Summer 2009 and the Triumph of Unlimited Government

Alexander Hamilton and the doctrine of discretionary powers triumphed during the Constitution’s ratification debates (cemented by the “necessary and proper” clause), and over time that’s bestowed upon us a central government that does pretty well what it pleases. Today that means unbounded spending and “stimulus,” proposed “cap and tax” on the precious energy we need, and, most immediately, demands for centrally managed health care. So much for the “silken bands of mild government” envisioned during the U.S. colonial era.

NY Governor George Clinton, appealing to the public as “Cato” on October 11, 1787, wrote the passage below in opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s vision of centralized government and the arrogance of the Federalists. Hamilton had written earlier under the unfortunate pseudonym “Caesar.”

Is not your indignation roused at this absolute, imperious style? For what did you open the veins of your citizens and expend their treasure? For what did you throw off the yoke of Britain and call yourselves independent? Was it from a disposition fond of change, or to procure new masters?—if those were your motives, you have reward before you—go, retire into silent obscurity, and kiss the rod that scourges you, bury the prospects you had in store, that you and your posterity would participate in the blessings of freedom, and the employments of your country—let the rich and insolent alone be your rulers. …. But if you had nobler views, …are you now to be derided and insulted? Is the power of thinking, on the only subject important to you, to be taken away? And if per chance you should happen to differ from Caesar, are you to have Caesar’s principles crammed down your throats with an army? God forbid!

Wonder what he’d write today.