Monday, September 27, 2010

A dissenting view on the Constitution

... and one worth reading!

Gary D. Barnett at is "fed up with Constitution-worship." His argument is that Alexander Hamilton persuaded the other Founding Fathers to adopt a document that greatly strengthened the power of the federal government knowing that it would inevitably end in federal dominance over the states and the people. Interestingly, the very powers in Article I, Section 8, which most of us wish the feds would confine themselves to, are too much for him. While he acknowledged that there were flaws in the Articles of Confederation (the document that organized the federal government prior to the Constitution), he finds it greatly superior to the Constitution in its protection of individual rights. (While I agree with Mr. Barnett on this point, I also hold that the Constitution was, and is, necessary to resolve economic and foreign policy problems that were clearly evident by 1787).

He makes the important, and usually neglected, point that the Constitution does not grant rights to the people. Our rights come from God as part and parcel of our creation.

If we need a Constitution, Mr. Barnett writes, it should be one that the people themselves can enforce. It is true that there is a natural antagonism between freedom and government, which is made clear from this quotation from Human Action, by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, quoted by Mr. Barnett:

It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
Mr. Barnett concludes:

I will put my faith in God, not men. I will have faith in freedom, not constitutions. Our salvation and return to liberty lies not in faith in men residing in the halls of congress, but in our belief in us as free and sovereign individuals.

The United States has the oldest written constitution still in force in the world. Perhaps the time has come either to extensively revise it (as Ohio did with its state constitution in 1912), or to replace it; however, its replacement must be done with extreme care, lest we come up with something even worse.

However, I suggest that the problem with the U.S. Constitution is not inherent to that document, but in our collective failure to ensure that it is consistently enforced on the federal government. We have not been jealous enough for our liberties, and the consequence is that many of them have already been lost. We have allowed the federal Leviathan to grow out of all sense of human scale, economically and militarily. We have trusted too much in our elected officials and relied too little on ourselves.

Rather than to attempt to repair the damage to the federal government, it might just be simpler to start over. A Republic of Ohio with 11.5 million people will be much more accountable to its people than a federal government of 310 million people ever will be.

Think about it.


Tom said...

I agree with Mr. Barnett. The Constitution itself IS the problem. Just read Article 1, Section 8 - the government has the power to tax the hell out of us. Well that's all the power they need to be a total tyranny, and that's what they've become.

The constitution was a silent coup by the mercantilists (Hamilton, etc) to retake control of the new country. It is an illusion of freedom, as laid out by the Federalist (propaganda) Papers, but in actuality it authorizes tyranny.

Harold Thomas said...

You make a valid point. My own thinking, as reflected in this blog, has gone from enthusiastic Constitutionalism, to the wary Constitutionalism of Thomas Jefferson. I have not quite veered all the way to antifederalism; because, in the interest of consistency, I have to think more about the impact on an independent Ohio of having a national government as weak as the federal under the Articles of Confederation.

However, you and Mr. Barnett have provided ample food for thought.


Brian said...

Tom and Harold:

The missing component from our Constitution as opposed to what the founders had is the check and balance of the states to the federal government. Certainly the US Constitution does give the federal government the power to tax, however no unnecessary taxation would ever get through Congress because the states were represented in Congress and would prevent this. But this all changed in the year 1913 when a small group of bankers and media types were able to orchestrate a small coup and propelled the 16th and 17th Amendments into the spotlight and to be enacted. (I should point out that recent scholarship has disproved the idea that Progressives got the two through. In actuality it was huge media campaign orchestrated by Wall Street and the media that preyed upon the stupidity and envious nature of the Progressive/Socialist of that era, much like today. However, it has become an urban myth used to propel the Democrat Party through WWII and has been supplanted into high school text books by the teachers union.)

Up until that time the courts had always ruled the income tax as unconstitutional and the states had representation in Congress. Once that was broken and especially after WWII the growth of the federal government has been tremendous, spending astronomical, civil liberties eliminated, as well as the states.

We need to repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments today.

Harold Thomas said...


I agree with you; but question whether repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments is even possible today. Both issues would require years of education before most Americans (especially in the "blue" states) would even understand the issues.

Secession can be undertaken one state at a time, and at the rate the catastrophe is accelerating, Ohio will be ready to discuss it in a year or two.

I have come around to George Mason's view that free government cannot extend over a large territory.