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What Role Are We Asking Our Presidents to Play?

Our Constitution was designed to create a republican form of government. People often misunderstand what that means. As a general rule, the form of government that a nation possesses arises from this question: Who has the authority to make law?

In a direct democracy, the people make law. This is done in some small New England town meetings and in a number of states where people can vote on ballot initiatives.

In an oligarchy, a small group of rulers—usually unelected—make law.

In a dictatorship or absolute monarchy, one person makes the law.

In a republican form of government, elected legislators make law. In a constitutional republic, elected legislators make law but only on subject matters, and in terms of limited authority, enumerated in the constitution.

Nothing in our constitution allows our president to make law. But for several decades now, through administrative regulations and executive orders, presidents of both parties have exercised the power to make a whole variety of laws. Strictly speaking, all of this violates the original meaning of the Constitution.

But why do presidents do this?In part, it is because the people want him to do this. It is much like the children of Israel clamoring for a king like all of the nations around them. People want solutions to their problems and they expect their president to deliver. Eventually, those expectations take the form of executive orders and regulations.

There is a spiritual component to all of this. When people stop depending on God and start depending on government to solve their problems, they invite their leaders to exceed their rightful, limited roles.

The Declaration of Independence says that the reason governments are instituted among men is to preserve our God-given liberties. That is a far different assignment than the one that government in our nation has presumed for itself for the last several decades. And as a consequence, Alliance Defending Freedom has been pressed into service to defend our liberties. Corresponding to the expansion of government’s role has been the diminishing of citizens’ liberties.

On President’s Day, we need to celebrate the great presidents of history—especially George Washington—who set the bar very high. But we also need to remember that the president was given the task to execute the law, not make it.

Let us pray that our president will be wise and that we, the people, will also be wise in identifying the problems we should expect him to solve.

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Michael P. Farris

President, CEO, and General Counsel

Michael P. Farris is president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. He brings to the role wide recognition for his successful work on both the national and international stage.

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