A group of TFAS Law Fellows was treated to a visit and discussion with revered jurist and former U.S. senator, Judge James L. Buckley, on July 16, 2019.
In opening remarks, Buckley told the Law Fellows that the serious problems we face in America today are in large part the result of our abandonment of the Constitution’s limits on federal authority.
“The architects of the American Republic had no illusions about human nature, which is the one constant in human affairs. From their study of the history of free societies, reaching back to ancient Greece, they understood that the drive to accumulate power – whether by an individual despot or a parliamentary majority – was the historic enemy of individual freedom. Therefore, they incorporated a two-part safeguard through the Constitution – its system of separation of powers with its checks and balances, and the principle of federalism,” he said.
Buckley described to the TFAS Law Fellows how our federal government largely observed the limits laid out by the founders until an unfortunate 1937 Supreme Court interpretation of a clause on general welfare spending, and programs like The New Deal and Great Society, began to chip away at the state’s authority and assumed their responsibilities.
By providing federal subsidies for virtually every activity in which states are engaged, Buckley said the federal government has turned states into administrators of programs created in Washington and overseen by bureaucrats who are the farthest removed from where the money is to be sent. “They distort state priorities, impose ponderous regulations on a myriad state and local activities and deprive their citizens of effective control over how their own taxes are to be used,” he said.
Buckley told the Fellows that he believes the country is ready to bring forward a debate that could implement reform and restore federalism. “Confidence in our federal government is at an all-time low and our people still understand the virtues of the Constitution’s allocation of governmental powers,” he said.
The National Review’s Jack Fowler was in attendance and described it as “a wonderful gathering, with His Honor making a profound defense of constitutional originalism, and in particular expressing his admiration for Justice Clarence Thomas.” You can read Fowler’s full account on the National Review’s website.