Radical Constitutionalism?

 

This, from the Economist, is mistaken:

Anyway, if one bothers to really think about it, constitutional conservativism, as construed by Ms Bachmann and her boosters, might be better labeled “constitutional restorationism”, which I think more clearly conveys the idea of a return to the system of government laid out in the constitution, intepreted as the authors intended. But this idea, if taken really seriously, is staggeringly radical. I find it hard to believe that any of the mild-mannered, stability-loving conservative Iowans who told me they want to put a constitutional conservative in the White House really favour junking hundreds of years of prior constitutional interpretation and reinterpretation along with the massive, interlocking system of institutions that has evolved along with them. Most conservatives really are conservative. They don’t favour uprooting the vast infrastructure of existing institutions that reaches into every corner of American life (even if some of those institutions are only dubiously “constitutional”). What they seem to want, even if this is not what they understand themselves to want, is to start from the status quo and add a new layer of constitutional reinterpretation inspired by certain widespread contemporary ideas about the sort of things the founders had in mind.

Correction: constitutional conservatives recognize that extricating ourselves from the current administrative state is sort of like kicking heroin or getting off life support. It can be done at all once, but it ain’t pretty. It hurts. And even those constitutional conservatives who aren’t hugely troubled by this as a matter of personal principle are aware there isn’t much of a constituency for shock therapy. Constitutional conservatives don’t favor uprooting — that’s exactly right. But they don’t favor weeds, either. There’s nothing radical about pulling gently and firmly, if one bothers to really think about it.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidWilliamson

    The Economist is not the place I would look to understand Mrs Bachmann – it’s better to listen to the lady herself.

    I kinda like the idea of being a “radical” – changing the country back to what the Founders intended. I’d start by scrapping the Departments of Education and Energy, which I believe is Mrs Bachmann’s position, also.

    If Sarah Palin ain’t running I will be quite happy with Mrs Bachmann, instead.

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    @

    There can be little disagreement that the elimination of these programs will be necessary at some point. Sooooooooo……How does anyone propose to do it in a manner that won’t result in the country being burned to the ground by the recipients of said programs’ largesse?(I seem to recall that the changes made by the Wisconsin legislature were minimal in the grand scheme and look what that ended up turning into.)

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    @PaulARahe

    Right on the mark, James.

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    @tabularasa

    This is merely one more reminder why I do not mourn my decision, after a year, to cancel my subscription to the Economist.

    The spirit of Walter Bagehot weeps.

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    @AdamFreedman

    That one paragraph contains so much arrogance and sloppy thinking, that I defy even the New York Times to out-do it. “Hundreds of years?” What planet is he on? As kylez points out the constitutional revolution really began in the New Deal. Before that, there was no system of “independent agencies” and the Commerce Clause was alive and well. And much of the revolution — eg, constitutionalizing phony “rights” — dates from the 1960s and beyond.

    You cannot maintain the “status quo” with a layer of originalism on top. Originalism is about the rule of law, and that demands the repeal of unconstitutional statutes. No doubt this same writer fretted about the fall of the Berlin Wall, earnestly believing that what East Germans really wanted was the status quo with a thin layer of freedom on top.

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    @Sisyphus

    In my time the Economist has grown from being a tad off-key but interesting on matters American to being pig ignorant. For these Brits with their unwritten constitution chock full of entitlements dreamed up by droll Fabian wits in 19th Century coffee houses where they skipped on their tab, with the state miscast in the role of deus ex machina in the manner of a snowball being rolled about, crushing all of the neighboring snow into itself until it achieves such awesome mass that even an August heat wave would require weeks to melt the whole mess away.

    As for “the massive, interlocking system of institutions that has evolved along with them,” I think the word he is looking for is “accreted” rather than evolved.

    Chalk it up one more time to financial advice from the gleefully bankrupt.

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    @WhiskeySam
    tabula rasa: This is merely one more reminder why I do not mourn my decision, after a year, to cancel my subscription to the Economist.

    The spirit of Walter Bagehot weeps. ยท Jun 30 at 7:20am

    You and me both, Tabula. The interesting articles just weren’t worth the baggage of the columnists.

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    @kylez

    funny how he says “junking hundreds of years of prior constitutional interpretation and reinterpretation” when of course it is just now a little under 80 years, and it is “reinterpretation” that has to go.

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    @KCMulville

    If … if … all of these post-/extra-/non-Constitutional entities were universally popular and socially effective, of course, maybe … maybe … no one would want to get rid of them.

    But that’s the point.

    These agencies are dysfunctional. The reason we want to get rid of them, or limit their power severely, is precisely because they violate Constitutional principles. Only a liberal would consider the California shopping bag tax policy that Peter Robinson posted about earlier, and come away thinking that surely the public wouldn’t want to rock that boat. Of course we want to get rid of that nonsense.

    “Most conservatives really are conservative. They don’t favour uprooting the vast infrastructure of existing institutions that reaches into every corner of American life.” Is the Economist kidding? That’s exactly what we want to uproot. These agencies mangle any balance between individual freedom and government authority by discarding individual freedom.

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    @Kervinlee

    “What they seem to want, even if this is not what they understand themselves to want, is to start from the status quo and add a new layer of constitutional reinterpretation inspired by certain widespread contemporary ideas about the sort of things the founders had in mind.”

    Can’t these rags find writers who aren’t so contemptuous of the people they’re writing about? How does this oaf know what anyone else understands about anything?

    Now that I’ve vented, if “Bachmann and her boosters” are “staggeringly radical”, count me among them. I long for a limited government of enumerated powers where the people are soverign, and power is on loan to their representatives.

    I favor scrapping all of the progressive-era and great society mischief that has been a burden on our liberty for too long.

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