Why I’m not a great fan of the Constitution


One of the reasons that I’m not as much of a fan of the Constitution as some are is that the Constitution means what the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, say it means. The courts say the Constitution means some pretty crazy things, while at the same time, the idea of the Constitution limiting government has morphed into a tool for promoting the growth of government.

I quote at length from Murray N. Rothbard’s book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Perhaps this will help explain why I am a libertarian and not a conservative.

First, from page 48. A constitution must be interpreted and enforced by men:

It is true that, in the United States, at least, we have a constitution that imposes strict limits on some powers of government. But, as we have discovered in the past century, no constitution can interpret or enforce itself; it must be interpreted by men. And if the ultimate power to interpret a constitution is given to the government’s own Supreme Court, then the inevitable tendency is for the Court to continue to place its imprimatur on ever-broader powers for its own government. Furthermore, the highly touted “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” in the American government are flimsy indeed, since in the final analysis all of these divisions are part of the same government and are governed by the same set of rulers.

Then from page 66. Instead of limiting government, courts use the Constitution to legitimize growing government:

Certainly, the most ambitious attempt in history to impose limits on the State was the Bill of Rights and other restrictive parts of the United States Constitution. Here, written limits on government became the fundamental law, to be interpreted by a judiciary supposedly independent of the other branches of government. All Americans are familiar with the process by which John C. Calhoun’s prophetic analysis has been vindicated; the State’s own monopoly judiciary has inexorably broadened the construction of State power over the last century and a half. But few have been as keen as liberal Professor Charles Black — who hails the process — in seeing that the State has been able to transform judicial review itself from a limiting device into a powerful instrument for gaining legitimacy for its actions in the minds of the public. If a judicial decree of “unconstitutional” is a mighty check on governmental power, so too a verdict of “constitutional” is an equally mighty weapon for fostering public acceptance of ever greater governmental power.

From page 69, the solution is given:

Thus, even in the United States, unique among governments in having a constitution, parts of which at least were meant to impose strict and solemn limits upon its actions, even here the Constitution has proved to be an instrument for ratifying the expansion of State power rather than the opposite. As Calhoun saw, any written limits that leave it to government to interpret its own powers are bound to be interpreted as sanctions for expanding and not binding those powers. In a profound sense, the idea of binding down power with the chains of a written constitution has proved to be a noble experiment that failed. The idea of a strictly limited government has proved to be utopian; some other, more radical means must be found to prevent the growth of the aggressive State. The libertarian system would meet this problem by scrapping the entire notion of creating a government — an institution with a coercive monopoly of force over a given territory — and then hoping to find ways to keep that government from expanding. The libertarian alternative is to abstain from such a monopoly government to begin with.


4 responses to “Why I’m not a great fan of the Constitution”

  1. Sam Sneed

    It is all about three clauses, tax and spending clause, commerce clause, ad the 14th substantive due process. Those three together have caused more federal expansion than the rest of the document combined.

  2. Dismal Scientist

    Amen Bob, the U.S. Constitution is a flawed document but I would jump at the chance to scale back the Federal Government to its constitutional limits! I am not a fan of allowing the Congress to regulate “the coining of money and the value thereof”. Like Joseph Sobran, I am a “reluctant anarchist”. Limited government was tried and worked for a very short while, but works no longer. The true free market can provide all services necessary for a free, prosperous and orderly society. Free Market Anarchism’s time has come.

  3. concerned

    Bob Weeks and the othe CONS hate America if they hate our Constitution.

    Move the hell to Somalia where there is no government!

  4. concerned

    “The Free Market”………. What a bunch of horse $hit, you capitalist/fascist just want to control as much money and resources as you can to enslave others.

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