A Constitutional Anniversary to Forget

 

Antonius Aquinas

We recently marked the 230th anniversary of the US Constitution. Naturally, most of its devotees enthusiastically praised the document which by now is seen on a par with Holy Writ itself. An editorial from Investor’s Business Daily provides an example of such hagiography:

The Constitution’s beauty is that it not only delineates our rights as Americans, but expressly limits and defines government’s ability to interfere in our private lives. This equipoise between citizens’ duties, responsibilities and rights makes it the defining document or our nation’s glorious freedom. But America is wonderful largely because of the Constitution and those who framed it . . .What we have is too precious to squander . . . (”Sturdy Constitution,” Investor’s Business Daily, September 18, 2017)

Most of the piece laments the widespread ignorance of its sacred contents among the denizens over which it rules and encourages the unlearned “to bone up a bit on your constitutional heritage.”

The editorial fails, as do most others on the Right, to understand that it is not a lack of knowledge of the Constitution’s contents among the populace which lies at the heart of America’s social, economic, and political problems, but the very document itself.

One of the main reasons why the Constitution continues to be so widely venerated is due to the deliberate distortion of history that its “founders” promoted and that generations of its sycophants have continued to perpetuate to this very day. The official narrative runs that the Constitution was enacted because of widespread popular support for a change to the supposed inadequacies and deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation.

This is a myth. Instead, the Constitution was a coup, deliberately schemed by the leading political and mercantile classes to set up a powerful central government where ultimate authority rested in the national state. The use of the term “federal” to describe what was created in Philadelphia in those fateful days was a ruse much like the banksters and politicos used “Federal Reserve” to describe the central bank created in 1913. That was neither “federal”” –- a decentralized monetary order — nor a “reserve” of gold, but a monetary institution which could create money out of thin air and eventually eliminate the gold standard.

It was a similar political maneuver 230 years ago as a new American national state was established and touted as a decentralized form of government where power was evenly divided between state and national levels and between the different branches of the government itself –- the supposed “separation of powers.” In actuality, however, the “federal system” was the elevation of central power at the expense of local authority which had previously existed. Section VI of the Constitution says it all:

The Constitution and the laws of the United States . . . shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Elementary political science has shown, and plain common sense knows, that any person or institution given “supreme authority” will misuse and abuse such power. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is an undeniable dictum of human nature. A truly decentralized system of governance would not contain a plank defined as “supreme law of the land” as part of its foundation. Instead, real federalism would be dispersed, as it existed in the past in such political arrangements as confederacies, leagues, and, certainly, under the much maligned feudal social order.

Even the Constitution’s celebrated Bill of Rights is flawed and has proven to be ineffective in protecting basic human freedoms. It is the federal government which enumerates and interprets what “freedom” individuals should possess. Thus, the meaning and extent of individual liberties will be in the hands of federal jurists and courts who will invariably rule on cases in favor of the state. The ensnaring of individual rights within the central government’s authority did away with the venerable common law, which was a far greater defender of liberty than federal courts.

Just as important, the enactment of the Constitution, which brought all the individual states under its suzerainty, did away with one of the most significant checks on state power — “voting with one’s feet.” When there are multiple governing authorities, if one jurisdiction becomes too oppressive, its subjects can move to freer domains. This still happens on a local level as high tax and over regulatory states such as California and New York have lost demographically to freer places like Nevada and Texas. Yet, from the Federal Leviathan there is no escape, except expatriation.

Unless and until Americans and all the other peoples of the Western world who live under constitutional rule recognize that it is the type of government which is the cause of most of the political turmoil, social unrest, and economic malaise which they face, there is no hope of turning things around.

Originally published at Antonius Aquinas

2 comments

  • Good article. Of course the centralization is an ongoing process and the most important event in the process was Union victory in the War between the States. Once it was established by force of arms that a state could not opt out, there was no real check on federal power. As Joe Sobran used to say in droll reply to those who wished to return to the Constituion, “The Constitution is no defense against our form of government.”

    Kirt Higdon

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  • Whether the people of the United States would have been better off had the Constitution never been adopted is unknowable. It is quite conceivable that, had a strong national government not been created, the country would eventually have fallen apart and succumbed to internecine strife and foreign domination.

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