NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Rule Of Law In The Wake Of Clinton

November 30, 2000

As the reach of government has grown, it has become increasingly indifferent to the law and legal institutions, especially when the law stands opposed to political ends. A recent Cato Institute book documents the Clinton administration's preference for the rule of man over the rule of law.

The various authors argue that the Clinton administration has ignored both constitutional limits on governmental power and constitutional guarantees of individual liberty. The Clinton administration's assault on limited government is addressed by the following arguments:

  • Editor Roger Pilon argues that Clinton has promoted the pursuit of the "good" in absolute disregard of the law.
  • Clinton has attempted to legislate and rule by executive order, oblivious to the need to ground such orders in constitutional or statutory authority, claims Douglas Kmiec.

The administration's contempt for the complementary idea that government powers must be exercised in ways that respect individual rights is also addressed.

  • Nadine Strossen argues that the administration lacks respect for privacy, shown by its use of government information for political ends (Filegate, databases, etc.) and its promotion of roving wiretaps.
  • Property rights have been trampled by the Clinton administration and its Justice department, who have fought against protecting property owners from uncompensated regulatory takings and routinely sided with the plaintiffs, claims James Wootton.
  • Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) argues that there has been a virtually continuous undermining of the rule of law, citing, for example, the administration's actions during the 1996 campaign finance reform scandal.
  • Robert Levy and Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor claim the administration's wars on guns, tobacco and Microsoft are merely extortion parading as law while undermining such centuries-old principles as individual responsibility; thus no one should be surprised when this practice is extended to other areas.

Source: Roger Pilon (Ed.), "The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton," Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

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