We, however, are determined to learn whether responsible and disciplined—in a word, constitutional—government can survive the death of civic piety.
This next Liberty Law Talk is with Frank Buckley about his new book The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. Buckley’s book is a profound challenge to the script of presidential power that many conservatives have read from over the past decades. Our conversation focuses on Buckley’s argument that the American constitutional system has become dangerously unmoored from the congressional system of government that its ratifiers intended for it.
This conversation explores a close reading of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to understand Buckley’s claim of how indisposed the members of that convention were to an executive power that would dominate the federal government. All of this matters profoundly, Buckley contends, because presidential forms of government are not, generallly speaking, well disposed to freedom. Parliamentary systems are in fact freer than their presidential rivals. Among presidential systems, America has been the exception in the high level of freedoms it has preserved.
There is, however, great reason to be worried, Buckley observes, that such a trend will continue for much longer. Power continues to accrue in the American presidency, and congress shows little willingness to reassume the full constitutional powers granted it to run the government.