Skip to comments.Dangerous Servant and Fearsome Master
Posted on 06/25/2012 5:54:31 AM PDT by Kaslin
As the nation awaits the most anticipated Supreme Court decision in a generation, its worth pondering whether Americans life, liberty, and happiness are well served by devotion to a two century old document. Does the Constitution matter today? Could you explain why to a teenager?
Reverence for the Constitution isnt universal, even among its chief custodians. Justice Ruth Ginsburg recently raised eyebrows when she advised an audience of Egyptian activists she wouldnt look to the US constitution as a model in 2012. She pointed instead to the constitutions of South Africa, Canada, and the European Charter of Rights and Freedoms, praising them as great work, more recent and more generous in human rights. The late Justice Thurgood Marshall also was cautious, asking a PBS interviewer: What does the Constitution say about rocket ships?
Actually, the Constitution says as much about rockets as it does about horses and buggies; because its not the US Code governing Americans, its more like the rule book or owners manual that governs the government. Its a uniquely successful compact in history. But it remains vital only as Americans understand it, support it, and demand politicians do likewise. Heres my attempt at a simple, easy to share explanation:
Life is hard and sometimes dangerous. Government can help, but its important to think about what government should do, as our Framers had to when they organized America.
The big thing they realized is governing is unique. Some things need governing, but others are just about voluntary cooperation. Lots of people or groups, like street preachers, hotdog vendors, corporations, your motherhave things they want you to do: repent, buy stuff, call home. But Government has things you have to do or cant do, at the risk of fines, jail, or, at some level of resistance, getting shot.
Governments essence is controlling peopleforbidding things, requiring things, and extracting the taxes to pay for things. Our founders realized the power to control people, as opposed to offer or invite is potentially dangerous. It must be limited and channeled, as George Washington described fire: a dangerous servant and fearsome master.
The Founders figured out controlling people involves three different kinds of power: making rules, enforcing rules, and resolving disagreements between the enforcers and the people. They also realized the controllers could be kept honest and fair only if those different powers were kept apart: the people who make the rules shouldnt be the ones who enforce them; the enforcers shouldnt decide disputes between themselves and the people.
Thats why the Founders arranged separation of powers. They created Congress in Article I, the Executive in Article II, and the Supreme Court and judiciary in Article III.
Our Founders also realized the young nation sat at the edge of a continent it might grow to fill. Even the 13 colonies had a diverse mix of heritage, religion, resources, climate, industry, and so forth. They determined people should govern themselves as locally as possible. Daily government was left with the states. The national government would be limited to matters that truly needed to be nationally uniform. It was delegated only enumerated powers.
The Founders crowned their structure with a Bill of Rights, identifying some, but not all, of the sacred liberties and protections needed for the free pursuit of happiness. The finished work was an intellectual revolution more spectacular than the military revolution that made it possible. The path has not always been smooth or safe. But most people agree, its the most successful system of governing ever designed.
Some clever people today say the Constitution is outdated. It was designed for a small, simple society. Our modern world needs something more complex. This claim is curious, both as a matter of observable history and of theory.
If you hear such criticism, you might challenge it. Historically, ask if any other national system has lasted longer, or produced better fruits, including freedom, due process, stable government, opportunity, prosperity, and a magnetic draw to people around the world.
On theory, ask what has changed in the world or human nature that suggests governments controlling powers shouldnt be limited. Or why it makes sense to mix the powers to legislate, enforce, and judge. Ask too, if rigid, centralized government across diverse states and communities, geography, cultures, and economies makes more sense than before.
The critics likely will talk about how things should be different; but they wont show that anything has ever worked better than the United States Constitution.
That's one of the most easy to understand statements I've ever heard about the purpose of the Constitution!
Or why it makes sense to mix the powers to legislate, enforce, and judge.
That one certainly bears asking again, and again, and again!
I always try to talk to people and most OF THEM I talk to, even Republicans HERE, don't know much about the constitution or the history of how legal precedents were developed, or even how a federal bills get passed into law.
In fact on any given debate/issue they only know the brief summary they read or hear from their favorite source :CNN headlines, Fox and Friends summary or the MSNBC Obama-Network. They don't know or care enough to research it.
In fact what they really ask is : What is in it for Me today? If nothing then they don't care. In other cases it's just a my team vs the other team game, they love Obama or hate him.
What does it say about ABORTION!!!! you blithering idiots?
Ya gotta love that line of reasoning - 'could we explain it to a teenager'? Why not, 'could we explain it to a five year old'? Sick, you find the good stuff - thanks for the ping.
Teenagers 18 and 19 occasionally vote, at least they did in 2008.
It would be nice if they were taught about this in school so they don't come out believing whatever Comedy Central Tells them.
I mean taught something besides ‘the founders were racist, sexist homophobes so that is why we need liberal justices to progress the constitution’
” In fact what they really ask is : What is in it for Me today? If nothing then they don’t care.”
Most Americans seem to think they are electing Santa-Claus.
Well maybe a Santa that sometimes takes presents away from the rich kids so the rest don’t feel as bad.
The more I study our Revolution, the years leading up to the Constitutional Convention, the Convention, and the struggle for ratification, the more I appreciate the collective genius of our young nation.
I will refrain from commenting on what Ruth the Buzzi-Ginsberg said. I will assume that only those who have either not had, or not taken the time to learn, do not stand in awe of what our ancestors gave to us.
Boy that’s a lame quote from the article.
The constitution is the law whether anyone likes it or not. It can’t be ignored, only grossly misinterpreted to fit what the liberals want.
Adopting an entirely new one would be the biggest pain in the ass in history and with modern liberals, we could never allow that to even be a possibility. (and since they can just have liberal judges misinterpret it I don’t think the left would want to bother)
We voted on whether to call a convention to draft a new state constitution (IL) and a lot of conservatives voted no for fear of what liberals would try stick in there.