“America’s revolutionary experiment in democracy has, from its first moments, been a beacon of hope and opportunity to the world,” declares the “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” Proclamation signed yesterday by Barack Obama. “We are strengthened by our diversity and united by our fidelity to a set of tenets.”
The U.S. Constitution was the product of a secretive process by people seeking to consolidate power. The men who produced that instrument would be nonplussed to learn from Obama that the document “allowed for protest and new ideas that would broaden democracy’s reach.” Whatever else can honestly be said about them, the constitutional framers left abundant and detailed warnings regarding the dangers of democracy, and the soundest thinkers among them understood that individual liberty exists whether or not it is “allowed” by a government. To the Founding generation’s credit, nobody of any consequence pretended that it was the duty or privilege of the government they created to export democracy abroad, as Obama and his handlers insist.
The Constitution, continued Obama’s decree, “reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society. It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and one another.” On this construction, the Constitution exists to define “the duties and responsibilities of citizenship” — rather than to assign limited and revocable powers to the federal government, as its framers insisted during the ratification debate. The powers of government are self-evident and unconditional; our liberties, such as they are, must be considered “privileges” that are contingent on the grace of our rulers.
As we would expect given his ideological background and political affiliations, Obama’s view of the “constitution” is entirely collectivist. Like Mussolini — another corporatist tyrant who was suckled on socialism — Obama’s worldview could be summarized in the phrase “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
Assuming that a proclamation of some kind simply had to be issued yesterday, Obama could have dispensed with social justice cant that cankered his decree and simply republished Mussolini’s more concise utterance (cited in Lew Rockwell’s wonderful new book, Against the State): “The keystone of Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative.”
As it was re-purposed by the White House, the U.S. Constitution offers unqualified license for state intervention in human affairs, both domestically and abroad. It more closely resembles the Constitution of the Soviet Union than the document that emerged from the Philadelphia Convention — which, we should be clear, was not designed to protect individual liberty, but rather to authorize impositions upon it. Any document that authorizes the “taking” of property through eminent domain and the suspension of habeas corpus is not a charter of individual liberty.
It is commonplace for conservatives to lament that Obama’s rule represents a terminal apostasy from our constitutional principles. They would be wise to consider Lysander Spooner’s wise and prescient critique of the Constitution: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”11:32 am on September 18, 2014 Email William Norman Grigg