A Republic, If We Can Keep It

I saw something at a discussion board the other day that literally terrified me. I should have saved a link, but I didn’t and can’t find it now, but the gist of it was this: In 2009, 35 state legislatures passed “nullification” resolutions, referencing the powers of the States over that of the Federal government as enumerated in the 10th Amendment, which states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The author of the thread pointed out that Article V of the Constitution provides for two ways to alter or amend the founding legal document of our nation:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Thirty-five states exceeds the two-thirds requirement.

So, hey! Let’s call a Constitutional Convention! Then we can fix what’s wrong!

Ah, no.

Here’s where my pragmatic side conflicts with my idealistic side.

Now, if you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I deeply admire Bill Whittle for his ability to express things so simply, vividly and eloquently when it comes to this nation, its people and our political system. Just recently (elsewhere) I was given cause to cite from his essay Freedom:

This, to my mind, is the fundamental difference between the Europeans and the U.S.: We trust the people. We fought wars and lost untold husbands and brothers and sons because of this single most basic belief: Trust the people. Trust them with freedom. Trust them to spend their own money. Trust them to do the right thing. Trust them to defend themselves. To the degree that government can help, great – but TRUST THE PEOPLE.

Stirring words.

But trust them with what? Trust them to run their own lives. Trust them to take care of themselves.

Trust them to not muck up their own system of government? Not so much.

The original form of our tripartite government is a paean to humanity’s lack of trustworthiness when it comes to wielding power over others. Our Founders recognized this characteristic of humankind and made provisions against abuse that worked pretty well for about a hundred years, give or take. But just as you can’t make anything idiot-proof because they keep making better idiots, the safeguards in our Constitution eventually failed because the power-hungry just can’t stop tinkering. If there’s a barrier, they will find a way over, under, around, or if need be through – and if they are not slapped down, hard, every time they get caught, they will keep trying until they eventually succeed. We know this.

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. – Justice Louis Brandeis, dissenting, Olmsted v U.S.

Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before. – Rahm Emanuel

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves. – William Pitt the younger.

This is, after all, why human beings – small, weak, with no sharp teeth or claws to depend on, no natural venom or other physiological advantage – have become the dominant predator on the planet. We’re clever (though generally shortsighted) little apes, and we don’t give up.

This works both for and against us. Currently, “against” is winning.

At this point I urge you to read (or hopefully re-read) my essay The United Federation of Planets. Its topic is, essentially, philosophy as applied to American Politics. Then (re)read Restoring the Lost Constitution. (Those two ought to tie up the remainder of your weekend.)

There is nothing wrong with our current Constitution. Sure, I could see a couple of changes that would help with the “slapping down – hard” bit, but the problem isn’t with the document – it’s with US, the populace. Maybe it’s the side-effect of affluence, maybe it’s the clever plan of Rousseau’s followers, but this nation is no longer populated with a culture “born to freedom.” We’re now born to a cult of material well-being. Freedom is dangerous. Freedom is scary. Freedom is hard. We’re too comfortable to want that anymore, so we’re giving it up. Our culture has become the equivalent of the 35 year-old still living in his parent’s basement – we’re getting a Nanny State because that’s what too many of us want for the rest of us to be able to stop them.

It isn’t the Constitution that needs to be restored, it’s our desire to be free that we’ve lost.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hZ79RHOmeI&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&w=640&h=385]

And those of us who still have part, most, or all of that desire are only Albert Jay Nock’s “Remnant.” We can’t stop what’s happening. We are too few and too unpopular.

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