

Since the post-veto authority cannot target Constitutional amendments, it may be suggested that the authority could be countered by the presentation of numerous future regulatory legislation in the form of amendments. Yet, if regulators in Congress become motivated to do so, they shall still be hindered. An amendment requires the approval of a two-thirds majority of each House of Congress, and three-fourths of the states, which renders the difficulty of its passage far greater than that of a simple act, which requires a simple majority of each house, and a two-thirds majority to override a Presidential veto. Thus, the torrent of new positive legislation shall be quelled substantially, and each such proposal will be granted the immense publicity and attention typically afforded a Constitutional amendment, which will imply the virtual impossibility for Congress to subtly expand its authority over the populace without full notification of the latter. A more informed population will be a more outraged one where power grabs by the government at the expense of individual rights are concerned.

Moreover, a further empowerment of the post-veto authority can destroy the filosofy of political pragmatism itself. Legislators are notorious for including in their bills not a single act, but rather a multiplicity of them, which are often unrelated and contradictory. For example, a bill to remove a tariff on steel can receive an amendment that raises subsidy payments to farms as a result of a compromise between food and poison. The cause of liberty is not assisted by such a bill. The post-veto authority can be permitted to repeal any part of a piece of legislation that constitutes a single positive action. For example, such a farm subsidy clause can be repealed in a bill that removes steel tariffs, while still rendering the steel tariff removal clause immune from repeal. Moreover, by being compelled to address each single action, it can be prevented from annulling single words (such as ”not”) at its whim.   

Thus, a regulator who will be aware that his attempts to compromise a liberalizing piece of legislation are likely to be eventually thwarted, will be less eager to attempt the petty haggling that he intends to subvert his ideological opponents’ principles. Since the regulators will be less willing to compromise, the liberalizers will themselves be less vulnerable to pragmatic impulses. Rather, the political arena shall become increasingly polarized, with each legislator unflinchingly acting from his actual convictions, rather than behind-the-scenes bargains, since no incentive shall exist for him to act otherwise, and he will no longer be deluded to think that he will be able to attain one of his goals by renouncing another.  Intelligent voters will exercise greater sway over the legislative course of the country, as they will be able to predict with greater accuracy the stances of a given candidate on a given issue, rather than merely hope that the candidate does not fall prey to a compromise on his principles.

In accordance with the theory of laissez-faire meritocracy, the post-veto authority can be granted to the Protectorate, a non-majority-based agency whose sole function is to repeal invasive pieces of legislation. However, given the applications of the post-veto authority to positive actions of government only, there is no threat in investing a current executive with it, even though he may wield it inconsistently. Whatever past legislation he chooses to repeal, a reduction in the scope of government authority over its citizens will follow. Had Ronald Reagan possessed the post-veto authority, for example, he would likely have nullified the iron grip that Franklin Roosevelt holds on this country from his grave. A Constitutional amendment would need to be crafted, investing the executive with this capacity, and/or creating an independent Protectorate agency that can exercise it. There is no harm in investing multiple departments of government with the post-veto authority so as to increase the amount of checks present on the dreadful tyranny of the majority and the equally vile tyranny of special interests. 

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.