Government Spending

Who's the Leader of the Cult That's Made for You and Me?

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Columnist George Will on Sunday criticized what our own Jacob Sullum has been hammering on about in recent days: that President Bush's executive decision to bail out the Big 2.5 automakers is an(other) affront to the constitutional separation of powers. Here's Will:

The expansion of government entails an increasingly swollen executive branch and the steady enlargement of executive discretion. This inevitably means the eclipse of Congress and attenuation of the rule of law.

For decades, imperatives of wars hot and cold, and the sprawl of the regulatory state, have enlarged the executive branch at the expense of the legislative. For eight years, the Bush administration's "presidentialists" have aggressively wielded the concept of the "unitary executive"—the theory that where the Constitution vests power in the executive, especially power over foreign affairs and war, the president is immune to legislative abridgements of his autonomy. […]

Most members of the House and Senate want the automakers to get the money, so they probably are pleased that the administration has disregarded Congress's institutional dignity. History, however, teaches that it is difficult for Congress to be only intermittently invertebrate.

Recent Reason writing on executive power here. And it's always worth re-reading our June 2008 excerpt/adaptation from Gene Healy's The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, which Will described as "the year's most pertinent and sobering public affairs book."