The Library of Law and Liberty today runs a symposium on what many consider to be philosopher and strategic theorist James Burnham’s greatest work: Congress and the American Tradition. The book is a defense of congressional primacy in the constitutional order, an idea that was still a going concern when the volume was published (in 1959). Since then the legislature has lost a great deal of ground — much lawmaking, and all war-making, now gets delegated to the executive bureaucracy, while Congress is happy to let the federal courts take responsibility for the most polarizing political matters.
At the time Burnham wrote, conservatives were characteristically defenders of Congress against executive encroachment; by the Nixon era, many of them had given up and decided that only a powerful president could rein in the executive bureaucracy. So who cares about Congress now, and what good is this archaic, gerrymandered institution that was once thought to be the heart of representative self-government? John Samples, Herman Belz, and John Marini consider the problem.