Why Learn About Policy Development?

In updating a seminar presentation regarding the reality that the Constitution as people believe it is; in fact, is not what is being utilized by Congress, the Judiciary and the bureaucracies of the Administration; the context of the Paris Accord strikes to the heart of why students must learn and understand policy making from a Foundational perspective.

There are some key components to our functional Constitutional Republic that have metamorphosed over the last 150 years in particular. Let’s put this in a little perspective in some list or linear fashion starting with the Constitution as originally Amended with the Bill of Rights and developing from there.

  1. Constitution and Bill of Rights
  2. Legislation began but who knew what it was and what it meant
  3. 12th through 15th Amendments happened between 1804 and 1870
  4. 16th through 27th Amendments happened between 1909 and 1992
  5. The consolidation of Legislation did not happen until 1874 with the “Revised Statutes of the United States”
  6. According to Wikipedea: “According to the preface to the Code, “From 1897 to 1907 a commission was engaged in an effort to codify the great mass of accumulating legislation. The work of the commission involved an expenditure of over $300,000, but was never carried to completion.” Only the Criminal Code of 1909 and the Judicial Code of 1911 were enacted. In the absence of a comprehensive official code, private publishers once again collected the more recent statutes into unofficial codes. The first edition of the United States Code (published as Statutes at Large Volume 44, Part 1) includes cross-reference tables between the U.S.C. and two of these unofficial codes, United States Compiled Statutes Annotated by West Publishing Co. and Federal Statutes Annotated by Edward Thompson Co.”
  7. Again according to Wikipedea: “During the 1920s, some members of Congress revived the codification project, resulting in the approval of the United States Code by Congress in 1926.

At this time in history the United States Code (USC) is 54 Section as listed on Cornell University’s site US Code or Congress’s site for US Code.

Now don’t think you are getting off easy. This ain’t the whole picture. You have the Volume upon Volumes of CFR! What is the CFR and the difference between those laws and the USC?

The CFR is the millstone around our – everything that IS in the US. It is the “Code of Federal Regulations”. The Code of Federal Regulations is written to explain in detail how the laws are to be carried out. When a law is written, it usually does not explain in great detail what procedures are to be followed, nor does it include descriptions of the special situations, which can arise. This is the job of the regulations, which govern the day-to-day business of the Federal government and our lives.

This next statement is important since this is where the policy people come into play: Regulations are written by the government agencies responsible for the subject matter of the laws. Like laws, regulations are codified and published so that parties are on notice regarding what is and isn’t legal. And regulations often have the same force as laws, since, without them, regulatory agencies wouldn’t be able to enforce laws. Just a note again, Most often policy setting for regulations is subject to the worldview of the individuals in the agencies at the time the regulations are developed.

Now for the rest of the story as to why a student who is a Citizen may want to understand why they would want to be a policy maker. Take a deep breath because we are doing a quick deep dive:

  • The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  No federal or state law may violate it.  Federal laws (statutes), enacted by the United States Congress, must be followed by every state in the country.
  • Similarly, within a state, the state constitution represents the highest legal authority. The state may then enact state statutes, which apply to everyone within the state. State statutes cannot violate the state constitution, the federal constitution, or federal law.
  • As with Federal agencies, State executive agencies carry out state laws through the development and enforcement of regulations. Authorized by statutes, regulations (sometimes called rules or administrative laws) have the effect of law.
    • Most regulations are developed and enacted through a rule-making process, which includes public input. State agencies hold open meetings and public hearings, allowing citizens to participate in the creation of regulations. Participation in the process is extremely important, but often overlooked by citizens.
  • Just as a state may delegate the authority to make regulations to administrative agencies, it may also delegate certain powers to other units of government within the state. County and municipal governments enact laws, often called ordinances, via specific powers granted to them by the state.  County and municipal ordinances apply to everyone within the county or municipality limits.
  • What happens often and is not constitutionally proper but sadly acceptable: Common law is sometimes called “judge-made” law.  It consists of the rules of law that come from the written decisions of judges who hear and decide litigation (lawsuits).  Judges are empowered to make these decisions by the constitution and statutes.  When a judge decides a case and publishes a written decision, the decision becomes the precedent for future litigation.

Now, are you seeing how important it is that having influence in the policy making process has an affect on peoples lives? And as the Anti-federalist Brutus wrote in his article VI that legislation and taxation would:

Cider (distilled alcohols and wines) is an article that most probably will be one of those on which an excise will be laid, because it is one, which this country produces in great abundance, which is in very general use, is consumed in great quantities, and which may be said too not to be a real necessary of life. An excise on this would raise a large sum of money in the United States. How would the power, to lay and collect an excise on cider, and to pass all laws proper and necessary to carry it into execution, operate in its exercise? It might be necessary, in order to collect the excise on cider, to grant to one man, in each county, an exclusive right of building and keeping cider-mills, and oblige him to give bonds and security for payment of the excise; or, if this was not done, it might be necessary to license the mills, which are to make this liquor, and to take from them security, to account for the excise; or, if otherwise, a great number of officers must be employed, to take account of the cider made, and to collect the duties on it.  

Porter, ale, and all kinds of malt-liquors, are articles that would probably be subject also to an excise. It would be necessary, in order to collect such an excise, to regulate the manufactory of these, that the quantity made might be ascertained or otherwise security could not be had for the payment of the excise. Every brewery must then be licensed, and officers appointed, to take account of its product, and to secure the payment of the duty, or excise, before it is sold. Many other articles might be named, which would be objects of this species of taxation, but I refrain from enumerating them. It will probably be said, by those who advocate this system, that the observations already made on this head, are calculated only to inflame the minds of the people, with the apprehension of dangers merely imaginary. That there is not the least reason to apprehend, the general legislature will exercise their power in this manner. To this I would only say, that these kinds of taxes exist in Great Britain, and are severely felt. The excise on cider and perry (an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of pears.), was imposed in that nation a few years ago, and it is in the memory of every one, who read the history of the transaction, what great tumults it occasioned.

This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every comer of the city, and country — It will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be   GIVE! GIVE!

It is most interesting what Foundational principles and arguments of the Anti-federalists are now a reality in Federal, State and local laws or regulations.

Become a part of The Samuel Adams Center for Political Science, SACPS.org to understand those foundational principles that can impact how policy was intended to keep Liberty established for all posterity. All high school through grad school students are encouraged to participate.

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