An Open Invitation to Joe Sobran

I read your recent column, The Lesser Evil, with great interest. You relate how you consider yourself a moderate, willing to accept a Constitutionally limited government, given that men such as Lysander Spooner, Patrick Henry, and Murray Rothbard thought the Constitution tyrannical. You write how the government has expanded by fits and starts to the point that Ron Paul is the lone constitutionalist “crank” left in Congress. He is truly the exception that proves the rule: our government is no longer bound by anything resembling the written limitations of the Constitution.

I used to share your minarchist view. A small, limited government seemed possible and pragmatic. That's changed since September 11th. Instead of rethinking the foreign policy that contributed to the attacks, the government piled on more of the same. Instead of firing the chiefs of the FAA, CIA, and FBI, those agencies get more funding. The attacks on September 11th have given the federal government an excuse to shear all but the ghostly forms of any remaining constitutionally guaranteed liberties from a sheep-like people. Torture, constant surveillance, seizure upon suspicion, suspension of habeas corpus, abolishment of Posse Comitatus, and warrant-less searches of your person and property are either in effect or under serious debate. Imagine, torture in the United States! The United States has become a police state, all with our precious, written Constitution still moldering under glass in Washington, D.C.

In the span of less than 100 years communism peaked and collapsed in the Soviet Union. Communism failed because it was based on severely flawed assumptions about people, and what motivates them. Mr. Sobran, I think it's time to admit that the idea of a Constitutionally limited government has failed as well. It, too, is based on flawed assumptions about people. Perhaps not as spectacularly wrong as communism, but wrong, nonetheless. Since it has taken over 200 years to produce a country nearly as authoritarian as the Soviet Union, and it has not yet collapsed, perhaps we can say constitutionally limited republicanism is at least three times better than communism. And we can always feel better about our revolutionaries than the Russians do about the Bolsheviks; ours didn't purges millions after winning the war.

The men who founded this Republic by writing and ratifying the Constitution understood the dangerous path they were taking. Students of antiquity, they tried to avoid following the Roman path of Kingdom, then Republic, then Empire, by writing everything down. It turns out in practice that the "social contract" cannot bind the politician or the entrenched bureaucrat, any more than the Soviet Union could make the New Soviet Man.

When things do change in this country, it will not be because the bureaucrats come to work one day and say "Gee, we failed in our job. The private market would be so much better at this." It will be because the people have finally figured out that Ben Franklin was right all along, liberty can't be traded for security.

Sir, your sentimental attachment to the Constitution must go. Like communism, it may sound like a good idea on paper, but it hasn't worked in practice. It just took longer to fail. I've made the journey from skeptical Republican to minarchist Libertarian to anarcho-capitalist in a few short years. Thankfully I had the Internet, to help me stand on the libertarian shoulders of free-market and freedom minder thinkers. Your writings were and are among those that cause me to question and revise my viewpoints. I hope you will consider doing the same, and move from Joe Sobran, reactionary utopian to Joe Sobran, radical anarcho-capitalist. We could use your help imagining the future.

November 29, 2001