Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. On This Constitution Day, Is There Any Hope For Our Founding Document?

 

shutterstock_204257752It’s Constitution Day! My husband is off giving a paid speech at a midwestern university. It turns out the Feds require some sort of recognition of the day in higher education. I’m happy enough that our family can profit by this, but distressed about the bureaucratic overreach that demands it. He first wrote an interesting speech detailing the parallels between our own contemporary circumstances and the decline of the Roman Empire, but when the organizers emailed the program, it turned out he was supposed to talk about his latest book, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom. Doh. I guess the other speech is destined for a magazine or SSRN or something.

Anyway, I’m curious to hear what you all see as the future of our wonderful Constitution. It has been nearly buried by the bureaucratic state, overweening judiciary, and imperial president. We the People seem to have been lost in the shuffle.

Do you think there is any way to reinstate the Constitution as our guiding American document and give the power back to We the People? I will admit that the undelivered speech was not very optimistic. When he related it to me a few weeks ago in a practice run, I told him that he could not end his speech on such a negative note — though his law professor colleagues told him it was too optimistic.

Ricochetti, I ask you to give me some hope. How can we escape the bureaucratic landslide that is burying all that is best about our nation? Tell me there is hope for the Constitution on this day set aside to celebrate it.

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  1. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    A really good start would be to start shuttering unconstitutional agencies and shredding every piece of law founded on the “general welfare” clause.

    • #1
    • September 17, 2015, at 11:28 AM PDT
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  2. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    Interstate commerce could go too.

    • #2
    • September 17, 2015, at 11:29 AM PDT
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  3. Guruforhire Member

    The pantomime only matters if it hurts us.

    • #3
    • September 17, 2015, at 11:43 AM PDT
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  4. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    Guruforhire:The pantomime only matters if it hurts us.

    The point of his first speech was that Romans drifted away from self-rule because the forms were kept alive so that people didn’t really necessarily quite see what was happening. The forms were kept alive and they were fortunate enough to have some effective emperors for awhile, but then of course things went very, very bad. So yes, I think it matters. I think we’re at a crossroads right now. The right would like to beat back the bureaucratic state and all the rest, but can we? And how should we go about doing it? The left is just clueless and has no idea what is happening. Bread and circuses for them.

    • #4
    • September 17, 2015, at 11:55 AM PDT
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  5. Tuck Inactive

    Merina Smith: …Do you think there is any way to reinstate the Constitution as our guiding American document and give the power back to We the People?…

    Not without bloodshed. That was Jefferson’s expectation, of course.

    • #5
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:01 PM PDT
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  6. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    Tuck:

    Merina Smith: …Do you think there is any way to reinstate the Constitution as our guiding American document and give the power back to We the People?…

    Not without bloodshed. That was Jefferson’s expectation, of course.

    Really? You think there is no possibility of peaceful means? I know we shouldn’t put too much hope in a new President, but it seems like things were good a short time ago and we ought to be able to solve our problems without war.

    • #6
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:22 PM PDT
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  7. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Merina Smith:

    Tuck:

    Merina Smith: …Do you think there is any way to reinstate the Constitution as our guiding American document and give the power back to We the People?…

    Not without bloodshed. That was Jefferson’s expectation, of course.

    Really? You think there is no possibility of peaceful means? I know we shouldn’t put too much hope in a new President, but it seems like things were good a short time ago and we ought to be able to solve our problems without war.

    It requires rolling back the entire administrative state and undoing the literally tens of thousands of pages of regulations. The only way would be for Congress to vote for, and the President to sign, a bill invalidating all federal law except the Constitution and its ratified amendments and starting over from scratch. Looking at it that way, war is the much easier path.

    • #7
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:39 PM PDT
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  8. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    nope_doctor_who

    • #8
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:39 PM PDT
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  9. BrentB67 Inactive

    Merina Smith:Interstate commerce could go too.

    Interstate commerce is a Constitutional responsibility of the federal. The issue is liberal interpretation of it for progressive means by SCOTUS.

    • #9
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:47 PM PDT
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  10. BrentB67 Inactive

    Too many people have voted themselves too many goodies from the treasury. I think it will take a long and potentially bloody rinse cycle to restore Constitutional order.

    • #10
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:48 PM PDT
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  11. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Congress seems to be in a particularly week phase; they’ve abrogated their legislative duties to the bureaucracy, their war making powers to the executive, and now they’ve given up their treaty powers … it sort of make you wonder what they actually do all day.

    I usually hate calls for bi-partisanship, but I’d love to see some institutional, cross-partisan jealousy from that body.

    • #11
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:48 PM PDT
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  12. civil westman Inactive

    Sorry, but the Constitutional republic with consent of the governed is over and cannot be rescinded short of collapse and starting over. Any interaction with any functionary of government unmistakably answers the question of who works for whom. “We the people” exists only as a soporific slogan.

    • #12
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:49 PM PDT
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  13. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    civil westman:Sorry, but the Constitutional republic with consent of the governed is over and cannot be rescinded short of collapse and starting over. Any interaction with any functionary of government unmistakably answers the question of who works for whom. “We the people” exists only as a soporific slogan.

    Not that I actually “like” this comment. It’s frighteningly and sadly true.

    • #13
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:53 PM PDT
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  14. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    Hey–I have my husband in the house to give me all this depressing stuff. I asked for hope! That said, I will admit that the bit of hope I convinced him to add to the original speech is that history is surprising. It often doesn’t go the way the trajectory seems to indicate.

    Has anybody read Charles Murray’s By the People? Basically, it’s a call to start up a movement that resists bureaucratic overreach (which he argues doesn’t have a lot of enforcement mechanisms when you get right down to it) with an insurance-style form of civil disobedience. I think he has some good ideas. Part of the problem, though, is that many people are hopeless and many more don’t see what is happening. We need a wake-up call and some means to fight back so that we gain hope.

    • #14
    • September 17, 2015, at 12:56 PM PDT
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  15. GrannyDude Member

    Merina Smith:

    Guruforhire:The pantomime only matters if it hurts us.

    The point of his first speech was that Romans drifted away from self-rule because the forms were kept alive so that people didn’t really necessarily quite see what was happening. The forms were kept alive and they were fortunate enough to have some effective emperors for awhile, but then of course things went very, very bad. So yes, I think it matters. I think we’re at a crossroads right now. The right would like to beat back the bureaucratic state and all the rest, but can we? And how should we go about doing it? The left is just clueless and has no idea what is happening. Bread and circuses for them.

    Merina, I think your husband should have given the original speech! Couldn’t he have titled it “Beyond the Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom” or something like that?

    • #15
    • September 17, 2015, at 1:16 PM PDT
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  16. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    The US constitution is a aging piece of paper of some historical value. Outside that it is only invoked to have its words and meanings twisted by politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, law enforcement, etc to justify and give validity to their power grabs and sweeping actions. Basically the constitution has no power and we live in a culture of might make right and you can do it if you can get away with it.

    • #16
    • September 17, 2015, at 1:29 PM PDT
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  17. Pilli Inactive

    Justice Stephen Bryer was on Charlie Rose last night. Here’s what he thinks of our Constitution. Notice how he implies that the Constitution needs to be kept modern through interpretation based on modern thinking.

    • #17
    • September 17, 2015, at 1:42 PM PDT
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  18. tabula rasa Member
    tabula rasa Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    While I don’t think things are completely hopeless, I’m not optimistic about the future of the Constitution.

    I doubt very much we will ever return to the kind of constitutional conservatism that I believe in, and I’m certain we can’t do it is one fell swoop.

    It will require (1) electing conservative presidents who will appoint (2) conservative judges. That’s why the presidency matters.

    I’m concerned about the nature of American legal education. Marina’s husband is the kind of law professor who believes in limiting the interpretive tricks that liberal judges use so effectively. Based on what I see, he is in the minority. It’s very hard to turn a ship around when all the new officers think the current direction is fine and dandy.

    This is a long term project and will demand vigilance and discipline by the good guys.

    We should take as one of our guides the pro-life movement. Roe v. Wade is now 42 years old. Nonetheless, those who believe in protecting the unborn have never thrown in the towel, and seem even stronger than they were twenty years ago. They’re a strong symbol for the idea that even when we can’t change current policy we can continue to bear witness. If right is on our side, as it surely is on abortion policy, we can make a long term difference. It’s only when we roll over and accept things that we lose.

    • #18
    • September 17, 2015, at 2:18 PM PDT
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  19. Man With the Axe Member

    Maybe what we need now is a constitutional convention. I know this is a dangerous thing, as it has the potential to open everything, but if it’s the interpretations of the constitution that have gotten us so far astray, let’s re-write those clauses to bring back the meaning that we want.

    Of course, this assumes we (the good guys) would have the numbers to carry the day on these arguments. But if we don’t, then the game is over anyway until a few very conservative justices are appointed to replace the liberal four.

    We could make it clear that the regulation of interstate commerce means only the instrumentalities of commerce (trains, planes, etc.) and not the making and selling of things. That marriage is a state issue. That the taxing and spending powers do not give Congress the authority to compel actions they do not otherwise have the power to regulate. So, for example, they could not withhold education funds to insist on any particular educational program. That equal protection does not allow for discrimination based on race in favor of or to the detriment of any race.

    And so on.

    • #19
    • September 17, 2015, at 2:19 PM PDT
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  20. Ekosj Inactive

    Hi AxeMan. An Article 5 Convention is much less dangerous than the ad hoc Concention that convenes every time the Supreme Court sits and every time President Obama reaches for his “pen & phone”

    • #20
    • September 17, 2015, at 2:49 PM PDT
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  21. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Unfortunately, a lot depends on who the President is. When Obama said the Constitution was a document of negative liberties, what Government can’t do to you, as opposed to what the Government must do for you – and there wasn’t an immediate Civil War – means we’re pretty far down the road of destruction.

    I would leurve to see the response to a President who says we must return to the Constitution of negative liberties.

    • #21
    • September 17, 2015, at 3:40 PM PDT
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  22. Hoyacon Member

    Much of the Constitution still retains a great deal of validity/vitality. The problem is that the “important parts” (Commerce Clause, Enumerated Powers, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, etc.) have been damaged beyond recognition. Although there have been any number of inexplicable decisions along the way (Plessy v Ferguson, Dred Scott, etc.), we can IMO date the beginning of the big decline to the evisceration of the Commerce Clause to the ’30s (thanks, FDR). That’s about 80 years ago, which is an indicator of how long it takes to effect change (for better or worse). I’m not sure that I see change in the other direction as happening quickly, if at all. Depressing.

    Let me put in a plug for a very well done (i.e., comprehensive) reference on the Constitution from Heritage. Keep it close at hand if you care:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Heritage-Guide-Constitution-Revised/dp/1621572684/

    • #22
    • September 17, 2015, at 4:51 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    tabula rasa:While I don’t think things are completely hopeless, I’m not optimistic about the future of the Constitution.

    I doubt very much we will ever return to the kind of constitutional conservatism that I believe in, and I’m certain we can’t do it is one fell swoop.

    It will require (1) electing conservative presidents who will appoint (2) conservative judges. That’s why the presidency matters.

    I’m concerned about the nature of American legal education. Marina’s husband is the kind of law professor who believes in limiting the interpretive tricks that liberal judges use so effectively. Based on what I see, he is in the minority. It’s very hard to turn a ship around when all the new officers think the current direction is fine and dandy.

    This is a long term project and will demand vigilance and discipline by the good guys.

    We should take as one of our guides the pro-life movement. Roe v. Wade is now 42 years old. Nonetheless, those who believe in protecting the unborn have never thrown in the towel, and seem even stronger than they were twenty years ago. They’re a strong symbol for the idea that even when we can’t change current policy we can continue to bear witness. If right is on our side, as it surely is on abortion policy, we can make a long term difference. It’s only when we roll over and accept things that we lose.

    Thanks TR. I think this is about as hopeful as it gets, but I will say that in 1973, the current strength of the Pro-life movement was not foreseen by many, if anyone. That’s why I say that history is surprising. I urge you to read By the People. Murray recommends the kind of grassroots movement that I think might be a big help. And I will say that even though the Tea Party hasn’t totally flourished, it has done some good, and I can’t think of another nation on earth where it would have gotten off the ground. We the People actually have a lot more power than we realize when we band together, have courage in speaking about our convictions, and don’t forget–rely on faith and prayer to guide us.

    • #23
    • September 17, 2015, at 4:58 PM PDT
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  24. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    I actually think a religious revival would be a big help to our cause. Those are our roots after all. And in the early Republic people like Jefferson thought religion was going to become very deist and remote. This was his thinking just before the second great awakening. I believe people have a will to meaning and a need for belief in something greater than themselves. This gives me hope.

    • #24
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:00 PM PDT
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  25. Bob Thompson Member

    One of the themes repeated here frequently is that we elect representatives who campaign on commitments to do certain things and then forget about it when they are elected. This is true. I think it is also true that longevity in office erodes the commitment, if it was ever there. I’m a big believer in the Federalism concept embodied in the Constitution and that we have suffered under a century old campaign by progressives to destroy that concept. We need the Presidency and both houses of Congress to make some relatively small moves and then evaluate our prospects.

    Carly Fiorina has committed to no new hires in the Federal bureaucracy if she were elected. That would be a good start. To do that successfully would be greater than the battles fought by Governor Walker in Wisconsin. Then if we could control the borders according to the laws we have would be great.

    We really need to fight through a couple of things like this to see what’s possible.

    • #25
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:17 PM PDT
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  26. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    Merina, wouldn’t deism be better than what we have now?

    • #26
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:18 PM PDT
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  27. SParker Member

    Hoyacon: Much of the Constitution still retains a great deal of validity/vitality. The problem is that the “important parts” (Commerce Clause, Enumerated Powers, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, etc.) have been damaged beyond recognition.

    I believe Richard Epstein suggested an amendment defining commerce as an activity involving buying, selling and transporting physical objects (you know, like a dictionary does) in one of his podcasts to clear up a boatload of mischief. I’m thinking that could be expanded to a syntax and definitions amendment: Commerce (growing wheat for your own use just doesn’t count); the General Welfare clause (there isn’t one–it’s part of a summary phrase for the actually enumerated powers below it); the Contract clause (there is one–try thinking about it when government at any level thinks it’s kosher to set wages and prices and other terms and conditions for private parties); etc.

    It would at least be interesting to hear the debate before the bloodshed begins.

    • #27
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:52 PM PDT
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  28. Tuck Inactive

    Merina Smith:

    Really? You think there is no possibility of peaceful means? I know we shouldn’t put too much hope in a new President, but it seems like things were good a short time ago and we ought to be able to solve our problems without war.

    Odds are we’re going to get another Progressive Republican, who will continue to make things worse. This is like asking Julius Caesar if there’s a peaceful way back to the Republic.

    We only move forward.

    • #28
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:54 PM PDT
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  29. Tuck Inactive

    Merina Smith:I actually think a religious revival would be a big help to our cause. Those are our roots after all. And in the early Republic people like Jefferson thought religion was going to become very deist and remote. This was his thinking just before the second great awakening. I believe people have a will to meaning and a need for belief in something greater than themselves. This gives me hope.

    I agree. A nice dose of Cromwell could do us wonders. He was an excellent commander as well, to my point above.

    • #29
    • September 17, 2015, at 5:57 PM PDT
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  30. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith

    Tuck:

    Merina Smith:I actually think a religious revival would be a big help to our cause. Those are our roots after all. And in the early Republic people like Jefferson thought religion was going to become very deist and remote. This was his thinking just before the second great awakening. I believe people have a will to meaning and a need for belief in something greater than themselves. This gives me hope.

    I agree. A nice dose of Cromwell could do us wonders. He was an excellent commander as well, to my point above.

    I just returned from a trip to Ireland, though, and his behavior there was pretty shocking. Maybe a less brutal Cromwell.

    • #30
    • September 17, 2015, at 6:13 PM PDT
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