Friday, May 22, 2009

What do you mean by "Unconstitutional"?

There is a great deal of rhetoric, particularly among conservatives and libertarians about the "unconstitutional" actions of President Barack Obama. To me, those are rather strong words, but they flow out of the mouth of pundits and radio personalities without a blink and, even more often, without an explanation. Many (if not most) Americans hear such and say "this is ridiculous" (at least according to the polls, with most still supporting the new President) and others say "Yeah!" with clinched fists and they are ready to take action. The sad thing is, the vast majority of the pundits, radio hosts, those with clinch fists or Obama supporters do not really understand what it means to be "unconstitutional" or how to abide by the law of the land.

The problem is, the vast majority in this country have received their knowledge of the Constitution from the government schools. It is similar to chickens learning self defense from the foxes. It is simply beneficial to the government, but not necessarily to the citizens. The Founding Fathers would not understand how we would allow the government to be in charge of educating the population about such issues (or anything, as far as that goes), which is why there wasn't a department of education in any state until the 1830s, fifty years after this country was founded.

The founders saw education as a "check" against a government that could overly expand its authority. This is one of the constitutional concepts our population doesn't understand. So what is "constitutional" and "unconstitutional"? What can the government actually do? If someone is serious about this discussion, they don't merely argue in clich├ęs, such as "government should only do those things that the people can't do for themselves," but offer a very specific policy agenda. The following are only a few of the guiding principles that define "constitutional" government. In fact, they only scratch the surface. But if we majored in these important areas, we would be so much closer to having our constitution restored.

A Republican form of Government.

This is actually a small "r" and has nothing to do with any party. Article IV of the Constitution defines the guarantees by the federal government for the state. At section four it states "the United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence. " The characteristics of this are rule by law (the constitution). Although such a government can have democratic institutions, a Republic is designed to check all tyrants, be it a federal government out of control or a mob with a destructive agenda. The constitution was designed to protect minorities, not just majorities. If the majority wants to oppress people, the people still feel oppressed. Under a republic, the government limits itself to "referree" and not a parental role.

The Dispersion of Power.

The Constitutional Convention was made up of representatives of the thirteen states. Their primary goal was to protect those states from a federal government that could undermine state rights. Most Americans don't even realize that the US Senate was comprised of individuals chosen by the state governments to represent their interests. This was the practice until the 20th century. Furthermore, our US Constitution could not get ratified by the states without the Bill of Rights. These ten amendments that are now claimed by the federal government as being designed for its protection, were intended to protect the states and the American people.

Limited Government.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists 20 powers of the federal government. Most of them are very basic and not very expensive. These include things such as post offices, post roads, and standard weights and measures. The military, of course, is one of the few things relegated to the federal government. What the Founders intended was a very small federal government that did the few things it was suppose to do and to do them very well and deliberately.

In the end, there should be no question about whether we are wandering away from the spirit and letter of our US Constitution. A better question is, what do we need to do as a nation to restore our Republic?

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