Expert testifies about right to overthrow the government?
Sitting before a congressional committee, Michael Cannon, (the Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute) hesitantly stated that “There is one last thing to which the people can resort if the government does not respect the restrains that the constitution places on the government. Abraham Lincoln talked about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it. And that is certainly something that no one wants to contemplate. But as I mentioned in my written and delivered testimony, if the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they. That is a very very dangerous sort of thing for the president to do, to wantonly ignore the laws and to try to impose an obligation upon people that the legislature did not approve.” That is a powerful message.
This series of statements is significant for many reasons. To begin with, the Cato Institute carries a lot of weight, and their interpretation of policy is often listened to with a keen ear by people both inside and outside of government. The Cato Institute publishes numerous policy studies, briefing papers, periodicals, and books, but also peer-reviewed academic journals such as the Cato Journal, and Regulation. Second, Mr. Cannon is, by all means, an “expert” having served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, where he advised the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. He is also highly educated having achieved his master’s degrees in economics (M.A.) and law & economics (J.M.) from George Mason University. The point is that these words are probably not just opinion, but instead, highly researched positions based on peer-reviewed information.
It should also be noted that An American Warning uses literature provided by the Cato Institute from time to time for research purposes, as the Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank and their views, as well as their research methods, are seen as exemplary.
The congressional committee hearing in question was about the constitutional limits imposed on the presidency and the implications of President Barack Obama’s disregard for implementing the Affordable Care Act as written. The President’s behavior is potentially grave as Mr. Cannon so eloquently demonstrated. However, it is probably a good idea to look at the points within his statement individually because what Mr. Cannon is stating is extremely significant on numerous levels.
Mr. Cannon addressed Abraham Lincoln’s statements talking about our right to alter our government or our revolutionary right to overthrow it. Lincoln was not the only one to say such things. In the Declaration of Independence, the principal author Thomas Jefferson stated that “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Mr. Cannon also said, “that if the people come to believe that the government is no longer constrained by the laws then they will conclude that neither are they.” This is true for several reasons. For starters, Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, demands that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…” Second, because of Article 4 Section 4 of the Constitution which states that we are guaranteed a republican form of government. This means that we are guaranteed a form of government in which affairs of state are a “public matter” and of public interest, not the private concern of the rulers to put in place and not follow. In other words, we have just as much power as the rulers and the laws apply accordingly and across the board. Rulers cannot arbitrarily make stuff up as they go along and they cannot choose to disregard the laws that everyone else is forced to follow.
Of course, the strength of the republican form of government relies on the people involved and requires that the people actually know what is going on. For that matter, the president swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, but we have yet to actually see this in practice. This may be what Mr. Cannon is alluding to when he stated: “that it is a very very dangerous sort of thing for the president to do, to wantonly ignore the laws and to try to impose obligation upon people that the legislature did not approve.”
This is important for everyone to pay attention to for a couple of pointed reasons. First, this is sworn testimony from a highly respected source, talking about willful revolution due to abandonment of Constitutional principles. Second, it is true!
There are some news outlets who are already taking the words of Mr. Cannon and either smearing them or confusing them. Be careful what you allow yourself to interpret. His statements today are by all means Constitutional, and they are reiterated by some of the most highly respected leaders in American history. What the public needs to understand is that fundamentally speaking; the conversation is being brought up and considered. This also means that the federal government (though more than likely already have) will be making contingency plans accordingly in an effort to ensure the continuity of government if such events occur.
As we consider the words by Mr. Cannon, we should also reflect on our founding documents, so as to ensure and cross-reference the validity of such considerations. Continuing what Jefferson wrote, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”