What Is an Enabling Act?
An enabling act is a law passed by a legislative body to grant authority for some kind of action. Many constitutions declare that the permission of such a body is required for certain types of actions, including executive decrees by national leaders or local governance by citizens. The term “enabling act” has meant different things in different contexts—the two most common uses of the term refer to laws passed in the United States and Germany. In the US, the term generally referred to Congressional acts that granted territories permission to form states. In Germany, it was the name of an act that granted leader Adolf Hitler unchecked authority to pass laws.
The Enabling Act of 1933 set the stage for the Holocaust
In the US, the Enabling Act Of 1802 allowed a portion of the Northwest Territory to begin the transition to full statehood. The Northwest Territory initially had fewer than 60,000 inhabitants and so was given territory status through the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. When the territory had the designated population in 1802, the US Congress—a body that grants the authority for statehood—allowed the area to form a constitution. Following ratification of its constitution, it became the state of Ohio. The legislation was called an enabling act because it enabled residents of the Northwest Territory to organize and apply to join the US on equal footing with other states.
Likewise, the Enabling Act of 1889 and 1910 allowed additional territories to become states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington became states in November of 1889 following ratification of their state constitutions. Arizona and New Mexico were accepted in 1910. The Enabling Act Of 1802 set the precedent for these laws that came later. By the time Hawaii and Alaska were admitted as states following the Second World War, these acts were no longer given the name “enabling.” In Germany at this time, an enabling act had a very different meaning.
From the Enabling Act of 1933 to the Enabling Law of 2013, as history repeats itself
80 years later in another part of the world, something very similar took place. The nation is Venezuela, the leader is Nicolas Maduro, and the proposed law is called the Enabling law. Sounds like the Twilight Zone, doesn’t it? It’s all in the name of fighting the evils of capitalism and the corruption it brings. Here are some quotes from Nicolás Maduro:
I’ve come here to ask for enabling powers in order to deepen, speed-up, and fight the battle… for a new political ethic… I’m going to present a new dynamic for the transformation of the republican ethical model and the transformation of the economic model, two elements that should be combined….
We’ve come to ask for decree powers that will give us a solid legal basis to act quickly and firmly against this badness, this sickness… If corruption continues and perpetuates the destructive logic of capitalism, there won’t be socialism here anymore … Corruption must stop being a normal part of our political life … It’s the same gangsterism, however it’s dressed up.
Of course any opposition is also corrupt and needs to be removed. Sounds familiar?
In the case of of Venezuela one starts by hitting hard against those capitalist pigs, confiscating their businesses and forcing them to give away merchandise.
USA Today: – Thousands of Venezuelans lined up outside the country’s equivalent of Best Buy, a chain of electronics stores known as Daka, hoping for a bargain after the socialist government forced the company to charge customers “fair” prices.
President Nicolás Maduro ordered a military “occupation” of the company’s five stores as he continues the government’s crackdown on an “economic war” it says is being waged against the country, with the help of Washington. [Washington is behind those high prices at Daka]
“I want a Sony plasma television for the house,” said Amanda Lisboa, 34, a business administrator, who had waited seven hours already outside one Caracas store. “It’s going to be so cheap!”
Cheap Sony plasma TVs for the masses! Before fighting more evil however, one needs to raise some money – and Venezuela’s government is trying to do just that. The state owned oil and gas conglomerate PdVsa (which is effectively a branch of the government) will raise $4.5bn in bonds (with a mid-teen type coupon). The central bank will be the initial buyer, who will then try to resell to private investors (see story). Now imagine if things get even tougher for Venezuela (foreign reserves are already at 9-year lows and the economy is in shambles – see post), how long would it take Maduro to use his Enabling Law to stop payments on these and other bonds? Hitler did it in 1933, as Germany unilaterally ceased payments on all long-term bonds.
And this new law to make Maduro the undisputed dictator of Venezuela – in some ways repeating the dark chapter from 80 years ago.
GS: – The [bond issuance] announcement comes at a time when the market is under pressure due to recent economic announcements signaling an increase in government intervention and events last weekend related to the seizure of some electronic retailers.
Moreover, the perceived radicalization in economic policy could firm after the passage of the Enabling Law, which would allow President Nicolas Maduro to bypass the National Assembly. The Assembly has moved one step forward towards the approval of this law with the expulsion and stripping of parliamentary immunity of Deputy Maria Aranguren, who opposed the passage of the law. Ms. Aranguren, elected as a member of the official United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) but later siding with the opposition, is under investigation on embezzlement charges. She will be replaced by Carlos Flores, who is expected to support the initiative, providing the government with the last vote needed to reach the necessary majority for the passage of the law. As a consequence, the Enabling Law could be approved in the coming days.
This past November Maduro Unleashes 45 New Laws that were the last to be approved under President Maduro’s Enabling Law, which was granted to him for one year by the National Assembly and allowed the president to pass laws without parliamentary approval in designated areas.
The powers were originally requested in order for the executive to fight corruption and resolve economic problems associated with what officials call an “economic war.” Economic problems of shortages and high inflation, in addition to high crime, frequently rate at the top of citizen concerns in opinion polls.