The First Question We Should Always Ask

By: Mike Maharrey|

Here is the first question you should ask about any proposal made by any person in the federal government.

Is this authorized by the constitution?

Not “Do I like this policy?”

Not “Do I like the guy proposing the policy?”

And not even “Is this policy a win for liberty?”

The first question should always be is this constitutional?

If it’s not – based on the original meaning of the Constitution as ratified – it shouldn’t be done.


We seem to be drifting further and further away from this standard. The left abandoned it decades ago – if it ever embraced it at all. I’ve also seen countless Republicans and conservatives turn their backs on constitutional fidelity as well because the limits on federal power stand in the way of enacting policies they like. Or simply because they want to defend “their guy” in the White House.

I am going to put this as bluntly as I can. These people are wrecking the constitutional system just as surely as the “libtards” they hate.

In an 1809 letter to the Washington Tammany Society, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse.”

When we erase the boundaries set around federal power by the constitution, we open the door for the government to “degenerate into abuse.” Instead of a government operating within strict limits, we end up with politicians exercising arbitrary power.

Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks made a poignant statement during an interview with Tom Woods.

“Politicians come and go, but once your freedoms are gone, they’re gone forever.

John Adams expressed a similar sentiment in a 1775 letter to his wife Abigail. In previous correspondence, she described the difficulties endured by the people of Boston and other coastal cities under the heavy hand of the British. Adams said there was one consolation.

“Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.”

The same is true for limits on federal power. When you tear them down, you can never build them back. And the limits on federal power serve as the bulwark to protect our freedom an liberties.

It’s like a hole in a dam. Once the water starts squirting through the hole, you’ll never plug it. You’ve compromised the integrity of the dam. The hole eventually grows until the entire dam collapses.

This is true whether a politician erases boundaries to do things you hate or things you approve of. Either way, once they erase the boundaries, they’re gone forever. You can’t draw them back when somebody you don’t like takes the reins of power and tramples on your liberties. As Fairbanks said, politicians come and go. At some point, one will come who will abuse any power available to him. You can only prevent this by ensuring that the power is never available to them to begin with.

As the British were beginning to chip away at the rights of the colonists prior to the American Revolution, Adams wrote:

“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.”

He went on to assert:

“When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards.”

As Lord Acton asserted, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This was precisely why the founding generation insisted on placing absolute limits on government authority with a written Constitution. They experienced firsthand the erosion of their liberties as British parliamentary power expanded into a sphere of authority that rightly belonged to their own colonial assemblies. Adams likened it to cancer.

“The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour.”

We see the same thing happening today as federal power intrudes deeper and deeper into the sphere of authority rightly belonging to the state and the people.

In his 1791 Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.’ [10th Amendment] To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

A single step starts with neglecting that first question.

Is it constitutional?

When we fail to ask it – when we fail to hold the federal government within its limits no matter what – we open up “a boundless field of power.”

Pause for just a moment. Think of the worst politician you can imagine. Maybe it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe it’s Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s Hillary Clinton. Maybe it’s Elizabeth Warren. Or if you were an Obama supporter, just consider Donald Trump.

Now – imagine them in possession of a boundless field of power. That’s where you’re heading when you support the current president doing whatever he pleases because you like him. Never forget, there will always be a “next guy.”