The Slide Into Dictatorship

by | Nov 2, 2000

Will the United States disappear on Nov. 7 — not physically, of course, but morally and ethically as a nation of law? Everything would still look the same, but personal rule would supplant the rule of law. We could become what we never before have been — a land of arbitrary power. Americans are preparing […]

Will the United States disappear on Nov. 7 — not physically, of course, but morally and ethically as a nation of law? Everything would still look the same, but personal rule would supplant the rule of law. We could become what we never before have been — a land of arbitrary power.

Americans are preparing to vote without having heard any debate on the critical issue at stake. Al Gore has bet his future on instilling fear of Republicans in the elderly and in racial minorities. George W. Bush has bet his chances on coming across as a compassionate, reasonable person.

Choose Al Gore and vindicate eight years of lawlessness: Whitewatergate, Filegate, Travelgate, Monicagate, Campaign Finance and Buddhist Templegate, “missing” Rose law firm and Al Gore e-mail documents, Justice Department stonewalling of law and investigations, the Waco massacre — the list goes on ad nauseum.

Topping it all off is the latest Gore scandal — a secret deal between our vice president and a Russian prime minister. Did you know that Gore illegally exempted Russia from the economic sanctions that the U.S. imposes on all countries that sell arms to Iran? In addition, Gore violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act by keeping Congress in the dark about Russia’ nuclear cooperation with Iran. Is this another instance of “no controlling legal authority”?

Here we see the true colors of Clinton Gore: The law means nothing if a political purpose is served by ignoring it. No matter how powerful his office, no U.S. official has the power to grant exemptions to U.S. law, regardless of the end served. As deplorable as Clinton’s morals are, the real beef Americans have with his administration is its lawlessness.

This lawlessness is dictatorial in character. The dictatorial inclinations of the Clinton Gore administration manifest themselves in the ways the executive branch ignores the powers of Congress and federal courts and in the use of propaganda to silence facts. This administration has financed the implementation of treaties that Congress has not ratified, and it has made presidential appointments in open defiance of the Senate’s right to confirm the appointments of sub-Cabinet officers. The Clinton Gore administration hides its illegalities by ignoring subpoenas and by issuing executive orders that assert new powers for the president.

Wherever one looks in the Clinton Gore administration, one finds illegalities perpetrated in the name of one Clinton Gore cause or another. Take for example, gun control. Under orders from the White House, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is abusing its power, and using intimidation and harassment to create a de facto federal registration of gun owners. Despite protests from Congress and a U.S. District Court order, BATF is using raw power to force gun dealers to comply with BATF’s illegal collection of surveillance data.

This is the way the National Socialists turned Germany into a dictatorship during the 1930s. When German courts ruled against a policy of Hitler’s government, the government ignored the court. Similarly, defendants acquitted in court trials were seized and carried away by police when they left the courtroom.

Annoyed by judicial resistance to his policies, Hitler did what Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to do: He “packed” the court system by creating new courts that would do his bidding.

Hitler did not come to power in a coup that overthrew democracy. Germans elected Hitler because of unemployment and disgust with the Weimar Republic. Hitler was not elected to be a dictator or to start World War II and conduct a genocidal policy against Jews. He became a dictator because the German parliament gave the executive branch the power to make laws. Hitler then made the laws that made him a dictator.

Once government becomes large in size, the executive branch gains the upper hand, because it has the bureaucracies that make the rules and the enforcement agencies that interpret and implement the rules. Other branches of government can protest but are impotent unless the legislature takes extreme measures, such as impeachment or refusal to fund an offending agency.

Such extreme measures are unlikely to succeed. Democrats in the House and Senate have made it clear that their loyalties are party loyalties, not loyalty to the institution of Congress or the Constitution. Unlike Republicans three decades ago, congressional Democrats stand firmly with their president, at great expense to the prerogatives and powers of Congress.

The United States cannot become a dictatorship overnight like Hitler’s Germany. But eight years of Clinton Gore have created, both in attitude and deed, an executive branch that is becoming independent of law. After another term or two of Clinton Gore, law would issue from the mouth of the executive.

Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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