< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Thoughts on Vice-Presidents

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thoughts on Vice-Presidents

Mitya K turned me on to the Mises blog. Its interesting, though sometimes a little out there in my view. S.M. Olivia has a good post there today, "The Imperial Vice-Presidency". When I read the title, I knew where the argument was going, and I was not disappointed.

It is a little known fact, but a fact nonetheless, that the VP's office is not part of the executive branch. That is a modern practice, certainly since Carter, and arguably since Ike. But it needs repeating, the Vice President has absolutely zero power from Article II. The only powers designated to the Vice President by the document we quaintly refer to as our Constitution are found in Article I, that is, the VP is an officer of the Legislative Branch, not the Executive.

After a very thorough tracing of VP history, Olivia lays out the objection to the increasingly powerful VP's office: such an office is extra-constitutional. But there is much more danger here than illegal operations, as we've seen lately, such ops seem to be par for the course.

One major reason why the VP's office was not vested with executive authority was that doing so would be dangerous to the republic. The Founders knew well that executive succession could lead to armed conflict, especially if the first in line to succeed to the President was someone who had some command over the Armed forces. A devolution into Imperial Rome was a great fear, and that fear motivated the placement of the VP under the thumb of a distrustful legislature.

Of course Olivia does point out the accountability problem with having someone like Cheney craft military policy when Cheney isn't in the chain of command. But Olivia forgets to see the other more serious danger lurking on the other side of the coin: civil war. Quasi-executives with succession privileges and an affinity for exceeding constitutional authority are a clear danger to the republic. It is completely predictable that the "zenith of vice-presidential power" would result in a constitutional crisis. Unfortunately, the legislature is running away from the fight. I hope the next POTUS will reverse this dangerous course.