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Why DeSantis Matters

DeSantis makes people’s lives, liberty, and property more secure by using his constitutional powers to limit governments and their cronies.

James Anthony
July 30, 2021

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has been taking a number of powerful actions:

  • On COVID-19, DeSantis implemented focused protection of the vulnerable [1], ordered business restrictions ended statewide and limited locally without waiting for a decisive tapering off of COVID-19 deaths [2], ordered school districts to provide the option of in-person learning [3], prioritized “Seniors First” for COVID-19 vaccines [4], signed a bill invalidating state- and local-government lockdowns and banning vaccine passports [5], pardoned and required rescinding of fines on non-violent violations of local COVID-19 restrictions [6], and obtained a ruling by a federal judge that cruise ship No Sail Orders are likely unconstitutional and likely overstep the CDC’s legal authority [7].
  • On racist socialism, DeSantis signed a bill establishing a zero-tolerance policy for violent and disorderly assemblies [8], signed bills requiring education on the Constitution and on ideologies that conflict with the Constitution [9], and spoke up in a state board of education meeting to make the case for not teaching Critical Race Theory [10].
  • On illegal immigration, DeSantis signed a bill banning immigration-sanctuary cities [11], signed a bill requiring employers to use E-Verify or federal form I-9 [12], and supported deployment of 50 Florida state law enforcement officers to secure Texas’s southern border [13].
  • On tech censorship, DeSantis signed a bill empowering de-platformed individuals to sue, and creating consequential fines for de-platforming political candidates [14].

DeSantis’s actions use his constitutional powers to offset unconstitutional actions by others.

Making People’s Rights Secure against Power-Grabs by Others

State-government officers, like national-government officers, are required by their oaths of office to support the Constitution. Supporting the Constitution requires that each officer independently interpret the constitutionality of each action he could take, and always assert the strong constitutional powers of his office to defend the people in his jurisdiction against power-grabs by others [15].

State-government officers almost never have acknowledged what constitutional powers they have, and used these powers to offset national-government power-grabs.

In 1798-1799, majorities of legislators in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia passed resolutions that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional [16]. In 1814-1815, majorities of legislative delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, two New Hampshire counties, and a Vermont county reported that the national government’s raising of a standing army, conscription of militias, and enlisting minors without consent were unconstitutional. In 1832, majorities of convention delegates from South Carolina voted that the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional, were null, and if enforced would only then be remedied with secession [17].

Based on these main examples, state-government officers’ attempts to push back against national-government power-grabs had been rare, and these attempts seemed to have died out early in our history. State-government officers mostly just enacted resolutions, which lack the penalties that give laws power. When state-government officers considered taking action, they deferred taking action unless large groups of officers, usually in large numbers of states, would take the same actions together. By and large, state-government officers dishonored their oaths, shirking individual responsibility and accountability, and—whether with best intentions or calculatedly seeking political cover—gravitating to approaches that made action unlikely and slow.

DeSantis therefore stands out for willingly acting unilaterally, acting fast, using penalties and pardons, addressing diverse policies, and addressing both national-government power-grabs and local-government power-grabs.

Under the Constitution, government officers have power that’s highly asymmetric. They have zero power to act unconstitutionally, and they have the duty to not act unconstitutionally. At the same time, they have strong power and the duty to act constitutionally.

If DeSantis or anyone else became president and used his constitutional presidential powers fully to offset unconstitutional actions by others, this would produce a rapid, comprehensive turnaround that no other president has accomplished [18].

Making Rights Secure in Your Own Backyard

But note that as president, it would be crucial for DeSantis to use his constitutional powers to push back not just against others outside his own government but also against others in his own government.

A president needs to not use the substantial powers unconstitutionally delegated to him by past and contemporary congresses [19], and needs to veto further delegation and sign repeals of past delegation.

And a governor needs to do these same things too.

DeSantis’s actions to date strongly suggest that as president he would keep running the unconstitutional administrative state [20] he would inherit, and he would just try to run it better during his time in office.

DeSantis’s response to state and local health agency overreaches, for example, has been to take control and make the same centralized decisions better. He has made no attempt to eliminate these government agencies [21] and open up room for the private sector’s true experts to work directly for private-sector customers.

Of course in the case of health agencies, that approach may have been understandable, especially in the early weeks of the COVID-19 panic. These government agencies had already monopolized health consulting, and certain quick actions could have been helpful.

But government schools’ underperformance has been evident for generations. And yet in this policy area that isn’t an imminent disaster but that is a slow-motion trainwreck that’s of major significance, DeSantis’s approach has been essentially identical.

DeSantis’s response to government-school problems has been to take control and make the same centralized decisions better, not to eliminate government schools and open up the space for parents to become the customers who educators have to answer to [22].

Either Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) or Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), as president, would have the same rare, singularly-valuable track record of using his constitutional powers to offset unconstitutional actions by others.

But either Massie or Paul would offer the substantial plus of coming into office with no track record of actions or speeches that suggests that he would keep the entire unconstitutional administrative state going and just try to make it work better.

Leaving Us Freest

Presidents can work nonstop without taking any actions that are constitutional. And generally they do. 

Presidents have mostly shirked the executive’s role by abdicating to congresses the line-item budgeting, organization, and much other management of the administrative bureaucracy [18].

Departments, agencies, and government-chartered organizations have instead been created and grown by congresses. Presidents have mostly just signed off on these and then let these bureaucrats mostly do what they want, occasionally sending them orders about a few pet projects.

Most presidents, fresh from their experience marketing themselves as candidates, most of the time act like they’re marketing executives who we’re paying to sell us on having our governments do even more.

This is the exact opposite of what responsible fiduciary agents would do. Responsible fiduciary agents would fulfill their oaths of office, and by doing so would limit our governments [23].

Luckily for presidents, we don’t expect too much from them, so we might not be let down.

The greatest American president, in the estimation of economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, was Martin Van Buren. In four short years, Van Buren kept the USA out of substantial wars with two foreign powers, Mexico and Britain. Domestically, Van Buren kept the USA from creating the third national bank in succession, a move that strengthened gold’s position as real money. He avoided taking harmful action through the Panic of 1837. And he set the course for not taking harmful action in the deep Panic of 1839—which rivaled the Great Depression in the speed and depth of its deflationary crisis, but in striking contrast was ridden out with nearly full employment and with a substantial rise in production [24].

In each case, having a president who had the emotional and political intelligence to do less with government that would get in people’s ways, so that instead people could sort things out for themselves as fast as they could, meant that less was more [25].

Van Buren also has the honor of being the innovator who created the initial Democratic Party, our most-recent [26] small-government party [27].

DeSantis matters because he uses his constitutional powers to limit governments and their cronies [28]. Our next president can matter in the same way, and should. For ourselves and for our legacy, we should select as our next president the person who will matter as president in the same way that DeSantis matters as governor.

And if our next president uses his powers well to limit government, he may also gain the honor of creating our next small-government major party [29]; and this time, the first major party that won’t break bad [30].

References

  1. Kaminsky, Gabe. “Ron DeSantis at CPAC: ‘Florida Got It Right and the Locked-Down States Got It Wrong.’” The Federalist, 27 Feb. 2021, thefederalist.com/2021/02/27/ron-desantis-at-cpac-florida-got-it-right-and-the-locked-down-states-got-it-wrong/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  2. Tucker, Jeffrey A. “Emancipation from Lockdown in Florida.” AIER Daily Economy, 27 Sep. 2020, www.aier.org/article/emancipation-from-lockdown-in-florida/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  3. “Governor Ron DeSantis Highlights Administration’s Major Accomplishments of 2020.” FLgov.com, 22 Dec. 2020, web.archive.org/web/20201223205224/https:/www.flgov.com/2020/12/22/governor-ron-desantis-highlights-administrations-major-accomplishments-of-2020/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  4. “CDC to Reverse Course and Follow Florida’s Lead Prioritizing ‘Seniors First’ for Vaccinations.” FLgov.com, 12 Jan. 2021, web.archive.org/web/20210122233312/https:/flgov.com/2021/01/12/cdc-to-reverse-course-and-follow-floridas-lead-prioritizing-seniors-first-for-vaccinations/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  5. “Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Landmark Legislation to Ban Vaccine Passports and Stem Government Overreach.” FLgov.com, 3 May 2021, web.archive.org/web/20210514123923/https:/www.flgov.com/2021/05/03/governor-ron-desantis-signs-landmark-legislation-to-ban-vaccine-passports-and-stem-government-overreach/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  6. “Governor Ron DeSantis Protects Floridians from Unscientific and Unnecessary COVID-19 Mandates by Local Governments.” FLgov.com, 16 June 2021, www.flgov.com/2021/06/16/governor-ron-desantis-protects-floridians-from-unscientific-and-unnecessary-covid-19-mandates-by-local-governments/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  7. “Governor DeSantis Wins Major Victory to Protect Florida’s Cruise Industry.” FLgov.com, 18 June 2021, www.flgov.com/2021/06/18/governor-desantis-wins-major-victory-to-protect-floridas-cruise-industry/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  8. “What They Are Saying: Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Hallmark Anti-Rioting Legislation Taking Unapologetic Stand for Public Safety.” FLgov.com, 19 Apr. 2021, web.archive.org/web/20210505112919/https:/www.flgov.com/2021/04/19/what-they-are-saying-governor-ron-desantis-signs-hallmark-anti-rioting-legislation-taking-unapologetic-stand-for-public-safety/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  9. “Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation to Set the Pace for Civics Education in America.” FLgov.com, 22 June 2021, www.flgov.com/2021/06/22/governor-ron-desantis-signs-legislation-to-set-the-pace-for-civics-education-in-america/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  10. “Governor DeSantis Emphasizes Importance of Keeping Critical Race Theory out of Schools at State Board of Education Meeting.” FLgov.com, 10 June 2021, www.flgov.com/2021/06/10/governor-desantis-emphasizes-importance-of-keeping-critical-race-theory-out-of-schools-at-state-board-of-education-meeting/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  11. Ozimek, Tom. “Florida Law Banning Sanctuary Cities Enters into Full Force.” The Epoch Times, 2 Oct. 2019, www.theepochtimes.com/florida-law-banning-sanctuary-cities-enters-into-full-force_3103543.html. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  12. Fay, John. “The Verification Conundrum for Florida Employers: To E-Verify or Not to E-Verify.” LawLogix, 2 Mar. 2021, www.lawlogix.com/the-verification-conundrum-for-florida-employers-to-e-verify-or-not-to-e-verify/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  13. “Governor Ron DeSantis Deploys State Law Enforcement to Secure Southern Border.” FLgov.com, 25 June 2021, www.flgov.com/2021/06/25/governor-ron-desantis-deploys-state-law-enforcement-to-secure-southern-border/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  14. Brufke, Juliegrace. “DeSantis Signs Bill to Allow Individuals to Sue Big Tech over Censorship.” New York Post, 24 May 2021, nypost.com/2021/05/24/desantis-signs-bill-to-allow-individuals-to-sue-over-censorship/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  15. Lawson, Gary. “Everything I Need to Know About Presidents I Learned from Dr. Seuss.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 381-92.
  16. Bird, Wendell. “Reassessing Responses to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions: New Evidence from the Tennessee and Georgia Resolutions and from Other States.” Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 35, no. 4, Winter 2015, pp. 519-51.
  17. Novakovic, Dimitri. “The Hartford Convention and the Nullification Crisis.” Strani Pravni Zivot, vol. 3, 2011, pp. 320-40.
  18. Anthony, James. “The First 1,461 Days of a Constitutionalist President.” rConstitution.us, 8 Jan. 2021, rconstitution.us/the-first-1461-days-of-a-constitutionalist-president/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  19. Lawson, Gary. “Delegation and Original Meaning.” Virginia Law Review, vol. 88, no. 2, Apr. 2002, pp. 327-404.
  20. Anthony, James. “On the Reading of Old Constitutions.” rConstitution.us, 9 Oct. 2020, rconstitution.us/on-the-reading-of-old-constitutions/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  21. Anthony, James. “If You Won’t Repeal Emergency Powers, You Might Be a RINO.” rConstitution.us, 5 Mar. 2021, rconstitution.us/if-you-wont-repeal-emergency-powers-you-might-be-a-rino/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  22. Rockwell, Llewellyn H., Jr. “What If Public Schools Were Abolished?” Mises Daily Articles, 14 July 2020, mises.org/library/what-if-public-schools-were-abolished. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  23. Natelson, Robert G. “The Government as Fiduciary: A Practical Demonstration from the Reign of Trajan.” University of Richmond Law Review, vol. 35, 2001, pp. 191-236.
  24. Rogers Hummel, Jeffrey. “Martin Van Buren: The Greatest American President.” The Independent Review, vol. 4, no. 2, Fall 1999, pp. 255-81.
  25. Anthony, James. “Who Decides: Cronies, or Customers?” rConstitution.us, 28 May 2021, rconstitution.us/who-decides-cronies-or-customers/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  26. Rothbard, Murray N. The Progressive Era. Edited by Patrick Newman, Mises Institute, 2017, pp. 163–97.
  27. Rothbard, Murray Newton. A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II. Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2002, pp. 90–104.
  28. Anthony, James. “Socialism Kills Freedom.” rConstitution.us, 26 Mar. 2021, rconstitution.us/socialism-kills-freedom/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  29. Anthony, James. “A New Major Party Is Forming Right before Our Eyes.” American Greatness, 5 Apr. 2021, amgreatness.com/2021/04/05/a-new-major-party-is-forming-right-before-our-eyes/. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  30. Anthony, James. rConstitution Papers: Offsetting Powers Secure Our Rights. Neuwoehner Press, 2020, pp. 18.1-10.

James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers and has written in The Federalist, Foundation for Economic Education, American Thinker, American Greatness, and rConstitution.us. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.

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