We frequently make political arguments based on constitutional law: This or that proposal violates the Bill of Rights and so on.
Really though, I don’t particularly believe in the US Constitution. It’s not holy writ handed down from on high. It’s not the word of a living God. It’s a political document hammered out in committee buy some politicians a couple of hundred years ago.
Like the general idea of democracy, the US Constitution is a (sometimes) useful tool for establishing order and protecting our liberties. I don’t argue about First Amendment rights because they’re in the holy written constitution, but because the constitution codifies my inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The US Constitution is a good thing exactly to the extent that it protects our freedom.
On the other hand, this thing can be screwed and become useless. A bunch of jackasses could decide to amend the document to say that the government could, for example, lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived. This would make the whole thing considerably less worthy of support.
Anyway, making some kind of religious totem out of a legal document doesn’t reflect truth or usefulness, nor does it suit my contrary personal constitution.
In fact, the constitution was controversial at the time. We all know about the famous Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, et al. There were at the same time, however, numerous ANTI-federalist papers arguing against the constitution, which was engineered to vastly increase the powers of the central government over the original Articles of Confederation.
HERE is a modern article giving a brief skeptical historical sketch of the original circumstances surrounding ratification of the US Constitution.
But there’s one classic short book that lays out the case against the constitution on basic legal contract grounds. No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority was written by Lysander Spooner in 1869. He lays out a simple, clear extended legal argument against the entire overall legal authority of the constitution based on principles of basic common contract law.
Short version: I never agreed to obey any constitution. I didn’t sign any “social contract.” COMPLETE TEXT HERE Typically included as an addendum to published versions of the book, he also wrote a letter to his congressman making a short version of the same basic argument, concluding with a polite demand that the congress vote to disband and go home.
If you start out from a basic premise of self-ownership, Spooner’s arguments seem utterly unassailable. Why, exactly, do I owe any allegiance to the edicts of the US government? I might be somewhat willing to co-operate somewhat on general practical consideration, or most specifically on the desire not to be thrown in jail. Beyond that, the duty to obey the law simply because it is the law doesn’t really register.
I’m not anti-social, and I don’t intend to go around raping and pillaging. That’s no way for people to live. Further, we have practical problems that can’t be ignored that this doesn’t give us any clue to solving, such as national defense. The US Constitution has been the most useful tool (other than a house full of guns) to keeping the looting and pillaging down to a minimum (at least until the 16thh Amendment), so I give some begrudging willful co-operation.
However, this basic argument against the supposed social contract makes a compelling case. You should definitely consider Spooner’s classic case before you go blathering on about having rights to health care or education or anything else provided by the government.
Indeed, everyone should read this book. An average reader could read the whole thing in probably not much more than an hour, and it will give you a really strong alternate reality tunnel from the worldviews that somehow justify the semi-slavery of the modern welfare state.Powered by Sidelines