Has the Constitution Failed, or Have We?

Posted on April 26, 2013. Filed under: Founding Fathers, History, United States Constitution | Tags: , |

Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution of the United States of America (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

I get upset, nay, I get pissed whenever someone comes along and proclaims that the Constitution has failed. Especially when they offer no evidence to support their claim.

Were the Founding Fathers infallible? No.

Is the Constitution perfect? No.

Does it need amended to address issues that have popped up over the years? Yes.

Those of use who believe that we need to go back to the original interpretation of the Constitution do not for one second believe that the Constitution is infallible. The Founders didn’t, either. That’s why they gave us the ability to amend it.

However, we do not believe that the Constitution is a “Living” Document. By declaring the Constitution a living document, politicians justify changing their “interpretations” of that document. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

Alexander Hamilton is the one responsible for this trouble. He’s the one who started the whole “implied powers” business, and used it to justify a national bank to George Washington. Of course, Washington approved it, so he is partly to blame.

But the author of the piece is mostly complaining about having to pay taxes. Taxes are a necessary evil, No one likes to pay them, but the way they are being spent is ridiculous, especially when we have a government that refuses to acknowledge that they are misusing the public’s money.

The author says we are in denial about the “failure to achieve the ends proclaimed for it by the founding generation”.

Those aims would be, per the preamble:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Which of these the Constitution has failed to deliver escapes me, and the author never elaborates on it. This is the closest hint that he gives:

Americans tend to idolatrize the Constitution as sacred and infallible rather than recognizing it for the stumbling, trial-and-error experiment in self-government that it is, created by flawed human beings who acknowledged their frailties and never expected their experiment in constitutionalism to succeed.

I’ve seen this said by more than one person, that the Founders never expected this “experiment” to succeed. If they never expected it to succeed, then why bother? If it was doomed to failure, then it was a waste of everyone’s time. It’s easy enough to say that it failed, but what evidence is there in the historical record?

The only evidence that I have been able to find was this single quote from John Adams:

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.

That quote doesn’t mean Adams thought the experiment would fail, but I think we are dangerously close to that phase.

The major changes that we have experienced have been within the last century. More amendments to the Constitution were proposed and ratified in the early 1900’s than at any other time: the adoption of taxing authority by the Federal government, prohibition, the selection of senators taken from the states and given to the people, and women’s suffrage.

Of these four amendments passed in a flurry of seven years, only one was a good idea, and I’m not talking about the tax amendment.

The author believes that the government is tyrannical purely because it has the ability to enforce taxation. There are those who believe that all taxation is okay because the reason for the Revolution was “taxation without representation”, and we have representation today. Yes, we have representation, but that does not mean the government has carte blanche to tax us into the poorhouse. The ability to enforce taxation came about because under the Articles of Confederation, the states were not paying the taxes required to pay off the war debts, especially those owed to the French. Tensions were escalating, and something needed to be done.

Taxation is a necessary evil. We need to pay for fire departments and police. We need to pay for roads and bridges. We do not, however, need to pay foreign countries bribes.

The Constitution has not failed. Instead, we have had 200+ years of politicians, lawyers and judges twisting and perverting the words of the Constitution, each adding their own interpretations to the pile instead of learning what the Founders intended. That would be too much work.

Has the Constitution failed? No.

Does it need some amendments? Certainly.

Still, as the politicians, lawyers and judges pervert the meaning of the Constitution, we have done little to stop it.

Would our Founding Fathers be surprised that the Constitution still stands? Without question.

Especially considering that it is we, the People who have failed, not just the Constitution, but the Founders ideals as well.

It takes effort to do what they did. It requires that we learn, that we make an effort to be informed, that we do that which is hard.

That’s why we’ve failed, because doing what we need to do to support our rights, our way of life might get in the way of the latest episode of the Kardashians.

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3 Responses to “Has the Constitution Failed, or Have We?”

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[…] I said before, it isn’t the Constitution that’s failed, it is the People who have failed. It is we who are supposed to be the custodians, because we are supposedly the government. Yet we, […]

[…] A few weeks ago, I was pondering whether the Constitution has failed us, or if we have failed the Constitution. […]

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