It is often stated that the significance of the presidential election is over-estimated. Folks like to set themselves apart from the common voter by asserting that they have a more sophisticated understanding of the political process which includes “checks and balances”. These people are always eager to remind me that the congress is, and always has been the most prominent branch of government.
I say; If we ever managed to get someone in the White House who was interested in restoring the United States to the free-est place on earth he would find the congress much less of an obstacle than it is for modern presidents. That’s because the president has a set of tools that can protect liberty without any approval from congressmen.
First, the Veto. After a piece of legislation makes it through our house and senate, the executive can simply say ‘no’. As Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson proved how powerful a tool this can be for an executive. While in office, Johnson exercised his veto privilege 750 times. In order to over-ride an executive’s veto, the US congress would need a 3/4 approval in both houses. In the current political climate, that would be easier said than done.
In addition to being able to shoot down bills before they become law, the executive has the power to forgive the violation of those laws with a pardon. This seems pretty self-explanatory but I think it’s worth pointing out that anyone who gets convicted of a victim-less federal crime only needs the executive to make it right. As far as I know, there is nothing to keep the executive from setting up an automated system for pardons of crimes he finds inappropriate.
Finally, the libertarian golden gun:
Obama’s Justice Department has chosen not to prosecute many individuals who are in violation of the law, as defined by congress. This privileged is generally referred to as prosecutorial discretion. The justice department can, and does, develop policies for not enforcing laws that it considers low priority. This has been used to look the other way in states where marijuana has been legalized and to avoid mass deportation of illegal immigrants.
This behavior sets a precedence that could be invaluable to the liberty movement. With prosecutorial discretion, a pro-liberty executive has enormous power. If we accept that most laws that are necessary were passed by congress years ago, the executive is in a position to enforce any of them, but ignore the rest.
Republican Trey Gowdy has suggested that this power needs limits and is not clearly defined. I say; why not take it as far as possible? What keeps the next president (other than that they all seem to be in favor of big government) from declining to prosecute people for tax evasion?