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  • Writer's picturePeter Serefine

Reclaiming Constitutional Governance: Streamlining the Federal Government to its Authorized Agencies


The expansion of the federal government has led to concerns about its constitutionality and inefficiency. This article presents a comprehensive argument, supported by quotations and citations, that only a few of the over 400 federal departments and agencies are constitutionally authorized. Furthermore, it suggests a range of strategies for shrinking the federal government and streamlining it to align with the constitutional framework.

Constitutional Basis:

The foundation of the United States lies in the principle of limited government. As Thomas Jefferson emphasized,

“The government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself” - Kentucky Resolutions, 1798

This implies that the federal government should adhere strictly to its constitutionally granted powers, leaving all other authority to the states or the people.

Identifying Unconstitutional Agencies:

A critical examination of the extensive federal bureaucracy reveals numerous departments and agencies that lack a clear constitutional basis. For instance, the Department of Education, established in 1979, is not explicitly authorized by the Constitution (A new article on the DOEd will be published soon). Such agencies should be subject to scrutiny, as their operations exceed the federal government’s intended scope of authority.

Constitutional Principles:

To restore constitutional governance and reduce the federal government’s reach, several principles can guide the process:

1. Enumerated Powers:

The principle of enumerated powers emphasizes strict adherence to the powers explicitly granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. This means that the federal government should only exercise those powers specifically listed, such as regulating interstate commerce, coining money, and providing for the common defense. Any powers not granted to the federal government are reserved for the states or the people, as outlined in the Tenth Amendment.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." - Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

By adhering to this principle, the federal government can focus on its core responsibilities and avoid overreach into areas better handled at the state or local level.

2. Federalism and State Autonomy:

Federalism is a fundamental principle that recognizes the importance of state sovereignty and local control. It acknowledges that the states are not merely administrative subdivisions of the federal government but independent entities with their own spheres of authority. Many functions currently performed by federal agencies, such as education, healthcare, and transportation, can be more effectively and appropriately handled by the states. By devolving power to the states and empowering them to make decisions that reflect their unique needs and values, the federal government can reduce its size and focus on national concerns that require a unified approach.

3. Subsidiarity:

The principle of subsidiarity complements federalism by advocating that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level of governance. According to this principle, matters should be handled by the smallest, most local competent authority capable of addressing them effectively. This means that the federal government should intervene only when state or local governments are unable to handle an issue adequately. By embracing subsidiarity, power is decentralized, individuals and local communities are empowered, and the federal government's reach is limited to areas where its involvement is truly necessary.

4. Sunset Provisions and Regular Review:

To ensure accountability and effectiveness, implementing sunset provisions and conducting regular reviews of federal agencies are crucial. Sunset provisions require that agencies undergo periodic evaluations to assess their performance, efficacy, and continued constitutional basis. Agencies that fail to meet the required standards or no longer serve a necessary purpose can be eliminated or subjected to significant reforms. Regular reviews prevent the perpetuation of ineffective or unconstitutional agencies, ensuring that the federal government remains responsive to the evolving needs of the nation while staying within its constitutional limits.

5. Consolidation and Efficiency:

Identifying overlapping or redundant agencies and consolidating their functions is an effective way to streamline the federal government and enhance efficiency. Bureaucratic duplication often leads to inefficiencies, wasted resources, and regulatory complexity. By consolidating overlapping agencies or merging their functions, duplication can be minimized, resources can be utilized more effectively, and the overall bureaucracy can be streamlined. This consolidation process requires careful analysis, assessment of the agency's constitutionality and effectiveness, and a commitment to eliminating redundancy and unnecessary complexity in the federal government's structure.

By embracing these five constitutional principles – enumerated powers, federalism and state autonomy, subsidiarity, sunset provisions and regular review, and consolidation and efficiency – the federal government can be reshaped to operate within its constitutional boundaries. This approach ensures a more accountable, effective, and limited government that respects the principles of federalism, empowers states and local communities, and safeguards individual liberties.


Reclaiming constitutional governance necessitates a comprehensive approach to reining in the federal government. By critically evaluating the constitutional basis of federal departments and agencies, we can identify those that lack authorization and subject them to careful scrutiny. Through a commitment to enumerated powers, federalism, subsidiarity, regular review, and consolidation, we can reshape the federal government to align with the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

This process is not about dismantling government entirely but rather about restoring a balanced and constitutional framework. It requires political will, informed public discourse, and a commitment to the principles that underpin our republic. By embracing these reforms, we can move towards a more efficient, accountable, and constitutionally grounded federal government that respects the rights of states, empowers individuals, and safeguards the liberties of the American people.

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