Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Yet some people regard the Constitution as an obsolete scrap of paper, having no relevance to modern society.
In their view, the Constitution served its purpose while the nation was young, but over time it became an obstacle to progress. They are quick to point out that it created a political system hamstrung by government gridlock, dissension, and lethargy. What they envision is a living constitution that permits the federal government in all matters to take action swiftly and decisively. What all gainsayers of the Constitution share is an absolute faith in the benevolence of central government with no consideration of the attendant dangers.
The absolute faith in an omnipotent central government reflects a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution. Perhaps a review of the Founding Fathers’ intent for the American political system is warranted at this point. From their study of former democracies, the Founding Fathers observed that they inevitably fell into anarchy or tyranny, that systemic structural defects in the political system created the conditions, and that populism was the cause. The common revelation of this study was that all men are inherently imperfect and that they are driven to pursue power, usually for the purpose of achieving some good for society.
Most people are familiar with the Constitutional checks and balances within the three branches of federal government. Fewer are familiar with the negative powers constraining the federal government as enshrined by the 10th Amendment. Accordingly, all powers not specifically vested in the federal government are automatically bequeathed to the states, local communities, and individuals. To the Founding Fathers, the danger to liberty was not inefficient government but arbitrary government.
In its basic form, a constitution is a contract or covenant between the people and the government. By its nature, the contract implies that sovereignty lies in the people, not in the government. Through natural law, everyone has the right to property, meaning life and possessions. The Bill of Rights guarantees this basic right and it applies to all American regardless of economic or social status. Over time, the federal government has accumulated more power at the expense of the states and the citizen. The federal government most often justified its encroachments by invoking the needs of the people. Shifting responsibility from the people to the central government really is a breach of the Constitution, but because the people did not object, the federal government felt emboldened to continue.
Americans should remain vigilant to federal initiatives which compromise the Constitution. It is worthy to mention that a government which can seize the property of the wealthy through taxation can do the same to everyone. Once the people permit this violation of an inalienable right, then the government feels entitled to target them. One should remember that tyranny always begins with good causes, whether to redistribute wealth or to help the poor.
If American citizens blithely allow political militants to breach the Constitution, then the Constitution is nothing more than a scrap of parchment. Patriots must recognize that the struggle of liberty is constant. Political partisans never rest, so patriots must remain vigilant. The most effective way to protect the Constitution is to vote out Congressional incumbents. In the long run, it is more beneficial for the people to have a Congress respecting the Constitution than a bevy of professional politicians coveting power. That is why I support the goals of GOOOH.com. Every American should read the Constitution and discuss his/her views with friends and family. Admittedly, the Federalist Papers is dry reading, but W. Cleon Skousen’s The Five Thousand Year Leap provides a informative and readable account of the Founding Fathers’ intent. A well informed populace is the best defense against tyranny.
Posted by Raymond Millen at 3:40 PM