Executive Orders and the End of Liberty

By David Lanza, AM THINKER

On August 1, 2023, it became “illegal” to manufacture or sell incandescent light bulbs anywhere in the United States, and consumers are left with no choice but to purchase LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs were a previously legal product about which no public outcry had arisen.  No law was actually passed anywhere. The decision was made solely by the executive branch of the federal government. Congress did not vote.  There was no consensus for any such thing. A staple consumer item has disappeared from store shelves everywhere.

As usual, the critics of this action have missed the point.  They accuse the administration of going “too far.” They debate the relative merits of incandescent versus LED bulbs, but they never mention the lack of any legislative action.  Outlawing a product is a drastic step that should require a national consensus and a Congressional majority. The government has not been able to outlaw tobacco products despite relentless public campaigns. Cigarettes remain legal, while incandescent light bulbs are now considered contraband.

It does not matter which kind of bulb is better. By arguing such things, we acknowledge the state’s power to control our consumer goods without restraint. It matters only that the executive branch now bans well established staple items regardless of the other two branches of government.

Our system of checks and balances was the product of millennia of trial and error by previous failed governments and civilizations. Those civilizations paid in blood for their lack of constitutional limitations.  Our founders learned from their failures and built on such progress as those civilizations had made over the centuries. Our founders created separate but equal branches of government that would hold each other in check. Our constitution was born of an understanding of history, philosophy, and morality.

In contrast to the original carefully constructed system of checks and balances, today’s remnant of that system reminds one of Ayn Rand’s primitive civilization in Anthem (1938). The tribal elders of Anthem recoiled in fear when an inventor brought a crude light bulb to them. Panic-stricken, they told the inventor they would destroy it, thus forcing the inventor to flee with his light bulb into the woods.  A state without checks and balances will inevitably descend into tribalism and chaos. Basic items will be banned for no reason while humanity is left at the mercy of nature.

The light bulb ban is not the only example of government excess by mere decree.  Electric cars are slowly being imposed on us with no legislation and no general consensus.  Pandemic lockdowns were imposed despite legislative and public opposition.

A new example has surfaced this month in Boston, where the mayor has unilaterally banned new construction on municipal buildings that would use fossil fuels.  This ban was accomplished through an executive order instead of through City Council. The mayor’s plan is ultimately to extend this ban to all residential construction in the city, although it is unclear if such extension will also be accomplished through mere executive order. The ban might be only symbolic at this point, as it is unclear whether new municipal buildings are even contemplated in Boston. It is also unclear whether such new buildings would use electricity generated from coal fired power plants. Such generation might be ignored the way electric car owners now ignore the source of power in their cars.

The critics miss the point in the Boston case also.  They focus on “costs” and how this will make development more difficult. Few voices focus on the big step Boston has taken toward tyranny. When any government executive moves toward such a complete change in the lives of the general public without legislative or popular consensus, “cost” becomes a lesser concern than our basic liberties. The Constitution was not adopted in order to save on “costs.”

“Conservatives” must get used to the idea that we now argue about more than mere “costs” or the most efficient ways to build real estate. We are fighting for the liberties with which we were born.  The issue is no less than tyranny. It is no coincidence that the same mayor (Michelle Wu) has been under fire for maintaining an “enemies list.” Those that would change our lives through executive order apparently have a much larger “enemies list” than the one at issue in Wu’s court battles.


August 25, 2023 | 1 Comment »

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