Only one governing principle is compatible with freedom
by John Hayward
Democrats are howling about the new Republican majority’s decision to read the Constitution in its entirety on Thursday. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York told the Washington Post it would be a “ritualistic reading” that treated the Constitution like “a sacred text” for “propaganda” purposes. “You’re not supposed to worship your Constitution,” Nadler huffed. “You are supposed to govern your government by it.” On her Headline News TV host Joy Behar wondered if “this Constitution loving is getting out of hand.”
Of course, it’s hard to govern our ungovernable government with the Constitution if we don’t know what it says. There is little evidence the Democrats are familiar with it, except as an obstacle to be worked around. ObamaCare’s individual mandate is blatantly unconstitutional, and courts are busy unraveling the whole tortured scheme by removing it. The current Democrat enthusiasm for weakening the filibuster, at least until they need it again, is most likely unconstitutional. As recently as last month, Senate Majority Harry Reid tried to insert an unconstitutional tax provision into a food-safety bill, which was scuttled as a result. He did the same thing with a tourism bill earlier in the year. I hope he attends the House reading of the Constitution, and remembers to take notes.
If reverence for the Constitution is not our guiding principle, then what should it be?
Should the government be entirely dedicated to fulfilling the needs of its citizens, allowing no legal barrier to stand in its way? That’s pretty close to the declared principles of our maternal, statist Democrat Party. It’s a disaster, because needs must be defined and measured against each other, a process that inevitably becomes corrupt.
Once the needs of some are held to transcend the rights of others, the endless growth of a power-hungry government is assured. Its eventual collapse is assured as well, on the day it can no longer keep enough of its promises, and maintain a coalition large enough to suppress the rights of the minority. The assertion that some citizens have an unbreakable, arbitrary responsibility to provide sustenance for others is inherently hostile to the concept of liberty. You are not “free” when the collective demands of favored citizens can place unlimited demands on the fruit of your labor. A nation is not “free” when any class of its citizens faces such demands, no matter how badly outnumbered or politically unpopular they might be.
Should the government have a mandate to manage the economy and design prosperity? This goal cannot be accomplished through central planning, because no bureaucracy can ever match the ingenuity of millions of free citizens. Doomed attempts at such planning are hostile to liberty, because government plans can only be implemented through compulsion. Every “bailout” is an act of compulsion against those who paid for it, and those who might have profited from the demise of a company revived through taxpayer money. Statists like to talk up the “success” of our “investments” in companies like General Motors, ignoring the fact that “investment” is an act of free choice, made in the expectation of reward. You are not “free” if you cannot refuse to support a corporation.
Should our governing principle be the quest for “fairness” and social justice? This is an ever-shifting standard, which braids the sins of the past into a scourge against the citizens of today. Those who get to define “fairness” amass a degree of power that invariably leads to corruption. Setting aside Constitutional restraint, so the State can have the power to ordain “fairness,” is really writing the State a warrant to hunt down unfashionable minorities it can get away with treating unfairly, until its vocal constituents are satisfied. Assuring equality of outcome is tantamount to declaring some life choices don’t matter, because choice does not exist when consequences are nullified. You are not “free” if your choices are meaningless.
What about making our guiding principle a resolution to preserve the environment, and make as little impact on it as possible? Environmentalists certainly aren’t afraid to disregard the Constitution when Mother Earth is on the line. This approach is powerfully hostile to freedom, because the State becomes a clergy that interprets the will of the Earth, and its commandments are beyond both discussion and resistance. You are not “free” if you are not allowed to dissent.
Each of these alternative principles becomes an object of worship, far more than the Constitution is revered by even the most ardent Tea Party member. Trillion-dollar takeovers are an act of transcendent faith in the power of government, and therefore a renunciation of faith in her citizens. The Obama Administration reveres its own wisdom so much that it hands out waivers from the system meant to impose “fairness” upon health care for the rest of us. The environmental religion has its own rituals, priesthood, and holy days. What has the most dedicated constitutionalist said about our founding documents to compare with these acts of worship?
There is only one governing principle that properly respects the freedom of all citizens: ironclad obedience to a clear and concise document that identifies their inherent rights, and forbids the State from compromising them, under any circumstances. The Constitution does not “give” you those rights. It recognizes them. You had them before you could read or understand a single word. Every human being throughout history had them, even those who lived before any of the Founding Fathers were born. In reading the Constitution aloud, the 112th Congress will acknowledge those rights… and read an arrest warrant to an out-of-control government.
Your freedom is a halo, burning around a list of things the government cannot do. Our reverence for the Constitution is inseparable from our respect for each other. Jeers about “worshipping” the document are deliberate slander from those who fear the truth: The Constitution is a prayer we read while worshipping America.