June 12th, 2007

Your Homework Assignment

Though the title sounds a bit ominous, I invite each of you to take 10-15 minutes out of your day and read “How Tyranny Came to America”. Its alternative (and less ominous) title is “God, Man, and Law”.

The article is an excellent review of American history and how we have strayed from Constitutional law. Concise and well explained, this article should be read by every citizen of this nation.

A teaser:

This, in outline, is the constitutional history of the United States. You won’t find it in the textbooks, which are required to be optimistic, to present degeneration as development, and to treat the successive pronouncements of the Supreme Court as so many oracular revelations of constitutional meaning. A leading liberal scholar, Leonard Levy, has gone so far as to say that what matters is not what the Constitution says, but what the Court has said about the Constitution in more than 400 volumes of commentary.

This can only mean that the commentary has displaced the original text, and that “We the People” have been supplanted by “We the Lawyers.” We the People can’t read and understand our own Constitution. We have to have it explained to us by the professionals. Moreover, if the Court enjoys oracular status, it can’t really be criticized, because it can do no wrong. We may dislike its results, but future rulings will have to be derived from them as precedents, rather than from the text and logic of the Constitution. And notice that the “conservative” justices appointed by Republican presidents have by and large upheld not the original Constitution, but the most liberal interpretations of the Court itself — notably on the subject of abortion, which I’ll return to in a minute.

To sum up this little constitutional history. The history of the Constitution is the story of its inversion. The original understanding of the Constitution has been reversed. The Constitution creates a presumption against any power not plainly delegated to the federal government and a corresponding presumption in favor of the rights and powers of the states and the people. But we now have a sloppy presumption in favor of federal power. Most people assume the federal government can do anything it isn’t plainly forbidden to do.

and

What it comes to is that we don’t really have an operative Constitution anymore. The federal government defines its own powers day by day. It’s limited not by the list of its powers in the Constitution, but by whatever it can get away with politically. Just as the president can now send troops abroad to fight without a declaration of war, Congress can pass a national health care program without a constitutional delegation of power. The only restraint left is political opposition.

22 Responses to “Your Homework Assignment”

  1. Dan
    June 12, 2007 at 12:08 pm #

    how lame! Seriously, that is one of the lamest articles I’ve seen in a long time. Why? Because it doesn’t seek to educate, but rather to destroy. Lame, Connor.

  2. Connor
    June 12, 2007 at 12:13 pm #

    Then you’re not reading it with the right spirit, Dan. I think it does a fantastic job at educating the reader.

  3. Dan
    June 12, 2007 at 12:14 pm #

    No it doesn’t.

    Consolidated = fascism?

    Seriously!

  4. Connor
    June 12, 2007 at 12:16 pm #

    Consolidated = fascism?

    Seriously!

    Fascism is an authoritarian form of government, which is what happens when power is consolidated in one branch, or with one person.

    Seriously!

  5. Dan
    June 12, 2007 at 12:20 pm #

    Moreover, the writer picks the wrong target, especially today, as the ones most strongly trampling the Constitution are those who would agree with the writer more generally about their political opponents, the liberals. If the man cannot even see that his own ideologically equal compatriots are in fact destroying the Constitution, what good is he as an educator?

    He talks about powers delegated, enumerated and so on, but fails to really address how powers are actually delegated and enumerated in the Constitution. He’s merely using these objects for the real purpose of his weak article, and that is yet another mudslinging at liberals. I look at his article and I see all the usual conservative talking points. I can check off each one. Abortion? Check. Social Security? Check. Down the list.

    Also unsurprisingly, there is also the Civil War (or, from his point of view, the War Between the States), because the North was a bad meanie intended on destroying poor Southern sovereignty. Awww, I shed a tear.

    This is your idea of education, Connor?

  6. Shestalou
    June 12, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    Loved it Conner, I love coming here reading your articles, I booked marked it to send to some friends who would be very interested in this article, your site makes so much more sense than some I have been to, Thanks.

  7. Connor
    June 12, 2007 at 1:26 pm #

    Moreover, the writer picks the wrong target, especially today, as the ones most strongly trampling the Constitution are those who would agree with the writer more generally about their political opponents, the liberals.

    The neoconservatives and liberals rarely differ at all, except for the morality-based topics. They both end up pushing for bigger government and centralized control of every aspect of life.

    If the man cannot even see that his own ideologically equal compatriots are in fact destroying the Constitution, what good is he as an educator?

    The author’s ideologically equal compatriots would be true conservatives, not RINOs who wear tout conservatism while practicing quite the opposite.

    He talks about powers delegated, enumerated and so on, but fails to really address how powers are actually delegated and enumerated in the Constitution.

    You must have read over the part where he, uh, talks about how powers are delegated and enumerated.

    I look at his article and I see all the usual conservative talking points.

    I look at his article and I see how both liberals and neoconservatives have strayed far away from our Constitutional principles and rule of law heritage. This isn’t about partisan politics at all, it’s about how after two centuries we’re not living in a Constitutional Republican any longer.

    Also unsurprisingly, there is also the Civil War (or, from his point of view, the War Between the States), because the North was a bad meanie intended on destroying poor Southern sovereignty. Awww, I shed a tear.

    ::: offers Dan a kleenex :::

    While there were several factors involved, the Civil War was largely fought because of the North’s industrial hegemony, as the South found it cheaper to trade and import from overseas than from their brothers in the North. The North couldn’t take that, and much like today’s corporate militarism, decided to enforce their control at the point of a gun. Much as today’s war for oil and middle eastern control is fought under the guise of “spreading democracy”, so too was the Civil War fought with the guise of “freeing slaves”.

  8. fontor
    June 13, 2007 at 6:41 am #

    If you’re saying that I, as a liberal, am no different from a neo-conservative, then we are going to have to take this outside.

    As a matter of fact, progressives are pretty concerned about areas of privacy, checks and balances, and fighting whatever ‘fascism’ is these days. Spend a little time in the comments section of Daily Kos and see what they’re saying. They’re especially talented at taking down neocons point for point.

    I think you’re tarring the strawman with a broad brush, if I can mix metaphors. I might have spotted a True Scotsman, as well.

  9. Connor
    June 13, 2007 at 7:22 am #

    They’re especially talented at taking down neocons point for point.

    This only happens when it’s the neocons that are causing the damage. When liberals are in control, they’ don’t complain nearly as much when there is some un-Constitutional bill put forward. Both camps make an effort to take us away from our Constitutional republic to establish their own ideas of what government should be, using the mobocratic democracy (the “tyranny of the majority” that the Founders feared) to pursue their agenda.

    Perhaps I should be clear that today’s liberalism (“neo-liberalism”) is a far cry from the original (paleo-) liberalism that resulted in the Revolution and resistance to tyranny. While once it sought out individual liberty, today it seeks out individual liberty at the expense of others, and individual liberty through government intervention. This is not the liberalism of the revolutionary age, it is the liberalism of the neo-conservative age, for both seek to expand government to implement their ideas.

  10. Josh Williams
    June 13, 2007 at 11:05 am #

    *sigh*
    Here we go again, Sorting people into convenient little file-folder groups, (like “liberals”, “neo-cons”, “enlightened minority”, or “terrorists.”) These are not real groups, merely *adjectives* which only exist in the mind of the beholder.

    The US Constitution is not in danger from adjectives. The danger of perversion comes from individuals; those who believe that:

    1) Their interpretation of the constitution is the only correct one.
    2) The Constitution is infallible, is divinely inspired, represents “God-given” ideals (not mere human ethics), or is beyond evaluation or reproach.
    3) The Constitution, it’s interpretation, or any of the laws and legal systems of our country, give us license to act in an unethical, immoral, or reprehensible manner.
    4) The Constitution comes trumps the demands of the people, or, the Constitution places us above the demands of the people.
    5) The founding fathers knew best, and what matters most is what *they* were trying to accomplish……

    The “God Given Ideals” sentiment seems particularly popular, (and as I recall, is the same argument used by the Inquisition, and by modern fundamentalist movements.) While it may or may not be true, we can never safely assume that our morals and ethics come directly from God….

    In the “Gilded Age” of American history, while the central government largely upheld the Constitution; “Rope of Sand” and “Laissez-Faire” Ideas of government allowed the rise of tyranny- from big businesses.

    Despite that which is laid down in the constitution, we the people ultimately have only ourselves to look for aid, when it comes to fighting tyranny. It seems like in just about any part of history, Constitution, Magna Carta, Manifesto, 95 Theses, or no; without the clamouring of the common people, threatening the break down the doors of government, leaders have been quick to forget those who allowed them to lead in the first place.

    Of course, the central unresolved question which the Constitution was designed to address, is “how much power is too much, and how little is too little?” There is no easy answer to this question, but it requires a utilitarian view.

    Certainly the people are not best served by a government, which wastes tax money, incurs international debt, engages in unsanctioned imperial ventures without realistic planning, imprisons foreign nationals without due process, Spies on it’s own citizens without warrant, just cause, or reasonable suspicion, and hires and fires public servants based on whim and political convenience, not rigourous standards…….

    My $0.02……………
    ~J.W.

  11. Connor
    June 13, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    These are not real groups, merely *adjectives* which only exist in the mind of the beholder.

    While adjectives, they can certainly classify like-minded people who work together for a single objective. Neo-conservatives, for those, accurately describe all those working to push pre-emptive war and big, invasive government. So yes, it does end up being a group of people, I believe.

    The “God Given Ideals” sentiment seems particularly popular,(and as I recall, is the same argument used by the Inquisition, and by modern fundamentalist movements.) While it may or may not be true, we can never safely assume that our morals and ethics come directly from God….

    It’s one thing when, in the name of “God Give Ideals” you use force and weapons to impose your ideals on others. It’s quite another when you advocate peace and liberty, a true God-given ideal.

    And then there’s God telling us that the Constitution is for all men. Yup, that sounds like a set of God-given ideals to me…

    …without the clamouring of the common people, threatening the break down the doors of government, leaders have been quick to forget those who allowed them to lead in the first place.

    Hear, hear! As Gore Vidal once said, we seem to be living in the United States of Amnesia.

  12. Mark N.
    June 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    5) The founding fathers knew best, and what matters most is what *they* were trying to accomplish……

    Obviously, the founding fathers weren’t omnicient or infallible, but the document they left for us to follow was extremely clear on how the Federal Government was supposed to operate. As Sobran put it: “The powers of government come from the people. The American people delegated the specific powers they wanted the federal government to have through the Constitution. And any additional powers they wanted to grant were supposed to be added by amendment.”

    Nothing much has changed in the powers granted to the Federal Government by way of amendments to the Constitution, but 225+ years later, the government is doing all sorts of things it was never authorized to do.

    If we want the Federal Government to be doing all of these “unconstitutional” things, then the least we should have done, out of respect to the founding fathers, was to amend the Constitution to allow this things to be done. Instead, by not having done so, we have rendered the 9th and 10th amendments worthless. Disrespecing one section of the Constitution leads to disrespecting it all.

    And in the end, we find ourselves with a President who denegrates the Constitution as “just a G-D’d piece of paper” and who clearly doesn’t take his Oath of Office to uphold and defend said “piece of paper” seriously.

  13. Josh Williams
    June 13, 2007 at 12:25 pm #

    Neo-conservatives, for those, accurately describe all those working to push pre-emptive war and big, invasive government

    So why not simply drop the misleading, presumptuous, imprecise, and inaccurate label of “neo-conservative”, in the first place?

    You don’t seriously believe that you can just draw a line in the sand like that, do you?

    I know, it’s mostly a question of semantics, but it just gets my goat when people start throwing such labels around, especially when politicans do it.

    It’s one thing when, in the name of “God Give Ideals” you use force and weapons to impose your ideals on others. It’s quite another when you advocate peace and liberty, a true God-given ideal.

    And then there’s God telling us that the Constitution is for all men. Yup, that sounds like a set of God-given ideals to me…

    True enough; though again, that depends of course, on what you consider “Peace” and “liberty…”

    What about Shari’a ? Now there’s a set of documents with logical, ethical, and moral problems, if there ever was one. And yet quite a few people believe that it is the direct word of God……Are we right and they wrong? How do you draw the line, between advocating “God Given” principles, and forcing your beliefs and values on others, if you assume that your system of morals are divine and can do no wrong?

    Certainly, I believe that the constitution is truly a great document. I believe that it embodies a number of Godly, and self evident principles. It IS the ultimate law in our country, and as such It should be upheld, as long as it remains ethically sound. Is it God given? Maybe, or maybe not. I don’t want to have to be the one to prove it. I thinks that’s for him to decide, not us, and certainly not the government itself…..

    Ok, I’m up to $0.04 now……
    ~J.W.

    P.S:
    Of course Shari’a certainly was not, in fact, written by Mohammad himself, (nor was the Q’ran, for that matter….)

  14. Josh Williams
    June 13, 2007 at 12:32 pm #

    “extremely clear”, huh?

    Another person who has obviously never read the Constitution…or a least, doesn’t understand it. (I know I’m personally still a little sketchy on a lot of the things it talks about…….)

    $0.06,
    ~J.W.

  15. Mark N.
    June 13, 2007 at 12:33 pm #

    Tell me, Josh, in your own words, what is the Constitution designed to do?

  16. Josh Williams
    June 13, 2007 at 1:08 pm #

    Well, it’s none of my business……(wait, yes it is!)

    Seriously, though.. While many of the powers and controls exercised by the central government today are not expressly laid down in the constitution, most are not expressly prohibited by it either. Such matters were(wisely) implicitly left up to the Congress, and the Executive….

    For example, the constitution never mentions a cabinet, says nothing about lobbying, little about immigration,does not say much about the hiring process of non-elected civil servants, and kind of mucks up the presidential election process, (mostly because a lot of the Constitutional signators did not have much faith in the common man…) The Bill of Rights, while considered essential nowadays, was not even in the original, and at the time it was ratified was not necessarily construed to extend to women, slaves, or minorities…..

    One of the Ideas behind the constitution is the principle of rule of law, not rule of government, but realistically, both need to exist…..(at least, that was Thomas Hobbes’ opinion)

    Powers that DO cross the line of being expressly prohibited by the constitution, (such as denying Habeas Corpus, even to foreign nationals…), are the ones that I have a real problem with….

    I am not a lawyer, so none of this is on good authority…. ;-)

    BTW, Thanks, Mark, for pinning me to the wall on that one…….whew……

  17. Josh Williams
    June 13, 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    call me a cold blooded Liberal if you like…….;-)

  18. Mark N.
    June 13, 2007 at 1:28 pm #

    While many of the powers and controls exercised by the central government today are not expressly laid down in the constitution, most are not expressly prohibited by it either.

    Your copy of the Constitution seems to be missing the 9th and 10th amendments.

    The whole point of the Constitution was to attempt to limit the powers of the Federal Government, because the founding fathers knew that power corrupts, and that people have a difficult time not crossing the line into “unrighteous dominion” territory. The powers not specifically granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution were reserved to the states.

    Every time the demand for an “anti-flag-burning” amendment to the Constitution comes up, I die just a little bit more, because a better example of an attempt to subvert the Constitution never existed: the entire purpose of the Constitution is to stake out the limits of the power of the Federal Government, but an “anti-flag-burning” amendment turns the Constitution on its head by attempting to increase the power of the Federal Government over the free speech rights of the citizens.

    If you want your government to be in the health care business, then fine, but just do as the founding fathers asked: put a specific amendment in the Constitution that grants those powers to the Federal Government.

    Is that too much to ask?

  19. fontor
    June 13, 2007 at 8:17 pm #

    And then there’s God telling us that the Constitution is for all men. Yup, that sounds like a set of God-given ideals to me…

    Your claim that God exists and has given us the Constitution is a huge assumption. It runs throughout your entire website and philosophy. It is also entirely baseless. I challenge you to provide evidence for that claim.

  20. Connor
    June 13, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    Your claim that God exists and has given us the Constitution is a huge assumption. It runs throughout your entire website and philosophy. It is also entirely baseless. I challenge you to provide evidence for that claim.

    In comes fontor with the atheist banner and trumpets!

    Fontor, we’re not going to come to agreement on this one, as we haven’t before, so why bother? You don’t believe in God; I do. Asking me to provide evidence to convince you is as fruitless as you providing supposed evidence that God does not exist. You’ll refute mine, I’ll refute yours, as we’ll be right back where we started.

    Besides, that’s a major threadjack. :)

  21. fontor
    June 13, 2007 at 10:49 pm #

    It’s not about agreement, Connor. You’re making claims and not supporting them. If there is a god that desires a certain kind of government for humans, that’s a big deal, and everyone should change their lives and do it. If this claim is false, it should be thrown out.

    If you can’t support these claims, then you ought to be aware of it, and treat them as ‘ideas you like’, and not as ‘ideas that are true’.

    I suppose it is a threadjack though. Toooot.

  22. Josh Williams
    June 14, 2007 at 9:59 am #

    Your copy of the Constitution seems to be missing the 9th and 10th amendments.

    *pulls out his copy of the constitution…..*

    You’re right, mark. I humbly retract my previous statement….

    Another person who has obviously never read the Constitution…or a least, doesn’t understand it

    I still stand by my position that absolute rule of law isn’t realistically possible, and there are quite a few things that the Constitution is not at all clear about….(why do you think we’re still arguing about it even today?)

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