Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How Do You Know Your US Constitution?

How do you know when someone knows nothing about the US Constitution or our Constitutional Republic?

They use these phrases and arguments:

“It is a living document”: The US Constitution is about as living as the rules of poker. Rules of poker? Professor Walter E Williams of George Mason University explains so eloquently why the “living document” argument doesn’t work. He asks the question: “would you play a high stakes poker game ($10,000 ante) with me if at any time during the game I could change or interpret the rules? Say I had a pair of 2’s and you had a royal flush, if the rules were living I could change them to say 2 – 2’s beats a royal flush now.” You see, the US Constitution are the rules of the game and cannot be changed. If you want to change the rules you have to go through a process. That’s called the amendment process. It is not easy to do which is exactly what the founders intended. The mob mentality based on high emotion can create an environment to make changes that in the future could be misused. The amendment process takes time and effort which dissipates the emotion over time and allows for critical thinking and debate on any issue. Brilliant!

They reference the “Supremacy Clause”: And these people believe anything the federal government does trump the states and people. If the supremacy clause was intended to trump every state law it would render the tenth amendment meaningless. If the federal government laws were intended to be supreme, why would the founders have argued endlessly on how the constitution is a limitation on the federal government? The supremacy clause is simply the tie breaker when there are two conflicting laws on an issue constitutionally granted to the federal government. If the state has a law on immigration and the federal government has a law on immigration the federal law is supreme because it is a responsibility held at the federal government. This was really important at the founding because the states were independent and had addressed many federal issues already in their constitutions. There was bound to be conflicts. This was a way to address these conflicts. Diplomacy and treaties was expressly mentioned in the constitution. Trade was one of the main reasons for this and the commerce clause.

They reference the “separation of church and state”: There is no mention in the constitution of a “separation of church and state.” People that don’t know the constitution often reference this. To have some fun ask them the next time you hear it to tell you where it says that? Don’t let them get away with “the first amendment.”  Ask them to reference the sentence in the document? The first amendment specifically prohibits the congress from making any law to establish a religion or keep people from practicing theirs. Remember they came from England where they had a state church and our pilgrims came to this land to practice their religion. This foundation of people was determined to make sure religion was not forced or kept from them. The separation of church and state came from a letter written by Jefferson. The founders talked about how our form of government needed a moral and God fearing people to succeed.

They reference the term “General Welfare”: In the pre-amble it has no legislative power and only a descriptor of intent. In the section of the Constitution where it resides it is talking about the taxing powers of the federal government in context with its enumerated powers. Madison and Jefferson were clear in their letters that this power was tied closely to the activities enumerated and not a separate or general power to spend on anything the federal government wanted. It would negate all other enumerated powers. These guys were way too smart to want that.  

They reference only the “Militia” in the second amendment: The second amendment was always intended and argued to be the best way to maintain the freedom and liberty over tyranny. The “Militia” was a local group of citizens that would be a defense against both foreign and domestic enemies. The amendment specifically points out a right of the people to bear arms. The amendment shows the concern of tyranny against both the state and the individual and makes sense since most states and individuals were extremely distrustful of any central authority. There was an understanding of a right to self-defense in our country prior to independence as well as after. Any reading on the subject and a casual look at our recent history shows the absolute understanding of the need and right to self-defense. The Wild West comes to mind.

They reference the “age” of the document: “How can a document written 237 years ago be relevant today?” This is probably the most ignorant statement of all. The document is based on the history of human civilization and behavior which doesn’t change. The founders were students of history and politics and used their understanding to protect against the bad habits of groups of men governing over men. Free speech is free speech no matter what the medium; print, pamphlet, or iPhone. Same goes for the right to privacy.

They reference Slavery: “The founders were slave owners.” Any study of the Constitution quickly brings to light the conflict of the “all men are created equal” and slavery. The founders struggled with the contradiction but if we look at the context of the world at the time; slavery was a common practice. It was repulsive but also an intricate part of the economics of both the South and the world. A fair look back will help most conclude that the US Constitution set in motion the debate of the legitimacy of slavery throughout the world. Slavery was ended and conflicted with all the beliefs we hold to be self-evident.

They reference “old white dead men”: This is always used by angry liberals and usually means they are not worth talking to on this or any other subject.


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