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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Constitution is More than a Scrap of Paper

Americans take their Constitution seriously because it is a product of profound scholarly research, intense debate, and reasoned compromise. Arguably, the U.S. Constitution is the most scrutinized social contract in the history of mankind. Most certainly, the volumes written on the American constitutional democracy, starting with the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, are indicative of its enduring impact.

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 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.

Raymond Millen


  1. If I remember correctly, I think the founding fathers wanted us to debate endlessly about the meaning of each word in the Constitution but one thing that can't be denied...they did study other fallen empires to make a government that is for the people rather than just one person.

  2. At different times in my life I have been a member of each economic class. I have had years where I made a LOT of money and years where I was grittily poor.

    Just prior to the Reagan years, I had a few good years. The income tax bracket I was in was about 69%, I think. Some years later, I was a young widow of sorts. My ex-husband was suddenly killed and I was a single parent. The income tax bracket I was in was much lower. The high income tax bracket was killing me, I had told everyone who would listen. The truth, which came to me later, was that the lower one was taking mortgage money and food and power bill cash. The higher one was taking stock investment money and fun cash.

    The wealthiest 10% of the population control over 80% of the available money. The lower 90% of the population control 20% of the money. That upper percentage of the population in terms of resources invests lots of it overseas. Almost none of the money that the poor have even goes out of their states. It ALL gets spent on food and water and the power bill, and other neccessary things.

    Unfortunately, roads and bridges and sewer lines cost money and they cost a lot less money if we pool our money and buy them as a group.

    Taking money from the our pockets when we are doing well financially is the most fair way to pay for it.


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