Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Another good point Veronique de Rugy made on NRO was that

. . . these constant changes in the law . . . inject a lot of uncertainties in an already uncertain environment. . . . The law says one thing, and the government does another. If I were an insurance company, I would seriously wonder what changes the administration will make next.

This reminded me of what James Madison said in Federalist #62 , which my American Studies seminar looked at yesterday:

. . . The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessings of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow . Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed? [emphasis added]

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people . . .

. . . The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?

The Federalist is not the Constitution, so both parties’ (but especially the Dems’) general 20th-century defiance of Madison’s good sense here has never in itself been a constitutional violation. Still, the frontal assault on this Madisonian sense represented by Obama’s health-care law, and now by his latest constitution-violating “fix” of it, is indeed poisonous to liberty.

And it’s always a bad sign when you find your government flying dead-on against Publius.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles