Will America end up with an emperor?  After our founding fathers came together to create our current form of government Ben Franklin was asked by an acquaintance what type of government they had created.  He told the individual that they had given America a Republic and then added, “if you can keep it.” 

We have long held to the belief that our representative form of government has stood us well for over 200 years and few would want to move away from that form, but a review of history shows us that such forms of government are the exception instead of the rule.  The ancient Greeks and the Romans who provided our forefathers with some of the inspiration for our current form of government both succumbed to more totalitarian forms of government.  Those governments utilized the techniques all such forms of government have utilized for many millennium – that of force to achieve its goals.  Those that control the force can make those less strong individuals bend to their will and generally life for those individuals is less than ideal.

Those historical governments didn't transition from an elected form of government to another all at once.  Instead, the transition was gradual and brought about by the folks who were in charge.  There is some evidence this is happening here in America today and only time will provide a clear answer.

In an article by Richard Gordon of the Cato Institute, Gordon points out that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) war on coal is not something that is occurring because EPA has taken on new authority.  Instead, the Agency is merely exercising authority Congress provided in amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.  The provisions placed into the law gave the executive branch significant and broad authority; which EPA has gradually been implementing since that time.  By providing the executive branch these broad authorities, Congress ceded its authority to the executive branch and the judicial branch.  If the executive branch doesn't act in accordance with the law, then a law suit is filed and the judicial branch steps in, looks at the law and rules that the executive branch must implement the law.  The game then becomes one between the executive branch and the judicial branch.  Congress has effectively been taken out of the picture.  While Congress may try to influence actions by the agencies, in a closely divided Congress, it becomes an exercise in futility since neither side has the necessary votes to change the law thus allowing the executive branch to continue to increase their regulatory hold over everyday life.

Sometimes these laws are deliberately designed by Congress to be broad and at other times we see the executive branch push the boundaries of laws.  An article in the April edition of the Wyoming Resource Alliance newsletter discussed the incongruity of the executive branch implementing budget reductions in agencies like the Department of Interior while at the same time adding new National Monuments which increases the operating expenses of that same Department.  In this case one of the new National Monuments added was the 242,555 acre Rio Grande del Norte National Monument west of Taos, New Mexico.  While this amount of land added to the National Monument inventory is small compared to past additions, it was done based on the 1906 Antiquities Act which provided, according to House Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings (R-Washington), the President authority to act when there was an emergency need to prevent destruction of a precious place.  The Rio Grande del Norte area had been proposed for wilderness designation by Senators Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) but Congress had not acted on those pieces of legislation. 

So, in this case, the executive branch utilized a law over 100 years old to by-pass Congress.  Based on previous actions, these too will most likely be added to the nation's inventory of National Monuments instead of going through the Congressional process for designation of wilderness.

All of these actions seem to be pointed disturbingly towards a centralized form of government whether it be a king, emperor or a dictator and history seems to favor those types of governments.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President