Thursday, April 3, 2014

Time to Face the Constitutional Reality of the Matter

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823

Kent comments:

Jefferson’s implied point, and a good one I think, is that those who attempt to “squeeze” something out of a text of the Constitution, or “invent” something against it, are doing so in order to evade the meaning of the text.  The most likely reason for doing that is to evade the restraints imposed by the text of the Constitution.  But the only thing much restrained (or at least attempted) by our Constitution is the power of the state, especially the central state.

I think it is time to admit that our Constitution was a valiant effort at creating a limited central government.  The opponents of limited central government, in other words, the advocates of unlimited central government have won.  They have won, and continue to win, by those squeezings and inventions mentioned by Mr. Jefferson so long ago.

So I think it is time to stop pretending that the Constitution in any way controls the central government.  The officials of central government now either squeezes the Constitution into the shape they desire, invent justifications for their assumed powers that cannot be found in the text, or – and this is now very popular – they simply ignore the Constitution as irrelevant to their power.  That is, they do whatever they wish, and implicitly dare anyone to try to stop them.

Thus it is pointless, almost idiotic, to keep talking about the Constitution when complaining about the vast powers now assumed by the central government.  While I don’t have an “answer” here about this matter, I do now realize that appeals to the Constitution do not and cannot matter for those to whom the Constitution simply does not matter.

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