The Purpose of the U.S. Constitution
by J Michael Kearney
edited: Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002
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The U.S. Constitution neither gives nor guarantees us our rights. It's sole purpose is to limit and restrict government.
There are many people who’d tell you that the United States Constitution “gives American citizens their rights,” “guarantees us our rights,” or “enumerates the powers of government,” and they’d be wrong on all counts.
The Constitution has one and only one function and that is to limit or restrict the powers of the state. The Bill of Rights is devoted entirely to listing those individual rights the Founders felt were “inalienable” or “God-given,” while likewise listing the restrictions on government this covenant or Constitution ordained.
The Founders all knew that the Constitution neither gave nor guaranteed any “rights,” as Natural Rights cannot be given by any government, as no man or group of men has the power either to give or restrict the rights of others. In Thomas Jefferson’s words, our rights are “endowed to us by our Creator,” not any government. Neither can a government guarantee any of our “Natural Rights.” Liberty is always tenuous. It can be taken from us, at gunpoint, by either thugs or rogue government officials. Franklin knew this when he admonished the woman who tormented him with the question, “What kind of government is this that you give us,” replying, “A republic Madame, if you can keep it.”
What the U.S. Constitution does, in effect, is protect minorities (racial, religious, property owners and the rich) from the tyranny of abuse via majority rule. The Constitution protects our privacy and property rights from being abridged by arbitrary “majority rule.”
For Their Own Good:
The most common vindication for abuse of the powerless by those in power has been, “For their own good,” or “For their benefit.” It has been used to justify both chattel slavery and political slavery (rule by the elites) alike. Those opposed to individual liberty and limited government, those who espouse political slavery today still use it.
“We feed and clothe and keep our slaves in a good condition, which is more than they’d do for themselves were they left to their own devices,” said the typical Plantation owner in the Antebellum south. Today advocates of big government argue, “The elite (politically connected) must take care of those who don’t have that access. They are, in effect, our charges, and we must look out for their best interests, as they cannot always look out for their own.” Same argument, different age, but it remains just as immoral, unethical and downright nefarious. It is the same argument the monarchs used to justify Medieval serfdom.
America’s Founders, particularly Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and James Madison, knew these arguments well, almost as well as they knew the constant and persistent failings of government...all governments. The Constitution, with its Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from the threat of tyranny or political slavery. They knew what many of us today have forgotten, that nearly all who’ve suffered tyranny have suffered under the yolk of their own government, almost always under the guise of “For their own good.”
Today there are many short-sighted people who see government as some sort of benefactor or protector, when in fact, governments, especially representative democracies, tend, always and everywhere, to protect primarily the interests of the most powerful.
The enemies of liberty see private enterprise as evil and threatening and government as benign and responsive to the people. Neither is the case. Certainly business puts its bottom line before all else, sometimes to the detriment of the community. Just as surely, governments tend to protect the whims and concerns of the behemoths over the concerns of the people.
Aren’t Republicans the Party of big business and the Democrats the Party of the people? Nonsense! Both Parties cull favors and court donations from corporate lobbyists and corporate donors alike. Both Parties put the interests of various special interests above the interests of the majority of people.
Chrysler was bailed out during the Carter Administration. The Loral Corporation, which sold restricted and classified launch technologies, to the Chinese during the Clinton Administration donated over $600,000 to the Clinton campaign. Enron, a company that sold natural gas derivatives, also funneled over $600,000 to the Clinton administration during its 1996 re-election bid. Shortly after being re-elected, the Clinton administration partially deregulated the energy market. That partial deregulation - wholesalers or middlemen like Enron were deregulated, while retailers remained capped. This benefited Enron and hurt consumers. Even as the Enron scandal broke in the Fall of 2001, New York Senator Charles Schumer had garnered the more political donations from Enron than any other American politician.
There is no way to vote for a “better government.” Both major political Parties need money to get elected. That money buys access and it buys influence that often runs counter to the needs of the people. Add a third or fourth political Party and the results will be the same.
WHAT TO DO:
No politician and no political Party is ever going to look out for our interests over the concerns for his/her own political career. The only way to rein in the abuses of government by its corporate masters is to rein in government itself. Government is a loaded gun and in the hands of special interests, it’s a loaded gun in the hands of blind men.
The founders, especially the anti-federalists (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and James Madison among others) knew well the threat posed by a government that was a master not a servant. There can be little doubt that today’s American government has taken on the role of master, ignoring the chains of the Constitution meant to enslave it.
In the forties a former New York Times Editor Garret Garet lamented the days a couple decades previously when “Any local merchant could stride into a government office building and watch government officials cower obsequiously,” in his book “The People’s Pottage. Congress routinely began every policy debate with the words, “Does the Congress have the right to enact such restrictions?”
“But that’s not fair,” whine the proponents of governmental control. The reality is that life’s not fair. Some people are smarter, better looking and some just plain luckier or more fortunate than others. That, in and of itself, is no reason to support some form of equalization via government control. Moreover it overlooks the obvious, that the people doing the leveling (government officials/political hacks) are not equalized...they’re empowered beyond what their abilities would normally earn.
Liberty isn’t pretty and it certainly isn’t fair, but it’s far better than the alternatives, either chattel or political slavery.