Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Common Misconceptions About the Constitution

I was inspired to start this blog after listening to a political science graduate on a talk radio. I was startled to hear her say that she was never required to read the body of the Constitution, only the Bill of Rights. This brought to mind once again the three most widespread misconceptions about the Constitution.
  1. The Bill of Rights is the most important part of the Constitution
  2. The Bill of Rights guarantees our freedom
  3. The Constitution is ancient and not applicable to the modern world

The Framers would vehemently disagree with the first myth. Viewing the Bill of Rights as the most important part of the Constitution would go against everything they believed. In fact, many of the framers opposed a Bill of Rights. Even those who supported a list of rights still believed the main body of the Constitution was the linchpin that protected liberty.

The framers had a very simple philosophy about protecting libertyLimit government power. Period. All oppression comes from power, and excessive government power inevitably leads to oppression. They searched world history for an exception to this rule and found none. 

That’s why:
  1. They balanced power between the three branches
  2. They gave each branch robust checks on the other two.
  3. They gave the national government only enumerated powers, retaining all other power in the hands of the people or states.
  4. The members of each branch were chosen by a different method.
  5. Terms in office were staggered.
  6. They used the states as checks on the national government.
  7. Denied government the use of religion as a tool to govern.

The brightest people in America thought long and hard about preserving liberty and their conclusion was they must limit government power. That is the purpose of the main body of the Constitution. That is the most crucial part of the Constitution and that is the part that should receive the greatest attention by political scientists.

Bill of Rights Cannot Protect Liberty

Those who fought for a Bill of Rights weren't looking for a government guarantee of an itemized list of rights. Even anti-Federalists didn't believe rights came from government. These constitutional dissenters were demanding that government be restricted from interfering with their rights. They wanted it made crystal clear where the government dare not tread.

Read the first eight amendments.  They are filled with phrases like Congress shall make no law, shall not be infringed, shall not be violated, nor be deprived, shall not be required.

These are not rights generously bestowed by government, they are directives from We the People to the government—orders not to infringe upon our God given rights.

The Constitution and the Modern World

Those who want to be free of constitutional shackles often say that a document written over two hundred years ago cannot possibly be applicable in this modern world. Wrong. The focus of the framers was to hinder government oppression. They did their best to magnify the best attributes and constrain the worst impulses of the human species. The main body of the Constitution is a government framework meant to balance and distribute power for safety. Unless human nature changes, this framework will remain valid for the next thousand years. 

Besides, if we really need a change, we can amend it any time we want. After all, we’ve already revised it 27 times.

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