Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When the US Constitution isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Is America facing a constitutional crisis?  Maybe not on the surface but just below the surface we are.  How so?  Many elites, opinion makers and others no longer respect the idea that the constitution limits the power of the federal government.  This was brought home to me during the debate over the constitutionality of the Obamacare mandate that all people must buy a product in the market - health insurance.  Of course, if the government can mandate we buy health insurance what's to preclude their ability to force us to buy and affirmatively do lots of other things.

Why this disrespect for the constitution?  There's an interesting article in the "Claremont Rview of Books" by John Marini entitled, "Abandoning the Constitution."
America still has a written constitution, but it is nearly impossible, theoretically or politically, to comprehend the distinction between the government and the Constitution. Therefore, it is difficult to conceive of any rational limits on the power of government that can be derived from the Constitution. The theoretical foundations of social compact theory have been so undermined as to make constitutionalism obsolete as a political theory. The Progressives insisted that rights and freedom could not be understood as natural or individual, but social and dependent upon historical development. 
The reason for the problem?  We've lost sight of natural rights and replaced them with the evolutionary notion that history is changing and the fundamental principles aren't constant but changing.
Established on the foundation of natural rights, constitutionalism has been steadily undermined by the acceptance of the new doctrine of History.
Along with this comes a hostility to religion and representative government to chart our course and replace it with the rational, administrative state.
Progressives were confident that the replacement of natural right (philosophy) by History would make it possible to establish the conditions for the replacement of politics and religion by an uncoerced rational society. Political life and religion must vanish to enable the perfecting of economic and social conditions through the establishment of the new social sciences, thereby opening up the possibility of complete freedom, or individual self-fulfillment. The coming into being of the rational or administrative State is possible, and necessary, only at the end of History, when the rule of the philosopher or statesman can be replaced by the rule of organized intelligence, or bureaucracy. 
Frankly, the debate over which direction our nation will take is the underlying theme of the presidential election.  Maybe not be at this intellectual level but it's certainly there.  More government or less.  Freedom or security through welfare state (which as we're finding out is a false security at best.)

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