The Constitution Myth

One reason for the failure of the modern conservative and libertarian movements to scale back, in even a miniscule way, the now gargantuan US welfare/warfare state has been the misinterpretation of the US Constitution.  Many conservatives have a slavish devotion to the document, placing it on a par with the Ten Commandments and New Testament.

A typical misunderstanding of the Constitution’s history and content appeared in this recent op-ed:



The Constitution was intended to limit 1) the power


of government over the citizenry 2) the power of each branch of


government and 3) the power of political/financial elites over the


government and the citizenry, as the Founders recognized the intrinsic risks


of an all-powerful state, an all-powerful state dominated by one branch of


government and the risks of a financial elite corrupting the state to serve


the interests above those of the citizenry.*

The author, like so many “Constitution enthusiasts” has also been hostile to the Medieval era, denigrating its institutions and social constructs – feudalism, aristocracy, crusading – when, in fact, the Middle Ages, in many respects, were far freer with less government than the present epoch. **

When the founding fathers decided to meet in Philadelphia in 1787, they did so at first to “amend” the Articles of Confederation which had guided the young country through some perilous times.  While the Articles had some defects (some libertarians even contend that they were too statist***), the delegates, at first, did not want it scrapped, however, it was the “leading lights” of the convention which connived to completely do away with it.

By superior political maneuvering, the pro-Constitution forces were able to ramrod their plan through despite being in the minority.  Not only were the majority of the delegates initially against scrapping the Articles, but most Americans were opposed to the creation of a new central government. 

Despite this, the Constitution was ruthlessly pushed through and, as its opponents feared, America would be saddled with a highly centralized national government, the loss of considerable state sovereignty, and the eventual erosion of individual liberties even with the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

A brief examination of the document reveals that its implicit and explicit language grants wide latitude for the expansion of state power.  In its Preamble, the ambiguous clause to “promote the general welfare” can and has led to all sorts of destructive social engineering schemes.  More ominously, for anyone that is under the illusion that America is governed by a “federal” system, they should reread Article VI which in part says

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United his Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land. [emphasis added]

An all-powerful central state went against much of Western history after the fall of the Roman Empire and the idea was always feared by philosophers.  Basic political theory and practical experience showed that a multitude of sovereign states were preferable not only for the protection of personal liberty, but for economic growth.  Numerous states and jurisdictions were a far greater check on government than the much celebrated “separation of powers” concept of constitutional government.

Under the Articles of Confederation, each individual state was autonomous while the national government had to rely on the states for most of its support.  Unfortunately, it will never be known what would have happened if the country remained as a confederacy of states, it is likely however, that there would have been less bloodshed, greater economic growth, and more personal freedom under a decentralized regime.

It is curious, therefore, why so many on the Right continue to revere the Constitution as some great bulwark against state power.  Much of it probably stems from ignorance or personal bias against the political conditions which existed prior to the late 18th century. 

Much of European history was under the sway of monarchial and aristocratic rule and the integral presence of the Catholic Church in society with a diffusion of power among kings, princes, dukes and Churchmen.  While far from perfect, the social order which existed under Christendom may not have been as materially or technologically advanced as contemporary times, but in regard to morality, justice, and individual freedom, there is no comparison.  The Christian age saw nothing of the social depravity, war making with its mass murder, the trampling of individual rights, and the existence of totalitarian government as witnessed in the supposedly “enlightened” modern age.

Decentralized Europe of 1300

Until it is realized that the Constitution is an impediment to rolling back the American Leviathan, there will be little progress in the fight for individual liberty and economic progress.

   

*Charles Hugh Smith, “Let’s Face It: The U.S. Constitution Has Failed.”  Zero Hedge.  20 February 2019. 

**One example, Charles Hugh Smith, “America’s ‘Neo-Feudal’ System is ‘Both False & Precarious.”  Zero Hedge 19 December 2018.

***David Gordon, ed., Strictly Confidential: The Private Volker Fund Memos of Murray N. Rothbard, Auburn, AL.: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2015, pp. 96-98.

Antonius Aquinas@antoniusaquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

[emphasis added]

21 thoughts on “The Constitution Myth

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  16. Free Speech Message Board

    The US is an immoral bankrupt warmongering police state.

    Those who warned about black helicopters and jack-booted thugs twenty years ago were called nutjobs.

    Ten or fifteen years ago, patriotic and thinking Americans really started to worry about the direction of the USA.

    Today most Americans know something is wrong, but they either don’t know what or don’t care.

    The few Americans who are awake are increasingly becoming more pessimistic as the US obviously declines. The situation in USA looks hopeless.

    Everyday the elites make more laws, the debt rises, wars are conducted, and Americans become more immoral.

    Courts won’t rule against unconstitutional laws, politicians don’t repeal laws, the Gestapo has become more brazen, no one cares about government spending, wars are not being ended, and Americans are not flocking to churches and embracing morality.

    Trump is either part of the establishment, naive, or being drugged or threatened to build the police state, increase the debt, and keep the wars going.

    Some say the USA could last another 100 years, but that outlook seems unlikely.

    Concerned Americans who once didn’t take the US collapse seriously are wondering what to do.

    Buying guns, gold, and food is good advice, but something more must be done other than just waiting for the US Ponzi economy to implode, riots to happen, Civil War 2.0 to break out, the concentration camps to open, and WWIII to start.

    Having a few thousand prepared Americans won’t do much good against the evil ruling class when they launch their final solution against the 99%.

    The US needs millions of Americans to get out into the streets with pitchforks and torches now. Windows will need to be broken, people are going to be arrested, and people are going to die.

    Americans must start making sacrifices today to wake people up, prepare, protest, and resist.

    Americans need to talk to everyone to get the word out. Americans need to spend some money to start websites, print up flyers, and rent billboards.

    If Americans remain quiet then there is nothing to stop the ruling powers from sending the 99% off to the gulags.

    This is no joke.

    Anyone who has eyes and studied a little bit of history can tell you what’s going to happen.

    Reply
  17. Robert Graf

    You might want to check out Gary North’s free 300 page ebook on the convention in Philadelphia. He’s a conservative, with a Ph.D. in American Colonial History, but I think he was a bit lenient on the attendees. They overthrew the existing government, in order to avoid repaying the King of France, and transferred the debt to the citizens. He doesn’t draw that conclusion, but it seems pretty apparent to me.
    http://www.garynorth.com/philadelphia.pdf

    Reply
  18. Paul

    So you don’t like the Bill of Rights the basis for the Constitution, well what about the Magna Charta? I suppose a belief in God has to be held suspect too and that Men provide rights to other men. What a bunch of Bull!

    Reply
  19. tz

    No rulebook can itself prevent cheating, only identify it.

    No contract can override the evil and corruption of men.

    “Unfortunately, it will never be known what would have happened if the country remained as a confederacy of states, it is likely however, that there would have been less bloodshed, greater economic growth, and more personal freedom under a decentralized regime”.
    Or there would have been different competition between the slave and free states, Britian could pick off Maine and others one by one. 13 Tyrannies are better than one? Some might have allied with the French in the wars of Europe. How to handle new colonies?
    The constittuion was not rammed through, it was passed by 12 of the 13 colonies without coercion, but with a large number of concerns, some addressed with the Bill of Rights.

    I’m really tired of the alternate “Polyanna and Pangloss” timelines.

    Meanwhile we have dismantled (17, 19th amendment), and subverted it (Judicial activism).

    I will say the Constitution was imperfect but it was the best the brightest of that era could do and we aren’t’ even standing on their shoulders, but whining and biting at their ankles.

    The articles were 13 collections of men. The Constitution, even when honor in the breach, is a rule of law. It needed and needs more power to the states and people – official methods for secession and nullification. That we don’t even attempt it (except the left with sanctuary cities) simply shows our cowardice and weakness, not any error in the Constitution.

    It is also simpler than the Bible, but consider that Catholics say they are the most biblical Christians, while each fragment of Protestantism disagrees, and says, no, we are. And we believe God, not man, wrote or inspired it. Does that mean the Bible is bad?

    Reply
  20. Goatroper

    You said:
    “The Christian age saw nothing of the social depravity, war making with its mass murder, the trampling of individual rights, and the existence of totalitarian government as witnessed in the supposedly “enlightened” modern age.”
    Hogwash.
    Unfortunately, the Albigensians (aka Cathars) and their supporters and — all too often — acquaintances did not survive to refute.

    Goatroper

    Reply

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