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The Right’s Made-up ‘Constitution’
July 6, 2013 at 10:27 PM

The Right’s Made-up ‘Constitution’

July 6, 2013

For Tea Partiers and libertarians, it is an article of faith that the Constitution tightly constrained the federal government and gave broad powers to the states. But that is bogus history — mere propaganda — and suggests that the Right’s rank-and-file has never read or understood the document, says historian Jada Thacker.

By Jada Thacker

The Cato Institute’s Handbook for Policy Makers says, “The American system was established to provide limited government.” The American Enterprise Institute states its purpose to “defend the principles” of “limited government.” The Heritage Foundation claims its mission is to promote “principles of … limited government.” A multitude of Tea Party associations follow suit.

At first glance the concept of “limited government” seems like a no-brainer. Everybody believes the power of government should be limited somehow. All those who think totalitarianism is a good idea raise your hand. But there is one problem with the ultra-conservatives’ “limited government” program: it is wrong. It is not just a little bit wrong, but demonstrably false.

Gouverneur Morris as painted by Edward Dalton Marchant.

The Constitution was never intended to “provide limited government,” and furthermore it did not do so. The U.S. government possessed the same constitutional power at the moment of its inception as it did yesterday afternoon.

This is not a matter of opinion, but of literacy. If we want to discover the truth about the scope of power granted to federal government by the Constitution, all we have to do is read what it says.

The Constitution’s grant of essentially unlimited power springs forth in its opening phrases: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As might be expected in a preamble to a founding document, especially one written under supervision of arch-aristocrat Gouverneur Morris, the terms are sweeping and rather grandiose. But the point is crystal clear: “to form a more perfect Union.” If the object of the Constitution were to establish “limited government,” its own Preamble must be considered a misstatement.

Enumerated Powers

Article I establishes Congress, and Section 8 enumerates its powers. The first clause of Article I, Section 8 repeats the sweeping rhetoric of the Preamble verbatim. While it provides for a measure of uniformity, it does not so much as hint at a limit on the federal government’s power to legislate as it sees fit:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States…”

No attempt is made here, or at any other place in the Constitution, to define “general Welfare.” This oversight (if that is what it was) is crucial. The ambiguous nature of the phrase “provide for the…general Welfare” leaves it open to widely divergent interpretations.

Making matters worse for federal government power-deniers is the wording of the last clause of Article I, the so-called “Elastic Clause”: Congress shall have power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Thus the type, breadth and scope of federal legislation became unchained. When viewed in light of the ambiguous authorization of the Article’s first clause, the importance of the “necessary and proper” clause truly is astonishing. Taken together, these clauses – restated in the vernacular – flatly announce that “Congress can make any law it feels is necessary to provide for whatever it considers the general welfare of the country.”

Lately there has been an embarrassingly naïve call from the Tea Party to require Congress to specify in each of its bills the Constitutional authority upon which the bill is grounded. Nothing could be easier: the first and last clauses of Article I, Section 8 gives Congress black-and-white authority to make any law it so desires. Nor was this authority lost on the Founders.

“Limited government” advocates are fond of cherry-picking quotes from The Federalist Papers to lend their argument credibility, but an adverse collection of essays called the Anti-federalist Papers unsurprisingly never gets a glance. Here is a sample from New Yorker Robert Yates, a would-be founder who walked out of the Philadelphia convention in protest, written a month after the Constitution had been completed:

“This government is to possess absolute and uncontrollable power, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends. … The government then, so far as it extends, is a complete one. … It has the authority to make laws which will affect the lives, the liberty, and the property of every man in the United States; nor can the constitution or the laws of any state, in any way prevent or impede the full and complete execution of every power given.”

Yates, it must be emphasized, took pains to identify the “necessary and proper” clause as the root of the “absolute power” inherent in the Constitution well over a year before ratification.

The Tenth Amendment

A particular darling of secession-prone, far-Right Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Tenth Amendment is often claimed as the silver-bullet antidote for the powers unleashed by the “general welfare” and “elastic clauses.” Here is the text of the Amendment in its entirety: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Superficially, the Tenth seems to mean “since certain powers are not delegated to the federal government, then those powers are reserved to the states or the people.” This would seem to be good news for champions of limited government. But this is not the case.

The Tenth does not say that important powers remain to be delegated to the United States. It merely says that powers “not [yet] delegated” are “reserved” to the states or the people. This sounds like a terrific idea – until we realize, of course, that all the important powers had already been delegated in 1787, four years before the Tenth Amendment was ratified.

As we have seen, the first and last clauses of Article I, Section 8 made the Tenth Amendment a lame-duck measure even as James Madison composed its words in 1791 – and so it remains today. The sweeping powers “to make all laws necessary and proper” in order to “provide for the general welfare,” had already been bestowed upon Congress. The Johnny-come-lately Tenth Amendment closed the constitutional pasture gate after the horses had been let out.

This apparently has never occurred to the likes of Gov. Rick Perry and his far-Right cohorts who believe a state may reclaim power by withdrawing its consent, in effect repossessing their previously delegated power through state legislation. Superficially, the logic of this position seems sound: if the states had the legal authority to delegate power, then they may use the same authority to “un-delegate” it by law.

But a close re-reading of the Tenth’s wording nixes such reasoning. Oddly, the Tenth Amendment does not say thestates delegated their powers to the federal government – although it may be argued that it probably ought to have said so. It says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the States. …”

Thus, according to the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution itself delegated the power to the federal government. States, in other words, now have no standing to “reserve-back” what they had never “delegated-away” in the first place.

Had it been possible to “un-delegate” the powers of the United States by invoking the Tenth, the Old South would have simply done so and spared itself the bother of secession – not to mention the bother of being annihilated by a series of subsequent Northern invasions. The fact that the South did not even attempt such a strategy attests to the toothlessness of the Tenth Amendment.

No other instance in law would be a better example that we should choose our votes carefully. For in ratifying the Bill of Rights, which included the Tenth Amendment, the American people endorsed the legal fiction that the Constitution – not the original 13 states, or “We the People” – authorized the power of the United States because the Constitution itself said so. If the Constitution has an Orwellian twist, this is it – no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.

The states and the people may amend the Constitution. But they may not do so by nullification (according to the logic inherent in the wording of the Tenth Amendment), or by the judgment of state courts (according to the “supremacy clause” of Article VI), nor may any Amendment be made without the participation of the federal government, itself (according to Article V.) If the Founders had meant to
ensure “limited government,” there is no trace of such intent here.

Paucity of Rights

If the Constitution were intended to provide “limited government,” we might expect it to be chock full of guarantees of individual rights. This is what Tea Partiers may fantasize – but this is not really true. In fact, the Constitution is amazingly stingy in reference to “rights.”

–The word “right” is mentioned only once in the Constitution as ratified. (Art. I, Sec. 8 allows Congress to award copyrights/patents to ensure their holders “… Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”)

–The word “right” – somewhat counter-intuitively – appears only six times in the ten Amendments called the “Bill of Rights.”

Almost a century later, the first of seven other rights were added under pressure from Progressive activists – almost all of which were intended to create and extend democratic participation in self-government.

–Amendment XIV (sanctions against states denying suffrage); XV (universal male suffrage); XIX (women’s suffrage); XXIV (denial of poll tax); and XXVI (18 year-old suffrage); and twice in Amendment XX, which gives Congress the “right of choice” in presidential succession.

–In grand total, the word “right” appears only 14 times in the entire Constitution, as it exists today (including the two rights conferred to government).

Did we all notice that the “Constitution of the Founders” did not include the “right” for anybody at all to vote? Notable, too, is the absence of language implying that any “rights” are “unalienable” or “natural” or “endowed by their Creator.” All such phraseology belongs to the Declaration of Independence, which – apparently unbeknownst to Tea Partiers everywhere – bears no force of law.

The word “power,” by the way, occurs 43 times in the Constitution, each time referring exclusively to the prerogative of government, not right-wingers. Since “individual” rights are mentioned only 12 times, this yields a ratio of about 4:1 in favor of government power over individual rights. Without the efforts of those pesky, democracy-mongering Progressives, who fought for universal voting rights, the ratio would be more than 6:1 today – or 50 percent higher.

This statistical factoid is not as trivial as it may appear. Expressed in practical terms, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin or Clarence Thomas would almost certainly never have achieved public office had they lived under the “limited government” designed by the Founders they so revere.

The Bill of Rights

So what exactly are our non-patent/copyright “rights,” under so-called “limited government?”

–Amendment I – the right of people “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances”

–Amendment II – the right “to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”

–Amendment IV – the right “to be secure…against unreasonable searches or seizures”

–Amendment VI – the right “to a speedy and public trial”

–Amendment VII – the right “of a trial by jury”

–Amendment IX – enumeration “of certain rights” shall not deny “others retained by the people”

That’s it. What happened to the famous rights of free speech, religion or press? The way the First Amendment is worded does not enumerate these as positive rights that people possess, but rather as activities the government may not infringe upon. If Bill of Rights author James Madison had meant to stipulate them as positive “rights” all he had to do was write it that way, but he did not.

Bear in mind Madison (then a federalist) wrote the Bill of Rights under political duress. Since anti-federalists (recall the skepticism of Robert Yates) flatly refused to ratify the Constitution unless it guaranteed something, Madison had to write something. In effect, the amendments were the pig the anti-federalists had bought in the poke, three years after ratification had paid for it.

Madison, at the time of writing, had little incentive to take pains with what he wrote because federalists did not believe a Bill of Rights was necessary, or even good idea (with Alexander Hamilton arguing a Bill of Rights would be “dangerous.”) This may account for the fact that some of what Madison wrote seems vague, or even ambiguous, as in the case of Amendment II.

Amendment IX, for example, actually makes little sense, which may account for the fact nobody ever seems to mention it: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

This sounds “righteous” enough, until we recall the Constitution to which this Amendment pertains had “enumerated” only a single right in the first place! Even if Amendment IX applies to the Bill of Rights (to include itself), then all it says is “the people may have more rights than the half dozen mentioned so far, but we’re not going to tell you what they are.” (So if Amendment X is Orwellian, Amendment IX verges on Catch-22.)

Of course the idea was to calm suspicions that people would possess only the half-dozen rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights (plus patents!) and no others. Even so, Amendment IX did not guarantee any un-enumerated rights; it just did not peremptorily “deny or disparage” any.

And what sense should we make of the crucial Amendment V – one of the four Bills of Rights not actually containing the word “right” at all?

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or propertywithout due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” [Emphasis supplied]

Thus, life, liberty and property are not expressly granted status as fundamental “rights,” but only as personal possessions that may be deprived or taken according to “due process.” The crucial implication is that Amendment V exists in order to stipulate how the government may deny an individual claim to life, liberty or property. With due process, you life, liberty and property may be toast. That is what it plainly says.

It is interesting, too, that the Bill of Rights does not speak to the origin of rights, but only to their existence. Moreover, the Constitution never speaks of granting rights, but only protecting them. There is a good reason for this: excepting the Progressive suffrage Amendments, none of the guaranteed rights were American inventions, but had for centuries been considered the rights of the English nobility.

For those who want to believe in “American Exceptionalism” as the basis of “limited government,” this is not encouraging news. Moreover, the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, hardly includes any “right” that had not already been recognized at one time or another by medieval English monarchs or in ancient Rome and Greece.

Property Rights and ‘Republic’

The strict libertarians among us claim the sole legitimate power of government is that which is necessary to protect private property rights. On this score, however, the “limited government” of the Founders is practically mute. Except for the aforementioned Article I, Section 8 provision for patents and copyrights, private “property” is only mentioned twice in the Constitution, both times in a single sentence of the “right”-less Amendment V quoted above:

“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” [Emphasis supplied]

Once again, Amendment V fails to guarantee personal immunity from the power of the state, but rather details the way state power may be used to dispossess individuals of their property. And we must bear in mind these words were not penned by Marxists, socialists, or Progressives.

Whether by design or happenstance, the original “Constitution of the Founders,” or the Bill of Rights, or even the Constitution with all its Amendments does not grant any irrevocable “right of possession” to property. Even the Second Amendment’s “right to keep” arms, is subject to the terms by which property may be taken under terms of Amendment V, and it always has been.

Tellingly, the word “democracy” does not appear in the Constitution. This intentional oversight is often smugly celebrated by anti-democrats among us, who insist that the United States of America was founded as a “republic.” No doubt this is true, given that the Constitution was written by an exclusive, hand-picked cadre of oligarchs, whose number did not include a single woman, person of color, or wage-earner.

Unfortunately for the pro-republic “limited government” crowd, the Constitution does not contain the word “republic” either. The word does appear as an adjective, but only once, (Article IV, Section 4): “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them from Invasion…”

Typically for the Constitution, which defines few of its terms, the word “Republican” also remains unexplained. The ambiguity of the term turned out to be handy, however, as Radical Republicans continuously and egregiously violated Article IV, Sec. 4 from 1865-1877 as they enforced blatantly unconstitutional military occupation of former Confederate states during the gross misnomer of “Reconstruction.”

It should be obvious that the “Constitution of our Founders,” including the Bill of Rights, may not protect as many rights as many wish to believe. Moreover, we have already noted the Constitution dropped all revolutionary talk of “unalienable” rights and “Creator endowed” liberty. This was not an oversight.

The revolutionary bit about “consent of the governed” posed an especially delicate problem for the Founders. Almost all owned slaves or were masters of property-less tenants or domestic servants, including their wives – none of whom could offer their legal consent even if they wished to do so. Thus the Founders shrewdly considered it unnecessary to include any voting rights in the new republic they planned to rule, uncontested by the disenfranchised lower castes.

Did this result in the land of the free, with liberty and justice for all? Let’s see.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Americans were sentenced to death for protesting unfair taxes; journalists and citizens imprisoned for criticizing government officials; citizens’ property seized illegally; workers murdered by government agents; thousands jailed without the “privilege” of habeas corpus; entire states deprived of civilian courts; untold numbers of American Indians defrauded of  liberty and property; debt-peonage and debtors’ prisons flourished, as did slavery and child labor; and the majority of the public was denied the vote.

All this was considered constitutional by the Founders. None of these outrages, please note, was the result of “progressivism,” which had yet to be articulated, and all were common prior to the New Deal and the advent of so-called Big Government. Was this the face of “limited government?”

No, it was not. The concept of a democratically “limited government” was not for a moment entertained by our Founders, nor is it by those who idolize them today. With few exceptions, the Founders were Eighteenth Century patricians who took a revolutionary gamble meant chiefly to perpetuate their privileges, free from English colonial overlord-ship. It should come as no surprise these elitists drafted a Constitution that posed no threat to aristocracy.

‘Limited Government’ as Act of Faith

The original Constitution of the United States of America was just so much ink on paper. The Constitution, as it stands today, is just a lot more ink on paper.

But the Constitution’s ink is important and deserves respect because it represents nothing less than the collective civic conscience of the American people. A great many Americans have dedicated their lives in trust to that conscience – on battlefields, in classrooms, in everyday civic life, and even a few in the halls of power.

It is evident that most of the Amendments to the original Constitution – as well as the Supreme Court’s decisions interpreting its scope and purpose – were made because the document had over the course of time been found wanting by the American people, whose common interests it was not originally intended to serve. As the collective civic conscience of the people changed, so too did their interpretation of self-government.

But the entire concept of social evolution (much less biological evolution) is something the ultra-Conservative rank-and-file likely does not comprehend and it is not something their leaders encourage them to consider. The reason for this may have less to do with politics than with fundamentalist faith.

An anecdote in point: the editor-in-chief at Random House once asked the extremist libertarian Ayn Rand if she would consider revising a passage in one of her manuscripts. She reportedly replied, “Would you consider revising the Bible?”

Ergo, that which is sacrosanct neither requires nor will tolerate change – to include the fantasized “limited government” of the immortalized “Founding Fathers.” The fact that Rand was a noted atheist only underscores the point that fundamentalist faith is not restricted to any particular brand of fanaticism.

Yet the Constitution’s conception was anything but immaculate. It was not carted down from the Mount in tablets of stone, nor is it the product of some mysterious Natural Law interpretable only by libertarian gurus. And whether its meaning is best exemplified by the Tea Party flag depicting a talking snake (“Don’t Tread on Me”), perhaps only Eve could judge with authority.

The Constitution is not a holy book, and there is no good reason for anybody to treat it like one. The men who wrote it were not prophets, nor were they particularly virtuous, though some could turn a pretty phrase. In fact, the Constitution’s most unholy-book characteristic is its most welcomed attribute: its readers are not required to believe in its infallibility in order for it to make sense to them.

But we are required to read the Constitution if we want to know what it says. The ultra-conservatives’ obsession with a constitutionally “limited government,” which has never actually existed, suggests they do not understand the Constitution as much as they merely idolize it.

These constitutional fundamentalists – along with the American public in general – would do better to pick the document up and read it sometime, not fall on bended knee before it and expect the rest of us to follow their example.

Jada Thacker, Ed.D is a Vietnam veteran and author of Dissecting American History. He teaches U.S. History at a private institution in Texas. Contact: jadathacker@sbcglobal.net

Replies

  • Carpy
    by Carpy
    July 7, 2013 at 6:17 AM

    That was a bunch of socialist drivel.

  • idunno1234
    July 7, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    "The Cato Institute’s Handbook for Policy Makers says, “The American system was established to provide limited government.” The American Enterprise Institute states its purpose to “defend the principles” of “limited government.” The Heritage Foundation claims its mission is to promote “principles of … limited government.” A multitude of Tea Party associations follow suit."

    Since I've been on this kick and something tells me that I'm not going to be able to let it go anytime soon- Cato, AEI, Heritage Foundation and Tea Party associations are all heavily funded by the Koch brothers who don't give a shit about the constitution but want to abolish government altogether.

    I'll admit to skimming it (which I'm willing to bet is considerably more than carpy did, especially since there was nothing socialist about it)  and I started to do so reluctantly (its a bit early) but it was actually an excellent article.  It combines common sense with actual knowledge something far too many politicians are actually lacking.

     

  • mikiemom
    July 7, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Not surprised that CARPY thinks the constitution is socialist drivel

  • Billiejeens
    July 7, 2013 at 1:05 PM
    Quoting mikiemom:

    Not surprised that CARPY thinks the constitution is socialist drivel




    Leave it to the true dumb masses, to not even be able to understand Carpy, who is usually quite clear.


  • idunno1234
    July 7, 2013 at 2:33 PM

     Making silly statements like you and carpy have on here simply indicates an inability to make any sort of salient contribution.  I realize there were a lot of words to try to comprehend.....

    Tell me-  what exactly do you disagree with and why?


    Quoting Billiejeens:

    Quoting mikiemom:

    Not surprised that CARPY thinks the constitution is socialist drivel




    Leave it to the true dumb masses, to not even be able to understand Carpy, who is usually quite clear.



     

  • miss_maya
    July 7, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I'm with Carpy.  This entire article is socialist garbage.

    It would be nice if it would actually quote the real words in the constitution, but in most places, it doesn't.  It does exactly what the author accuses the "right" of doing - cherry picking and taking out of context to fit a predetermined agenda.

    Every. single. point. that this article tries to make about the Constitution has already been rebutted in great detail by SCOTUS cases, supplemental writings, and actual interpretations based on the understanding of the plain meaning of words as they were during the time it was written.

    If this article had any credibility, it would do a much better job in its "analysis" of presenting and rebutting the actual claims and support for those claims instead of strawmans it has constructed from its own bias.

    This article didn't even acknowledge the real debate about whether the bill of rights needed to be included in the Constitution, and merely glossed over the importance of the 9th Amendment in a weak attempt to dismiss its significance.

    This entire article is a perfect example of the type of shit that would come from "Minitrue."  The blatant attempts to re-write history and its meaning are astounding.

  • joyfree
    by joyfree
    Kat
    July 7, 2013 at 2:56 PM


    Quoting idunno1234:

     Making silly statements like you and carpy have on here simply indicates an inability to make any sort of salient contribution.  I realize there were a lot of words to try to comprehend.....

    Tell me-  what exactly do you disagree with and why?


    Quoting Billiejeens:

    Quoting mikiemom:

    Not surprised that CARPY thinks the constitution is socialist drivel




    Leave it to the true dumb masses, to not even be able to understand Carpy, who is usually quite clear.






  • idunno1234
    July 7, 2013 at 3:25 PM

     Just because the constitution does not refer to limited government and someone points that out does not make it a socialist document.  I looked up the author as I know nothing about him other than he's a Vietnam vet, a historian and has authored other books but I have no reason to believe that just because someone is poking holes in a major Republican talking point he's a socialist.  I found no evidence of that.  You know something different, show me and I will look at the article in a different light.

    Please be specific about which points in author makes that have been rebutted in great detail by SCOTUS cases and "actual" interpretations and please point me to those rebuttals and interpretations.  I would be very interested in seeing how the constitution specifically called for limited government, especially in the context of today's climate where the Republican party is being used as a puppet by the extreme wealthy who are interested in sliding this country into an oligarchy and therefore any Republican talking points are not to be taken seriously, but are simply parroting the agenda of a few very powerful, self-interested billionaires.

     

     

    Quoting miss_maya:

    I'm with Carpy.  This entire article is socialist garbage.

    It would be nice if it would actually quote the real words in the constitution, but in most places, it doesn't.  It does exactly what the author accuses the "right" of doing - cherry picking and taking out of context to fit a predetermined agenda.

    Every. single. point. that this article tries to make about the Constitution has already been rebutted in great detail by SCOTUS cases, supplemental writings, and actual interpretations based on the understanding of the plain meaning of words as they were during the time it was written.

    If this article had any credibility, it would do a much better job in its "analysis" of presenting and rebutting the actual claims and support for those claims instead of strawmans it has constructed from its own bias.

    This article didn't even acknowledge the real debate about whether the bill of rights needed to be included in the Constitution, and merely glossed over the importance of the 9th Amendment in a weak attempt to dismiss its significance.

    This entire article is a perfect example of the type of shit that would come from "Minitrue."  The blatant attempts to re-write history and its meaning are astounding.

     

     

  • miss_maya
    July 7, 2013 at 4:04 PM


     Just because the constitution does not refer to limited government and someone points that out does not make it a socialist document.  I looked up the author as I know nothing about him other than he's a Vietnam vet, a historian and has authored other books but I have no reason to believe that just because someone is poking holes in a major Republican talking point he's a socialist.

    What makes it a socialist article is the very idea that is trying to take on a common understanding and turn it on its head.

    The Constitution doesn't have to STATE the words "limited government" when the entire reason for its existence is to limit government.  If the founders had no intention of limiting government, what would be the purpose of drafting a document that limits its powers in the first place?  Why would the powers need to be enumerated if they are unlimited?

    When read, in whole, and interpreted, in whole, the Constitution lays out the groundwork for what a limited government means. 


    Please be specific about which points in author makes that have been rebutted in great detail by SCOTUS cases and "actual" interpretations and please point me to those rebuttals and interpretations. 

    You want me to recap 200 years of SCOTUS history and interpretations of Constitutional scholars in a single discussion board post?  Really?  All one need do is read the author's article critically to realize that he is twisting and contorting single bits and phrases and attempting to create new meaning that has never existed.  Let's start with one of his very first paragraphs, shall we?

    "The Constitution’s grant of essentially unlimited power springs forth in its opening phrases: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    As might be expected in a preamble to a founding document, especially one written under supervision of arch-aristocrat Gouverneur Morris, the terms are sweeping and rather grandiose. But the point is crystal clear: “to form a more perfect Union.” If the object of the Constitution were to establish “limited government,” its own Preamble must be considered a misstatement."

    Here, we find a clear example of how he attempts to redefine an entire sentence by just a few words, words which he gives his very own meaning to in order to do.  By this author's reasoning, "a more perfect union" is justification for anything goes?  Incredibly weak.  He completely dismisses the rest of the phrasing and the purpose behind it.  Taken by itself, anyone could make this mean whatever they want.  But that's the thing with the Constitution, and any legislative language for that matter - it has to be interpreted AS A WHOLE. 

    The author claims this opening is nothing more than grandiose, when in reality, it lists its purpose quite clearly.  When reading the preamble as a whole, we can see how the founders defined "a more perfect union" just by reading the rest of the sentence - a more perfect union is one which does only those things which follow - provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.  The rest of the document goes on to specifically list what is allowed in the name of "general welfare."  The author claims this means anything goes, but leaves out a very important detail - in the founder's time, "general welfare" did not mean the same as we tend to think it does in today's language.  "General welfare" is meant to represent an alternative to "special interests."  In this clause, the founders are telling us that the government is to only carry out acts which benefit everyone equally, it is NOT telling us that the government may do "generally anything for the welfare of some of its people."  This is evident in the rest of the Constitution which grants SPECIFIC POWERS, and only those specific powers mentioned.  If this were not true, again, what would the point of the document be?

    The entire rest of the article is more and more examples of this exact same tactic - take a few words, leave out some others, and use them to create a whole new meaning that never existed.    

    I would be very interested in seeing how the constitution specifically called for limited government, especially in the context of today's climate where the Republican party is being used as a puppet by the extreme wealthy who are interested in sliding this country into an oligarchy and therefore any Republican talking points are not to be taken seriously, but are simply parroting the agenda of a few very powerful, self-interested billionaires.

    All you have to do is read it.  "Limiting government" is not just a talking point of the right.  Yes, there are some in the right, those already in power, not the people, who wish to protect their power and maintain their positions .  Yet you fail to realize how those who wish to dismantle the Constitution have far more power to gain by doing so.  The point of limiting government is to prevent an oligarchy.  If we truly followed the Constitution, those "powerful self-interested billionaires" would be in a lot of trouble, because they would no longer have government to help them preserve their self interests by funneling the tax dollars of the people into funding their empire.

    If we truly wish to limit exploitation of the people, how will allowing a larger monopoly on power by a single entity accomplish this?  Do you not realize who is already in control of this entity you want to give more power to by attempting to re-define the Constitutuion?  Do you realize the very irony in your own argument?

    Quoting idunno1234:




    Quoting miss_maya:

    I'm with Carpy.  This entire article is socialist garbage.

    It would be nice if it would actually quote the real words in the constitution, but in most places, it doesn't.  It does exactly what the author accuses the "right" of doing - cherry picking and taking out of context to fit a predetermined agenda.

    Every. single. point. that this article tries to make about the Constitution has already been rebutted in great detail by SCOTUS cases, supplemental writings, and actual interpretations based on the understanding of the plain meaning of words as they were during the time it was written.

    If this article had any credibility, it would do a much better job in its "analysis" of presenting and rebutting the actual claims and support for those claims instead of strawmans it has constructed from its own bias.

    This article didn't even acknowledge the real debate about whether the bill of rights needed to be included in the Constitution, and merely glossed over the importance of the 9th Amendment in a weak attempt to dismiss its significance.

    This entire article is a perfect example of the type of shit that would come from "Minitrue."  The blatant attempts to re-write history and its meaning are astounding.




  • imagirlgeek
    July 7, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    This entire article is so completely bizarre to me.  Are we really supposed to believe that for over 200 years we've been interpreting the U.S. Constitution incorrectly?  And that this entire time, the Federal government has had the right to do what it wanted, when it wanted, to whomever it wanted?

    Quote:

    The Constitution’s grant of essentially unlimited power springs forth in its opening phrases: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
    This person honed in on 'in order to form a more perfect Union', and 'General Welfare' but apparently disregarded the rest of the text, and has not read any of the Federalist papers.  'In order to form a more perfect union'...as in, a united front against foreign enemies...a common military, managing disputes between the states, coining money, funding the post office, etc.  And General Welfare means that, should Congress exercise any of it's enumerated powers, it should benefit the country as a whole, not just a single group or state or special interest. 

    There was obviously concern, and Madison addressed it in Federalist 41:

    "Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

    Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare."

    It's basically saying that it's absurd to think that the words used in the opening paragraph of Article 1, Section 8 grant unlimited power to the federal government since the specific limits are laid out immediately after.  

    I will never understand why anyone would want to live under the rule of a government with no limits on the powers it has.  I try to understand...I really do, because there seem to be so many women here who would prefer that, but I just can't imagine how life could be better with less control over my choices.  Is it that you all think that the government will always respect your boundaries?     

    If we are just going to cherry pick words and phrases, I'll go with "secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves".

    lib·er·ty  [lib-er-tee]

    noun, plural lib·er·ties.

    1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.

    2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.

    3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

    4. freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint

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