The Power of the Purse

us-uk_flag_408x212 (1)We’ve been hearing quite a lot out of Washington about the power of the purse, haven’t we? We’ve also been hearing about how the Republican only have one half of one-third of the government. I’m so tired of their whining I could spit. Why? That 1/3 of 1/2 is arguably the most important thing in keeping a free people free. Quite a few people quite literally died to give them that power of the purse, that they like to claim is so useless. What am I talking about?

This. The sole right to write revenue bills, which the Constitution gives to the House of Representatives, was inherited from the House of Commons. This right is the one that brought King John to sign Magna Charta, which is where Parliament derives the right. The exercise of this right by the Commons was one of the main causes of The English Civil War which eventually cost Charles I his head. Parliamentary supremacy in the UK can be dated from 2 July 1644, when Prince Rupert overreached and lost the North for Charles, thus paving the way for Cromwell. And when it became time to restore the monarchy, it could not be done until parliament was reconstituted. Over the centuries that power was vested in the House of Commons, and that fact is why Great Britain is governed by the Executive in Parliament.

Our founders chose to organize the government slightly different but, the purse held by the House of Representatives, is the same one that Parliament used to Break King John, to kill King Charles I, and to replace James II with William and Mary, with the English Bill of Rights making the monarchy expressly at the pleasure of the commons.

This is the power that Boehner finds so useless in attempting to curb a wannabe king in the White House. I submit the power is plenty although the arm that wields it may be lacking  Somehow I don’t see the strength of the great parliamentarians of Britain (or America) when I look at the Speaker.

And make no mistake, it is exactly the same battle. Over at Power Line, Professor Hamburger started a series yesterday, on his book on Administrative Law, you need to be reading this series, in the opening he has shown already, how Administrative Law is nothing more or less than the return of absolute power. The power of the executive to act on his own,

Here’s a bit:

In reality, administrative power has a much older and darker history. Far from a novel and modern response to modernity, it revives what used to be called prerogative or absolute power. Put more concretely, it revives extralegal power. It thus is exactly what constitutional law developed in order to prohibit.

Up through the seventeenth century, English kings repeatedly sought to govern their subjects through extralegal edicts. As early as the Middle Ages, English kings were expected to rule through the law–through acts of Parliament and through the acts of the law courts. Far from rejecting rule through the law, monarchs generally liked the legitimacy of this regular mode of governance.

At the same time, however, kings often had difficulty securing the statutes they wanted from Parliament. They therefore often sought to rule not through law, but extralegally, through binding proclamations, regulations, or decrees. They also frequently attempted to adjudicate not through the law courts, but through prerogative tribunals, such as the king’s council, the Star Chamber, and various commissions.

This power exercised not through law, but through other edicts, lacked the legitimacy of law, and kings and their lawyers therefore defended it as an alternative mode of governance. In particular, they increasingly justified it as a prerogative or absolute power. Of course, this extralegal power was the personal power of a king, not the bureaucratic power of a state, and it therefore was not yet administrative, but otherwise this prerogative power was little different from contemporary administrative power.


And so we see that John Boehner find a power that was forged by dint of blood and war over the centuries from the Kings of England, is not enough power for him to stop a two-bit agitator from Chicago. Personally, I don’t think the power is the problem, I think the problem is with the arm that wields the power.

But that’s just me, of course.

But perhaps the barons at Runnymede, and the Parliamentary Army at Marston Moor 370 years ago yesterday, and the delegates at Philadelphia 238 years ago were wrong, and Kings John, Charles I, and George III were right?

I really don’t think so, I just think they were opposed by better men.


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4 Responses to The Power of the Purse

  1. Pingback: Is Administrative Law Unlawful ? | nebraskaenergyobserver

  2. Pingback: Is Administrative Law Unlawful ? « The Conservative Citizen

  3. Pingback: The King’s Prerogative | nebraskaenergyobserver

  4. Pingback: The King’s Prerogative « The Conservative Citizen

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