“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”
– Thomas Sowell
In 1936, the Federal Register Act required documentation
of executive orders. But due to the over-use of this privilege today, those
considered to have “less general applicability or legal effect” are not
recorded or documented. This is now the greatest threat to our democratic
The power at any level of government to issue emergency
orders in the face of crisis is available to mayors, governors and presidents.
It is a legal directive without legislative or judicial approval, and an edict
by the head of a government’s executive branch considered for “crisis
It is the closest an elected official can get to
totalitarian dictatorship in any democratic government.
Executive orders are a way to handle an immediate crisis
developing so rapidly that taking time to obtain legislative or judicial
approval is difficult. It was once used when there was no other way of properly
governing. It was a first defense or last resort. Our founders limited this
“Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, and
also by the abuse of power.”
– James Madison
Every President since George Washington has used the
executive order. Washington’s first orders were for executive departments to
prepare reports for his inspection; his second was an order creating the
Thanksgiving holiday. Following presidents have made significant decisions via
Abraham Lincoln justified the Emancipation Proclamation
under his wartime powers by executive order. He was so fearful that it would be
overturned by Congress or the courts after the war’s end that he proposed the
13th Amendment to make this edict a Constitutional provision. It passed and was
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand
– Abraham Lincoln
Franklin Roosevelt holds the record for the most
executive orders, with 3,721. He issued the most infamous executive order in
history. He forced Japanese-Americans and German-Americans into internment
camps during World War II. It was not until 1988 when internees were redressed
for FDR’s actions when Ronald Reagan signed a bill to give each surviving
internee a check for $20,000.
Harry Truman’s executive order to seize and nationalize
American steel mills during a labor strike was a watershed moment that defined
the power of the president when he was invalidated by the Supreme Court in
1952. Justice Hugo Black stated. “No president can ever be a lawmaker also.”
In 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s use of the executive order
was the key in improving our Civil Rights. He put the Arkansas National Guard
under federal control to enforce desegregation in Little Rock. This landmark
executive order was the only clause in Eisenhower's and his Republican
Congress' 1957 Civil Rights Act that U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson was unable to
strip from that historic legislation.
Since FDR, the use of executive orders has been usurping
the will of the people. The Constitution does not give anyone an
"executive pen" enabling them to single-handedly write their party's
wishes into law. Despite this lack of constitutional authority, presidential
directives have been increasingly used to promulgate laws and to support public
policy initiatives that circumvent proper lawmaking.
It is a threat to our liberty to ignore the danger of
this situation, simply because one might like the individual holding the
presidential pen. It is hypocritical as well to reprobate any president from an
opposing political party’s abuse of power, but ignore it when it is done by
one's own political party.
“If liberals didn't have double standards, they wouldn't
have any standards at all.”
– Burt Prelutsky
COVID-19 was used by state governments to issue EOs that
were unsustainable and unnecessary. After President Donald Trump banned most
international travel and asked states to temporarily shut down some local
businesses, blue states jumped on this to influence the 2020 presidential
election. They arbitrarily mailed out ballots to everyone, without a plan to
deal with this vast multitude of ballots. They also refused to open their
economies until after the election, which was an abuse of power.
President Joe Biden called for national unity but has
proven he has no interest in bipartisanship. He spent most of his campaign
trying to appease the socialist left, and none reaching out to the half of
America who supported Trump. His first day in office he touted a dubious
mandate to fulfill a socialist and leftist wish list and pledged to do this
through executive orders. And he signed 41 EOs in his first month.
If Joe Biden works at his current pace, passing law by
fiat, he will set a record of almost 2,000 EOs in his only term in office. He
signed 21 proclamations on Jan. 20, his first day in office.
Joe Biden promised to dismantle Trump-era regulations by
EO, many of which awarded us the fastest sustained economic growth in American
history. This included the highest number of Hispanics and Blacks ever
employed. Biden cut off work on the Keystone Pipeline and new permits for
drilling for oil on federal lands. Overnight, Biden killed thousands of energy
jobs and made the U.S. dependent on foreign oil again.
Biden reopened all U.S. borders to anyone who wanted to
come to the U.S.; even those from known terrorist countries. He revoked a Trump
policy that cracked down on communities shielding illegal immigrant from
deportation. He revoked a regulation to deport all illigal immigrants who are
felons and he increased federal labor’s power over management. Biden set a
historic record for EOs signed in a week.
Richard Nixon said, “Watch what we do, not what we say.”
Joe Biden has spoken out of both sides of his mouth his entire political
career. Now he has changed his promise to unify the 50% of U.S. voters who
voted for Trump faster than a Vegas Black-Jack dealer can snatch your paycheck.
History reveals that concentration of power in any
nation’s top leader is the most dangerous threat to democracy. Governing by
executive order is bypassing the electorate, which further divides the nation
and is tantamount to dictatorship. This is rubbing salt in the wound when you
win by a scant 4% margin of victory! He laid the groundwork for a totally
dysfunctional government for the people.
The ultimate problem with executive orders is abuse.
Politicians force-feed their political credenda on an entire nation. Joe Biden
thus far is on track to be the biggest offender of the executive order
privilege since Jimmy Carter, who holds the post WWII record, averaging 80
orders a year during one term. Executive orders in the hands of the far left
are equal to giving matches to a pyromaniac.
We must always be aware of abuse of power in the hands of
those we disagree with, and those we agree with also. Our duty as Americans is
to protect each other from government. And above all, we must protect America
“There now are more threats to American liberty within
the 10-mile radius of my office on Capitol Hill than there are on the rest of
– Ron Paul
Contributing Columnist William Haupt III is a retired
professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over
40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 1