A (Pesky) Constitution
By Monica Frede
It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers….
- Calvin Coolidge, “The Inspiration of the Declaration”
This week, the President warned the justices, which he called an “unelected group of people,” not to take the “unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” His Affordable Care Act, and the Solicitor General charged with defending the 2,700-page law, have received less than amiable critiques of its contents. The justices sought clarity, at one point questioning whether the government could create commerce in order to regulate it.
But Mr. Obama believes that the legislative branch, the proud authors of the law, received majority support from Americans. After all, who doesn’t want health insurance? That in itself is reason to implement the law. (Just think where this trail of logic could lead.) Let’s say the healthcare law did receive majority support—which clearly it has not— but regardless, if it did, would this be archetypal and consistent with the legislative’s characteristics?
Hardly. Our government has a long record of creating programs and enforcing laws on its citizens that those same citizens never voted for. Little by little, election by election, the legislature has intentionally tightened its grip on liberty’s throat in an effort to eventually see it collapse to the ground, lifeless and suffocated.
Exaggeration? Consider that 40,000 new laws went into effect January 1, 2012, and as MSNBC reports, the laws range from “getting abortions in New Hampshire, learning about gays and lesbians in California, getting jobs in Alabama and even driving golf carts in Georgia.” California enacted many laws on January 1, including the California Booster Seat law, which outlaws parents, guardians or drivers from transporting any child under 8 years old without securing that child in an appropriate child restraint meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards. They also established the California Gay History Law, which mandates that school textbooks and social studies include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender accomplishments.
With 40,000 new laws implemented—equal to 109 laws each and every day this year—I would like to know how the American people keep track. How is it possible to remain aware and conversant of what our government is doing?
Progressives support the recent advancements of government authority and oversight. They believe history tells of an oppressive, abusive and backwards society. They are fighting for something different— the Occupy movement, the labor movement, Code Pink, and their cohorts. There is a reason the Declaration of Independence is only 1,337 words in length and the Constitution is only 4,543 words: government was not created to regulate a man’s life. The government of the United States was created to be transparent—allow the individual to look through its guiding principles that affirms liberty, and in turn, supplies innovation.
But the President has established a limit on the government. He does not want the judicial branch of government untethered, like a child let loose inside an art museum with finger paints. No, he needs the Supreme Court wearing a monkey backpack, clipped around its waist, and a leash extending from the monkey tail straight to Obama’s wrist. Given the negative commentary presented by the justices during the Healthcare hearings, he has reason to be concerned. The high court may do what its long history has often done—check and balance.
But he was a Constitutional law professor, so maybe his recent comments about the high court are a matter of semantics: the democratically elected Congress that represents the will of the majority.
In January, Mr. Obama bypassed the confirmation process for several appointees of federal positions, ignoring the Senate’s role to provide advice and consent on presidential appointments. Obama made four recess appointments, even though the Senate was not on recess, while Senate Republicans used filibusters to try and block nearly 200 other agency nominations proposed by Obama.
More recently, Obama’s administration mandated that health insurance include coverage for contraceptives which applies to religious institutions, such as Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies. Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said the mandate would guarantee women access to contraceptives “while accommodating religious liberty interests.” But for Obama, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church (and all those religious Americans).
And then we have the budget. That pesky balance sheet that asks the federal government to track the money coming in and the money going out. Obama and the Senate Democrats have passed the 1,000-day mark without passing a budget. Last week Obama’s own $3.6 trillion budget proposal was shot down without one vote in favor—clearly a case of the right hand knowing what the left is doing (with all of us somewhere in the middle).
Clearly the President is not concerned with what the strong majority wants; but he is very interested in what he believes the strong majority wants. Since he was elected, he appoints his staff and he criticizes the role of the Supreme Court, he knows best. But a philosopher who influenced our Founding Fathers, Algernon Sidney, recognized what grave mistake awaits people who place their trust in elected officials:
“..And as ’tis folly to suppose that princes will always be wise, just and good, when we know that few have been able alone to bear the weight of a government, or to resist the temptations to ill, that accompany an unlimited power, it would be madness to presume they will for the future be free from infirmities and vices….”
- Algernon Sidney, “Discourses Concerning Government”
We can’t expect those who we elect to make the right decisions. We can’t expect that they will not become drunk with power and abuse their authority. And we are not supposed to. Which again is why the Constitution is only 4,543 words long. It was not written in order to describe the can’s and cannot’s of a man’s life; the length of the Constitution is a symbolic representation of the way our society should operate: less government is more— more liberty, more creativity, and more opportunities.
Aristotle, another influencer of our Founding Fathers, wrote,
“For the beginning seems to be more than half of the whole, and many of the things that are inquired after become illuminated along with it”
Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution represent more than half of our whole— our past, our present, and as we return to its original meaning, a future illuminated.
Today we can witness the results of a government that operates by the consent of the governed. No other government in the world’s history has a greater influence on the advancement of civilization than what began in 1776. The fact that America’s charitable giving is the third largest economy in the world is proof enough that the establishment of our Constitutional Republic allows the most prosperity and charity, the most innovation and economic stability, and the most justice and protection. The American experiment worked. Those who say otherwise only want to ignore what has been done and replace it with another system— the one of Obama’s dreams.
No oppressed people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters. (Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on the Constitution and the Union)