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Why the love affair with the Constitution?

Do we cherish the right to bear arms because it’s in the Constitution, or do we cherish it because it is logical and moral? Do we cherish free speech and the freedom of religion because they are in the Constitution, or do we cherish them because they are also logical and moral?
In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed an almost cult-like following for the Constitution coming from the liberty movement. This following almost seems to suggest a certain infallible characteristic of the Constitution from which a libertarian can argue almost any current policy point. Even some on the left have been known to argue for free speech and equality under the law, not by their own logical and reasoned analysis, but simply because it is in the all-powerful document called the Constitution. It’s easy to see how this support of the Constitution backfires on the left any time the issue of gun control is brought up, but would this uber-allegiance ever backfire on the liberty movement?
Before we continue to sing the praise of the Constitution to anyone who will listen as we continue the national gun debate, let us be reminded of two very important facts. Fact 1; Government is force, and therefore, Taxation Is Theft. Fact 2; The Constitution which founded this country provides the government with the authority to tax the citizens.
Even as I would concede that the Constitution is the single greatest document ever forged by man, the single greatest ‘anything’ forged by man will still be imperfect and our founding documents are no exception. Luckily for me, my rights do not come from a document, and I refuse to allow the outcome of any debate to rest on the absolute power of some words someone wrote.
In reality, my rights only exist as a result of the force I may have to use in order to defend them. In principle, my rights exist because of the logic and reason on which they are based. They don’t exist because of the Constitution. If we continue to rest our libertarian arguments on a document rather than on reason, then we concede the most important debate point we will ever face in this movement. Does the government have the right to use force on its people? When we succumb to the all-powerful authority of the document, we further enslave ourselves to the tyranny of democracy. No Bill of Rights can every truly free a people who have accepted the government’s power to tax. For this reason, let us remember as we continue to spread the message of liberty, that freedom is logical an moral, and not a result of documentation, but a result of reason.



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Here's another thing

The rhetoric employed is that the Constitution was designed to limit the powers of government.

This idea is Orwellian!

For how could this document which greatly expanded state power compared to the previous existing arrangement (the Articles) be seen as designed to "limit" the powers of government?

It was the single greatest expansion of state power in all of American history!

Limits? Checks? Balances? Doublethink!

Denise B's picture

The document is not the problem...

the people are.

You’re statement: “Even as I would concede that the Constitution is the single greatest document ever forged by man, the single greatest ‘anything’ forged by man will still be imperfect and our founding documents are no exception.”, pretty much sums up the reasons why many in the liberty movement, myself included, asserts that our quickest path to liberty is by forcing the government back into the constraints of (or as Thomas Jefferson stated, the “chains of”) the Constitution.

Just as you stated, nothing that we ever come up with is going to be perfect. The Constitution is no exception; however, our own history bears out the fact that when it is followed, it results in a free and prosperous nation. It is only when government is allowed to step outside of the clearly defined restraints on it’s authority that we begin to see our problems grow and our liberties shrink.

The vast majority of the problems that we have with our government today do not stem from the Constitution per se, but instead are a direct result of government overstepping it’s authority as clearly defined in the Constitution. I don’t care how perfectly written a governing document may be, governments by nature are always going to tend toward tyranny and encroachments of liberty and the people are the only thing that can ultimately stop that from happening. No document or system human beings ever devise is going to stop that from happening without a populace that is willing to stand up and demand that their rights be respected. No governing document, no matter how perfectly written, can enforce or defend itself.

What exactly do you propose instead of the Constitution? Or are you implying that we should have no governing document or authority at all? Are you proposing anarchy?...because that certainly poses a whole new set of issues and problems. How exactly, and under what circumstances could we possibly create and implement a new system of governance and how could we possibly control that process and then have it enforced when we are already having so much trouble with the one that we have? I think that before we could even begin to come up with a new or better system, we need to start by enforcing the one that we already have in place, and until we can do that, we simply will not be in a situation to change anything, short of through civil war.

I also do not agree that taxation in and of itself is theft. Any system of governance is going to require the ability to raise funds (whether it be on a local, state or federal level), unless of course you are promoting anarchy, in which case you should just state that, because that requires an entirely different debate. Although it is true that the Constitution does allow the federal government the power of taxation, there were (and still are) severe restraints on the methods they could use to tax. Especially direct taxation (the most dangerous of all), which can only “legally” be done through apportionment and which is the only provision in the Constitution which is stated twice because they were so adamant about restricting the government’s ability to do so. Despite popular perception, the 16th Amendment did not change that. Again, the fact that the government operates as if it did is not a flaw with the document itself, but the result of an uneducated populace who can’t be bothered to take the time to be informed about their governing document nor be bothered to defend their rights. Again, The document is not the problem....the people are.

Ron Paul - The Revolution : A Manifesto:

If the people agreed to a particular understanding of the Constitution, and over the course of intervening years they have performed no official act (such as amending the Constitution in accordance with their evolved ideas) reversing that original understanding, by what right may government unilaterally change the terms of its contract with the people, interpreting its words to mean something very different from what the American people had all along been told they meant?

If we feel the need to change our Constitution, we are free to amend it.

That's why it's important. There must exist some boundaries and guidelines. Otherwise we have no rule of law and no power to control tyranny.

The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous…God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.
Ron Paul - The Revolution

Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. Ron Paul

Dear pure Libertarians;

There are Constitutionalists here too! Please scroll up...

"Dedicated to restoring Constitutional government to the United States of America"

We should be welcome here too, as we agree on about 90% - 95% of issues. In fact more than once Ron Paul refered to himself as a Constitutionalist. It's everybody else that refers to him as a Libertarian. Notice that he doesn't say the word "Libertarian" as much as he says the words "Pro-Liberty"? I think there's something to that.

Constitutionalists do realize though that without the Bill of Rights, the Constitution is a document of tyranny. This is something Judge Napolitano articulated well in a speech at the Mises Institute. To restore the Constitution, we must 1st restore the Bill of Rihts, imho. I think this understanding proves that our adherence to our founding documents is not cult-like, but rather reasoned and well thought out. We believe that if we get rid of it, or amend it through an Article V convention, we will end up with something far worse than what we have now. That is a valid concern. If we lose the 2nd Amendment, our Liberty Teeth, we'll lose the rest of our amendments and never be able to get them back. This is America, not 1950's India. Peaceful civil disobedience is the prefered way, but by itself, with no arms to back it up should ultra violent tyranny befall us, it will lose.

In closing, the Reagan rule applies: "Anyone you agree with 80% of the time is not your enemy." So Libertarians, Constitutionalists share most, but not all, of your views, and that's ok :) It makes for spirited debates at times, and helps us strengthen each other, keeping each other on our toes here, so when we go to work and school, our prowess is more honed as we try to wake up the sheeple.

We'll disagree from time to time on some minor issues, like Zeitgeist vs. Christians, Occupy vs. those who rightly saw socialist/collectivists influences within them, Anti-Rand vs. Pro-Rand, Gary Johnson vs. Write-In-Ron, and many other spirited debates that we have had over the last 5 and a half years here. The relationship between Constitutionalists and Libertarians is a good thing. If we are ever to succeed we will need each other.

Let us continue forward together spreading liberty, each in our own way, and learning from one another as we go.

wolfe's picture

We are not your enemies either.

We do however have significantly different goals. And that is where the main argument stems from between us.

Your goal: To reduce government to tolerable levels.
Our goal: To educate people as to the true nature of government.

These goals are not contrary to one another. In fact, they are mutually beneficial. Some of us, prefer the low hanging fruit of educating those who already seek to reduce government, as to why their efforts are good and why they shouldn't stop even once they get a win.

Others prefer the tougher nuts to crack, and try to educate or even humiliate pure statists. Still others prefer only speaking to the choir.

I personally find that the most efficient use of my time is talking with people from the limited government camp, so that's what I do.

My goal is not to convince you to stop or change your behavior in any way whatsoever. But merely to assist you with understanding the true nature of the beast you fight.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Thx for the reply

I share both of the goals you mentioned, and I agree completely that they are not contrary. If I am the low hanging fruit to you, then Reagan style conservatives are the low hanging fruit to me I think. I agree some try to shame. I see it here sometimes too. Bums me out too. Thanks for not trying to change me. I share that same ethic. The fruit that's higher up and harder to pick like progressives and neocons takes a lot more effort, but it's not impossible. The argument "why do you want to use force on me?" can yield results. Just have to get them to see that government is force, like Washington said.

Yep

I think most of us share the same goals, my main concern is just the most effective way to argue for liberty. In my opinion, reason trumps the paper, so all I'm saying is that I'm more conderned about the reasoning behind our arguments than I am about the paper some of them are written on.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

You need to read

some Rothbard, dude. The Constitution was a coup. The public and press were locked out while a bunch of power brokers connived to enslave us all to a central state. The Articles of Confederation were working fine...for the common people.

or Hologram of Liberty

by the guy that started the whole "Free State" concept Kenneth Royce aka
Boston T. Party (yup. the guy that does the gun books)

http://www.amazon.com/Hologram-Liberty-Constitutions-Shockin...

I don't know why cool books have to have such crappy cover art. But I found it worth the read.

Totally. With. You.

I would also say that if our man, Ron Paul, was a delegate in the ratifying convention of his home state of PA, he would have voted against the document.

His reasoning? The current frame of government, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, never gave the United States in Congress the authority to create a new frame of government by a 9/13 vote.

As it says:
"And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

BRAVO!

I agree wholeheartedly, taxation is evil and akin to slavery.

In fact, I would go as far to say that the constitution is the last remnant of slavery.

I'm cool with the idea of a government, but not a state.

Government that asks permission for all that it does.

Like getting a sandwich made at Subway.

Government with the capacity to trade, not coerce.

Voluntary action could be applied to government.

No arbitrary states, only individual states, as in individual people.

I am my own state.

I'm just not as well armed as Pennsylvania, or I would assert my sovereignty.

One other observation.The

One other observation.

The irony of this, to me, is at once enormous and, in many ways, disheartening.

For so many in the libertarian political sect to admire the Constitution as they do, and to call for a return to it and its strict interpretation, shows just how far from the liberty tree American society has fallen.

When the most ardent small-government political sect today is, by and large, merely calling for strict adherence to the wet dream of yesteryear's big-government Federalists, it's safe to say that big government has little to fear but fear itself.

Say what you will about anarchists. I say they represent the last vestiges of the anti-Federalist spirit, whose revival, in my opinion, can't come soon enough.

#1 the Rule of Law as

#1 the Rule of Law as embodied by the Constitution is part of the issue

#2 its shorthand for our founding principles

Ventura 2012

imo

When most of us say the constitution we really mean the bill of rights without specifically saying so. Saying the constitution as a whole just has a more... "Just" feeling to it. But it's our history and it's that history and how it came about that makes it's use of the word a stronger back bone to abide by because government is all about contracts and its all there written down on paper already. These unalienable rights.

Homeland security statement: patriotism is now considered terrorism.
I love www.isidewith.com shared it with everyone I know. If anything they realize its not just a red and blue idiot running for reelection.

They couldn't have an income tax today if they hadn't CHANGED...

... the Constitution.

It took an AMENDMENT to do it.

The founders would not have allowed it.

Ron Paul would have ended it.

And replaced it with...NOTHING.

THAT would have starved the head of the snake, (the Federal Reserve) and it would have shriveled up and died.

Reagan proved in his study the "Grace Commission" that not one penny of the federal income tax goes to fund the federal government.

1/3 funds the IRS itself
1/3 is never collected
1/3 pays the interest on the national debt.

That last one means the interest we pay the FED for "loaning" us the money it prints.

As anti-constitutional as anything could possibly ever been.

We've been hijacked and are now wage-slaves.

"We have allowed our nation to be over-taxed, over-regulated, and overrun by bureaucrats. The founders would be ashamed of us for what we are putting up with."
-Ron Paul

It took an AMENDMENT to do

It took an AMENDMENT to do it.

The founders would not have allowed it.

Quite the two sentences to place one after the other, no?

After all, the amendment process itself was divined by the founders. Surely you aren't so naive as to think they didn't imagine this process would come to be used for aims other than those they expressly advocated in their day?

Whether the founders would have allowed it or not is immaterial. They embedded the function that did allow it.

And this gets to the heart of the problem. Because something is Constitutional, does that make it legitimate? One need not look beyond Article I section 8 of the constitution to understand that it does not. Once you accept that just one thing that the Constitution may authorize is illegitimate insofar as its implications on the liberty of individuals, it is necessarily a charge against the entire document.

Thus, the OP's point when he writes:

"In reality, my rights only exist as a result of the force I may have to use in order to defend them. In principle, my rights exist because of the logic and reason on which they are based. They don’t exist because of the Constitution."

The Constitution is the ultimate misdirection. Any debate that uses the Constitution as its centerpoint is necessarily a form of Hegelian dialectic. By its very nature, it will always and ultimately lead to more government, not less. Needless to say, the evidence bears this out.

As Jon Stewart so adeptly articulated when Judge Nap got caught in that trap:

"As soon as you’ve built an army [jay6783: replace Army, if you must, w/any function the Constitution authorizes which you approve], you’ve now said government isn’t always inherently evil because we need it to help us sometimes, so now.. it’s that old joke: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? How about a dollar? -Who do you think I am?- We already decided who you are, now we’re just negotiating."

Indeed. And we've "negotiated" a whole lot, from eminent domain to income taxes.

Even Ignoring everything that one thinks is "unconstitutional", we are still left with a whole bunch of "Constitutional" infringements on liberty (again, just read Article 1 section 8; I think everyone in here would find at least one of those original "Constitutional" functions objectionable). If there be a sound libertarian argument advocating all of this, without equivocation, I haven't heard it.

Thus, I agree with OP. We should argue on principle and reason alone, wherever that may lead, and leave the Constitution-centric arguments to big government lovers.

I cherish the Constitution because it is a ton better than our

govt wants us to have, is law of the land, and if enforced this would be a much happier place.

Integrity means having to say things that people don't want to hear & especially to say things that the regime doesnt want to hear -RonPaul

wolfe's picture

If it wasn't exactly what your government wanted you to have...

then you would have something different.

What would stop them? Of course they like a delusional population that actually believes that they aren't slaves. Stupid slaves are far more efficient and useful than self-aware slaves.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Negativity is a religion for

Negativity is a religion for some people...the sky is falling!

Ventura 2012

wolfe's picture

And some people...

Will be Polyanna all the way to to the gas chamber.. Not a bad trait but hardly in line with a realistic worldview.

Besides, I know you can provide a better defense than that... ;)

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

I could provide hundreds of

I could provide hundreds of Supreme Court cases but whats the point? The fact is that there has been a very obvious struggle for this Nation's soul since the beginning and you will ignore all of that for chicken-littleism.

Ventura 2012

wolfe's picture

That's a misrepresentation of all of my statements here...

and elsewhere for that matter so I am not sure how to address it, since I do not understand how the accusation applies?

As far as a struggle. There is an eternal struggle between those who seek to dominate and control their fellow man, and those who do not wish to be dominated. I seek an end to the cycle, where as, many simply seek a softer dominance, a kinder, gentler tyrant. I consider my world view far more optimistic, and more realistic at the same time.

Nietzsche said that the cry for freedom was an expression of the will to power by the absolute powerless. This is no less true today. As evidenced by those who cry for freedom, until they have the ability to exercise power and then they forget all about freedom (Rand anyone?).

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

What are you talking about?

What are you talking about? You implied that the Constitution is worthless and provides no protection and we're all slaves lol. I responded to that.

Ventura 2012

It may have been less than was wanted when it went through

but it is sure a lot better than we have now. And if you think we 'have' it, I don't think you have read it lately.

Integrity means having to say things that people don't want to hear & especially to say things that the regime doesnt want to hear -RonPaul

wolfe's picture

How is it better than what we have now?

It is what we have now. It is the "law of the land". It is what sits as a foundation for all of it. And, no, you haven't read it if you think otherwise. Most people take a few catch phrases and ignore all of the details that actually make the thing up.

It is 100% responsible and in support of what exists today. Otherwise, as I said, it should be considered a complete failure, and either way, is not fit to exist (Spooner).

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

The People are the keepers of the...

...Constitution. If the People are corrupt or immoral, no Constitution will save them from themselves. It may just slow down the spread of corruption long enough for the People to swing back towards goodness.

wolfe's picture

And....

If the people are just and moral, then no constitution is needed.

You just proved the irrelevance of the document.

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/

Actually...

...I said it may slow the spread of corruption down. That's not irrelevant. The actual rights are natural law, which don't rely on being written down in order to exist, but a community's recognition of a common belief in these principles is facilitated by writing it down, isn't it? The laws of thermodynamics don't rely on being written in textbooks in order to exist, but having them written helps us recognize their existence in a more beneficial, systematic way.

wolfe's picture

Having them written down..

Doesn't change, speed, or slow their behavior...

The Philosophy Of Liberty -
http://www.thephilosophyofliberty.com/