November 29, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 29, 2016—The Heritage Foundation, a leading public policy research organization, today announced the formation of a new research department: the Institute for Constitutional Government. The new department has “a critical mission,” said Heritage President Jim DeMint, “to help stop—and begin to reverse—the current trend of concentrating more and more power in Washington, especially within the executive branch of the federal government.”
The new institute comprises three research centers: the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, and the Center on Public Opinion. The Simon Center concentrates on research into the principles of the American political tradition, promoting ideas and policies designed to restore limited constitutional government in the United States.
The Meese Center works to increase understanding of the Constitution and the rule of law. It brings together national conservative organizations, state and local leaders, and public interest groups to tackle problems such as judicial activism, and over-criminalization and to promote reforms to the civil justice system.
The Center on Public Opinion researches how citizens view government and the various legislative, regulatory and judicial policies being advanced in Washington, D.C.
James Wallner, Heritage’s group vice president for research, will head the new institute. “Our nation’s founders recognized that all governments have an institutional inclination to seek more power for themselves while increasingly restricting the rights and freedom of their citizens,” Wallner said. “The founders tried to forestall creation of a new tyranny by devising an ingenious system, codified in the Constitution, to limit the power of government and preserve individual liberties.”
Wallner cited separation of powers, federalism, checks and balances, an independent judiciary, indirect representation, and regular elections as being “absolutely critical to the success of “the American experiment in self-government.” Yet, he argued, this constitutional system is on the verge of breaking down.
Constitutional governance is disintegrating, Wallner said, due to three “dangerous trends”: an “increasingly imperial” administrative branch that oversteps its bounds through executive actions and over-regulation, an activist judicial branch that legislates from the bench and a Congress that fails to exercise “proper, constitutionally required oversight” to rein in the excesses of the other two branches.
All three of these trends have accelerated greatly during the Obama era, Wallner said. “As a result,” he added, “decisions made in Washington impact the lives of the American people far more today than at any other time in our nation’s history.”
“Changing course requires more than just changing policies,” DeMint said. “We must also restore the institutional foundation that made human freedom possible in the first place.”
“That’s why we are establishing the Institute for Constitutional Government: to educate Congress, congressional staff and the American people about the foundational principles of American government, to make clear why we must return to them, and to advance policy recommendations on how to get there.”
The Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education institute, based in Washington, D.C. The nation’s most broadly-supported think tank, it is dedicated to promoting freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.