Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The "Ignore the Constitution" Meme Grows

Donnie B picks up on the growing lefty-bedwetter meme about the inconvenient Constitution. A nice letter. (Nod to Angry Alex for pointing to this)

But the argument actually intrigues me, even on its own merits. Suppose you go with the EJ Dionne / Ezra Klein "Stop bringin' up old stuff!" view of the Constitution. That means it holds no essential truths, and has no moral force. I disagree, but suppose, for the sake of argument.

It is still a contract. A contract that would never have been signed unless the signatories thought that the contract represented a commitment. You don't have to believe that a contract is perfect to argue that it is binding. Here is what Mr. Dionne says:

" Gordon Wood, the widely admired historian of the Revolutionary era has noted, we "can recognize the extraordinary character of the Founding Fathers while also knowing that those 18th-century political leaders were not outside history. . . . They were as enmeshed in historical circumstances as we are, they had no special divine insight into politics, and their thinking was certainly not free of passion, ignorance, and foolishness."

An examination of the Constitution that views it as something other than the books of Genesis or Leviticus would be good for the country."

Mr. Dionne appears to use the following argument as if it made sense:

A. The Constitution is not scripture, but rather is a set of "shrewd political compromises."
B. Therefore, people on the left can simply ignore or distort provisions that they don't like.

I am willing to concede A, at least for the sake of argument. (Yes, my Burkean / Hayekian intuition warns me against changing things we don't understand, but let's go with this). But why oh why would B follow from A? The Constitution is a contract; you are bound by a signed and established contract unless you can elicit consent to change or ignore its provisions.

The Dionne / Klein argument is a non sequitur, revealing the appalling depth of the arrogance of the LBW ruling class. We have to pass the bill so we can all find out what is in it.

A Lagniappe: One can certainly argue that there IS no social contract, and the Constitution is NOT binding, because no one now living signed it. So those in the "Sovereign" or "Voluntaryist" movements can say they are NOT parties to the social contract. But that is not acceptable to Mr. Dionne, either. He wants a binding social contract, one that constrains all citizens to obey, but places no constraints on government. They are just making this up as they go along.


August said...

Those of us who don't like what these evil people do with government should ignore the Constitution as well- people in power refuse to obey it, use it as a pretext to use force against us- and the Constitution has proven quite incapable of limiting government's power.

If Nancy Pelosi (and quite a few others on both sides of the aisle) is suddenly thrown into jail by the awesome power of the Constitution, maybe I'll warm to all this Constitutionalist speech. For now though, it's a bit like pledging allegiance to the flag of a long stolen nation.

Anonymous said...

3/5ths of me disagrees with you.

Tom said...

Those Voluntaryists et al who deny the Social Contract are like Lysander Spooner. They also deny the legitimacy of statutes. In this, they are consistent. These Pelosi types want to ignore the parts of the Law that bind them and, somehow, still "pass laws" that have some moral force. WTF?