The Constitution contains the rules for the operation of our government. It does not convey “constitutional rights”, it does not contain a catalog of “goodies” the government is to provide for its citizens, or a list of things the government must do for the “people”.
This fact has always been the number one complaint of President Obama and his progressive supporters. In a 2001 PBS interview, then Illinois State Senator, Barack Obama complained…
“But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” ~~ Barack Obama
Mr. Obama is precisely right in his understanding of the Constitution. The problem is that he does not agree with it and considers it his duty to govern in accordance with what he believes should have been in the Constitution instead of what is. He and his followers not only want to correct “errors” in the Constitution but perceived errors by the Supreme Court as well.
Thanks to the “committee of style” that wrote the Constitution‘s final draft, we do not have to be a lawyer in order to understand its language. The “style” committee was composed of a Clergyman, Johnson; two lawyers; Hamilton and King; and two politicians Madison and Morris. They wrote in a clear and concise style that could be easily understood by the average citizen of that day.
In fact, a legal education can be a hindrance to understanding the Constitution. The average lawyer does not understand it as well as a person with a liberal arts degree who has studied it independently. The reason for this implausible fact is in the education. The liberal arts student would approach a study of the Constitution from a point of view based on the classics, philosophy and history. The law student studies constitutional case law and approaches the Constitution from a point of view based on Supreme Court opinions and the English Common Law doctrine of stare decisis. Because of that, the legal understanding of the Constitution today is encrusted with the barnacles of two-hundred years of judicial errors. The Constitution was written for the common man.
The following is a list of some of the more important clauses in the Constitution with comments on the more controversial ones.
The Preamble to the Constitution is generally thought to have been written by Gouverneur Morris, a member of the Committee on Style. The most famous phrase in the Constitution, “We the People”, became a major subject of debate in the Virginia ratifying convention.
Patrick Henry, in a speech on June 5, 1788 used the phrase to support his claim that the Constitution created a consolidated government out of a confederacy. He saw these first three words of the Constitution as an indication of the Framer’s intent to form a pact between a central government and the people rather than a pact between a federal government and the states. The difference became a major factor in the Anti-Federalist’s opposition to ratification.
“The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing — the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England — a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland — an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government.” ~Patrick Henry to Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
After twelve years of independence, Henry saw himself as a Virginian, not just an American. He, and other Anti-Federalists, viewed the surrender of their state sovereignty to the federal government in much the same way an American today would view the surrender of our national sovereignty to the United Nations.
In the Preamble, Morris lists six reasons for the formation of a new government.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to (1) form a more perfect Union, (2) establish Justice, (3)insure domestic Tranquility, (4) provide for the common defence, (5)promote the general Welfare, and (6) secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This list is important when considering whether or not legislation by Congress does what the Constitution intended for it to do. For example, the recent health care bill passed by Congress and signed by the President, does not meet any of these goals, and is the antithesis of goals 3, 5, and 6.
Article I, Section 1: Legislative Powers
Article 1.1.1 All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
According to this clause, only Congress has the authority to make law. There is nothing ambiguous about this requirement or in the use of the word “all” to define it. In spite of the clear requirement of clause one, however, most of the laws today that infringe on America’s liberties and trend toward tyranny do not originate in Congress. Instead, they originate from the rule making “authority” of bureaucratic agencies in the Executive Branch or from court decisions in the Judicial Branch.
One of the core principles of a republic is that citizens are subject only to laws made by representatives of their own choosing. If they do not like the laws passed by their representative they can vote them out of office in the next election. The establishment of bureaucracies with the power to make laws or “rules” is a gross violation of this principle of representative government. Members of the bureaucracy are appointed by the Executive Branch and most hold their positions for life, or until they voluntarily resign. When they trample on our liberties, we have no recourse at the ballot box and there is no individual we can go to, to demand a redress of our grievances. It is this anonymity of bureaucracy that makes its use popular with Congress.
When Congress wishes to pass legislation to control a part of our lives that would be totally unacceptable to the people, they create a bureaucracy and give it a broad mandate to accomplish certain goals. The details, or laws and rules that are supposed to accomplish this goal are delegated to the “discretion of the Secretary”. The “Secretary” then delegates the task of actually writing the laws to someone or some department down the chain of command. Somewhere, some anonymous minion deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy writes the “rule” or law that is then enforced with the full power of the federal government.
This practice shields the individual Legislator from the wrath of his or her constituents, even though they may have been a major proponent of the “enabling law” that established the bureaucracy in the first place. Dismantling the maze of bureaucracies that dominates our modern government is a seemingly impossible, but nevertheless essential task that must be undertaken if we are to remain a constitutional republic and not become a socialist oligarchy.
Article I, Section 2: House of Representatives
Article 1.2.1 The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature. Article 1.2.2 No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Section 2 establishes who may be elected to the House of Representatives, how long their term of service shall be, and how they shall be chosen. The one thing all the delegates agreed on was the evils of democracy and the benefits of a republic. In the debate concerning Resolution no. 4 of the Virginia Plan, "that the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States," there was a lengthy debate on how representatives should be selected.
“Mr. Sherman opposed ‘the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people he said, immediately should have as little to do as may be about the Government. They want (lack) information and are constantly liable to be misled.”
“Mr. Gerry commented, ‘The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massachusetts, it had been fully confirmed by experience that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute.”
“Mr. Mason argued strongly for an election of the larger branch by the people. It was to be the grand depository of the democratic principle of the Government. It was, so to speak, to be our House of Commons--It ought to know & sympathize with every part of the community; and ought therefore to be taken not only from different parts of the whole republic, but also from different districts of the larger members of it, which had in several instances particularly in Virginia, different interests and views arising from difference of produce, of habits &c &c. He admitted that we had been too democratic but was afraid we should. incautiously run into the opposite extreme…” ~From notes on Philadelphia Convention by James Madison , May 31, 1787
Under the Virginia Plan resolution that the delegates were debating, members of the house would serve for three years and were prohibited from holding any office in the national government for one year after the expiration of their term. The delegates finally settled on a lower house elected by the people. In order to guard against “too much democracy”, they set the term for representatives at two years. They did not approve the recall proposal and they also did not limit the number of terms a representative might serve. It was their expectation that the people would elect representatives drawn from their own communities, who, after serving their terms would return to their former employment.
The delegates could not agree on the question of mandatory term limits, so they left that question to the states. That part of the plan served us well for the first hundred and fifty years or so. However, with the rise in power of the political parties we also experienced a rise in the number of career politicians and an extension of the time they remained in office. Fourteen members of the 112th Congress have served for more than thirty-six years. Since the beginning of our republic, ninety-four members have served for longer than 36 years, six for more than fifty years. The late Robert Byrd served an astounding fifty- seven years in the House and Senate during his career. The longevity of the members of Congress is not a testimony to their legislative skills or value to the republic, but to the effectiveness of the two major political parties in protecting the jobs of incumbents. The overwhelming majority of these perennial politicians served during the last half of the twentieth century.
There have been periodic movements to implement term limits on Congress. During the early years of the Clinton administration and Hillary Clinton’s efforts to impose universal health care on the American people, twenty-three states passed laws establishing term limits, in an attempt to break the forty-year dominance of Congress by the Democrat Party. Term limits was one of the planks in the Republican Party’s “Contract With America” during the 1994 election cycle. On May 22, 1995, the Supreme Court, in “U.S. Term Limits Inc. v Thornton”, handed down a decision declaring term limit legislation by the states unconstitutional, leaving a constitutional amendment as the only way to limit incumbency. The decision was on a five to four vote, as so many of the progressive issues are. Justice Stevens was the swing vote.
At the end of his 61-page majority opinion, Stevens acknowledged that "rotation" in office "may provide for the infusion of fresh ideas and new perspectives, and may decrease the likelihood that representatives will lose touch with their constituents." But Stevens said the merits of that debate could only be left to the people and the amendment process. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the minority, wrote in his eighty-eight page dissent, "It is ironic that the court bases today's decision on the right of the people to choose whom they please to govern them, invalidates a provision that won nearly 60 percent of the votes cast in a direct election and that carried every congressional district in the state… "Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each state of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements. . .," Thomas wrote, "The Constitution is simply silent on this question." His reference is to an amendment to the Arkansas State Constitution that was the basis for U.S. Term Limits Inc. v Thornton.
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Philosophy of Evil Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is between government and the governed."