Monday, June 13, 2011

“Why Do You Place Such Importance on the Constitution as the Founders Intended?”

Last Thursday’s post on Sarah Palin and the concept of Principle was a big hit here in Backwards Ville. It received three comments, which is a new indoor record for this blog. I am deeply humbled.

One of those three comments caught my eye, as it was in the form of a question. I shall include it here in its entirety:


Why do you place so much importance on the constitution "as the founders intended"?
Don't human advancement and progress warrant constant re-envisioning?
Bye from Holland/Europe! (We're not actually Marx loving commies btw)

Thank you for asking a question (actually two) that could use a good explanation. I’ll try my best to answer.

I’ll work on the assumption that you’re a Holland/Europe native and are therefore somewhat unfamiliar with American jurisprudence, just as I am unfamiliar with Holland’s form of government and its national ideals.

The reason I place so much importance on the Constitution as it was originally intended is because the principles that it embodies are no longer being upheld by the folk we send to Washington.

Our Constitution was a true work of revolutionary art for one simple reason: it was the first attempt to give true political power to the average citizen. Prior to this time, governments shared pretty much the same philosophy, namely that whatever freedoms the people had were the result of the generosity of its rulers. Rulers love ruling others, so therefore there wasn’t much in the way of true individual liberty. Your “freedom” was what someone else decided you could have. If you weren’t born to the throne, too bad for you. You were a subject, not a citizen.

Now imagine that this idea was reversed. Instead of seeking someone’s permission to do a certain thing, or anything, you were free to do as you pleased, within reason of course.

Let’s say that a group of us decided that we’d establish a legal baseline for human behavior. We would make illegal the things that we all recognized were bad, like murder, robbery, rape and the like. If anyone violates those laws, they are punished and separated from the rest of us who choose to abide by them.

So far, so good. We’ve established the basic framework for our society, that there are some things that you absolutely cannot do without a great penalty. But we’re going to do something that's never been done; after that, there is no more. You are free to do whatever you want as long as you don’t violate the basic laws that are there to protect your life and your property. You will be free, and in order for something to be prohibited, there must be a law that specifically prevents it.

So, instead of a government that passes laws that grant permission, we’ll have a government where actions can only be prohibited, not granted. From what I’ve read about history, this was a radical departure from the norm, beginning with the Charter of Liberties, which was the basis for the Magna Carta. These very important documents sought to limit the power of the monarchy. As you might imagine, the monarchs were less than thrilled.

So, in theory, we Americans are free unless there is a law that is specifically against it. Each new law that is passed is done to keep something from happening. This is an important, although poorly understood, distinction. Even our elected leaders can’t or won’t recognize it. Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, called the 111th Congress, “the most productive in history.” Indeed it was, judging by the number of laws it passed. But if you understand that each new law reduces our freedom, that’s not something to be proud of, unless your goal is to restrict freedom.

In my opinion, the whole of human history is defined by this unquenchable thirst for freedom and the struggle to slake it against those who take their greatest pleasure from controlling other people and will do anything to keep their power.

Which brings me to your second question concerning human advancement. I argue that the advancement of the Circumstance of Man has been greatly enhanced in large part to the introduction of the idea of individual liberty by America.

Think of how long mankind depended on horses for transportation, for example. Now imagine yourself in the king’s court where you are seeking his permission to build a new machine, one that can navigate hostile terrain and weather as well as a horse can and doesn’t leave “residue” on the streets for people to avoid.

But the king doesn’t believe such a thing is possible. He’s very fond of horses and sees no need for this horseless machine of yours.

The end result? No automobile.

That’s greatly simplified, of course, but the idea behind it is the old way of governance by whim of an all-powerful ruler. Whatever he or she felt like doing was the law of the land. This new way would have you at work building this machine (again, within the confines of the basic framework of society where no one is killed or robbed in the process) and you would be free to enjoy the fruits of your labor by engaging in commerce. Your newfangled horseless carriage would greatly reduce travel time for those who purchased it, everyone would want one, and you could make some money.

What’s not to like?

I suppose the Grand Question for me is this: “How many laws are enough?” It seems as though once we established the ground rules, and set up a mechanism to keep them enforced, there wouldn’t be much left for a government to do. Once the foundation has been laid, any subsequent laws should be able to point back to the foundation as a justification. But if the foundation is drawn clearly enough so that everyone can understand and is fairly applied to everyone, why the need for any more laws?

One great example of legislative overreach is so-called “hate crime” laws. Don’t we already have laws banning assault and battery, murder and rape? Aren’t they pretty clearly defined? So, why do we need even more laws to add to the already-existing penalties for such behavior? Why does the intent of the illegal action need to be defined? Also, why does the emotional state of the attacker matter and why does it need to be punished over and above the existing statutes? You don’t normally attack friends.

The answer to those questions is simple; hate crime laws came about from a lack of understanding of the basic principles of American government. They are a transparent effort at societal engineering that seeks to control thought.

And here you thought that George Orwell’s 1984 was fiction. There are a lot of people today who are trying to make it into a documentary.

This ties in with Queen Nancy’s opinion of her work in the 111th Congress. She’s awfully proud of her accomplishment, but she shouldn’t be. If she had any understanding of the Founding Principles, she’d be reluctant to make more laws to remove more of our freedoms. In fact, a true patriot would start to repeal laws instead of creating more of them. This mistaken notion is so ingrained in Washington that any effort to repeal any law is met with wailing and gnashing of teeth from the American Bar Association. It’s almost as if they feel the need to protect their market, a market they can create for themselves by making more laws, thereby increasing the need for their services.

So, Gentle Readers in Holland, I hope I’ve answered your question.

Oh, and one other thing. Your last sentence, “We’re not actually Marx loving commies, btw.” Now you know how Tea Partiers here in America feel. We’re not actually racists or bigots, either, but that doesn’t stop our Mainstream Media from saying it. It’s almost like the wanted to paint us in a bad light.

Now, why would they want to do that?

No comments: