A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fundamentalism for the US Constitution

Once again, reddit has spawned another topic I think worthy of discussion. As a former political science student, I just can't stay away from politics and government. One poster posted the following topic: Fundamentalism+Bible=Bad, but Fundamentalism+Constitution=OK?

Political junkie that I am, I had to respond.

I can see the point of this argument, so I'm upmodding it. The Constitution was meant to be a "living document," one that was constantly challenged and updated to reflect modern issues not yet considered by the Founders. Right now we have 27 Amendments, addressing various aspects of our government and society. They appear to have passed at semi-regular intervals, indicating that the Constitution has, in fact, served as the "living document" the Founders intended.

When you consider a "fundamentalist," you are commonly discussing someone who is a literalist to a religious degree, someone who believes a body of text (usually religious) to be infallible and not to be challenged. The Constitution is anything but a holy text, but to some people it may well be.

Certain conservatives and libertarians seem to believe that the Federal Government is de facto prevented from governing outside the limited language of the Constitution. If the Constitution didn't explicitly allow the government to assume a particular role, then the government is automatically prevented from doing so. To them, the States have all power to pass laws and assume various roles, and all the Federal government can do is decide on matters of interstate commerce and national security.

To some liberals, the Federal Government is the final source of central power and the best resource for change on a national level. The lawmaking powers of Congress were meant to be able to impact the nation regardless of individual State wishes, so long as they phrase those laws within the confines of the Constitution. It was a liberal ideal that was enacted within the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment which states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Thus beginning the age wherein the Bill of Rights are expressly applied to the States as well as the Federal government. Effectively, the Fourteenth began the Federal Government's tenure as a lawmaking body that supersedes State legislatures.

In effect, "fundamentalist constitutionalists" are fighting against the Constitution itself, or at least the interpretation of the part of the Constitution that was ratified after the Civil War. The writers of the Fourteenth Amendment realized that States could get away with all manner of atrocities in the name of sovereignty, and they used the Constitution to close that loophole. In time, people stopped appealing as much to State legislatures as to the Federal legislature to protect new rights and assume new services to reflect the changing times. This left the States with little more than maintenance, and to experiment with laws more radical (like California) than those imposed by the Federal Government.


denis bider said...

Oh, come on. You can't bloody support the long-standing federal abuse of the constitution's commerce clause, for such worthy purposes of 'national change' as prohibition, FDR's NRA, and these days, putting grandmas in jail if they grow pot in states where medical consumption is legal.

Fish: "To some liberals, the Federal Government is the final source of central power and the best resource for change on a national level."

If this should be taken to mean that you are such a 'liberal', then you're a hypocrite. Clearly, change on the national level can mean nothing other than coercion. If not, then what good is central power, and why do you need that power in order to induce change? If you could do it through voluntary coordination, an association would suffice.

You are a hypocrite to the extent that you condone using federal power to coerce your fellow humans into those activities which you think they should be doing, and away from those activities that you think they should not be engaging in; while at the same time you complain when the power of the federal government is used against you when the majority thinks that you are doing something wrong, and wants to coerce you into how they want you to live.

The U.S. federal government as practiced since Hoover and FDR is fascism. The root causes for this go back to Abraham Lincoln, who decided to use force and murder rather than let a large group of people who disagreed with how they governed to peacefully secede.

Today, the federal government is not about letting people live and ensuring everyone their peace and quiet, it's about coercing people to live in ways that the majority agrees with, and that is fascism. You are contributing to it. And yet you still think that forcing your values on others - through 'a source of central power' that is the 'best resource for change (read: coercion) on a national level' is the way to happy ever after. Good luck, idiot.

SpaceGhoti said...

If you want to call me a hypocrite, then I'll proudly accept the label of hypocrite.

Yes, I believe the Federal Government is the best resource for change on a national level. No other entity has as much representation among the people, answers to the people or can be changed by the people if they choose than the Federal Government.

I have never once suggested that the Federal Government cannot be abused. I have never once suggested that the Federal Government is not currently being abused by people trying to deliberately break it to prove their point.

I'm saying that the Federal Government doesn't have to be broken, and when it works it works better than any damned corporate "free-market" solution ever could. The government, when working properly, will coercively take as much of your earnings as the nation collectively allows in order to fund social programs to benefit the greatest number of people. It has worked in the past, and it can work again. Even at its worst, it has worked far better than any free market solution you can name.

The government, when running correctly, encourages people to live their lives as they choose so long as it does not impede the lives of those around them. You'll never find that sort of guarantee under the Corporate States of America.

denis bider said...

It has never worked. You are ignorant, and need to educate yourself. Read this book, or this one. This or this would teach you a lot, too.

denis bider said...

BTW, if you really think that the way the system is currently being abused is due to a conspiracy of people who want to "deliberately break it to prove their point", you're deluding yourself.

The people who are arresting grandmas as we speak are doing so because they really believe in getting rid of drugs. All policies that are being pursued are being pursued because people believe in them. That's including the ridiculuous redistribution policies that you believe in.

You are being foolish and narrow-sighted if you think that "if only the powers of the federal government would be used correctly, all would be well". By saying so you are blindly ignoring the fact that it is your own judgement of "correct government" that you are basing this opinion on. But what seems "correct" to you, e.g. income redistribution, seems a fatally flawed and reprehensible idea to others, e.g. me. At the same time, what seems fatally flawed and reprehensible to both of us, e.g. the drug war, seems an entirely valiant and correct effort to some, e.g. this guy.

You need to see that it is the actual coercion that's the problem, and that as long as there's federal power that can coerce, there will be people coercing others to conform to their will, and they will do so because they truly believe it's right, and you will suffer when you disagree with them. The only way to be free from that is to accept the principle that no one should be able to coerce.

You can't have a federal government that will have the power to coerce and will listen only to you. If it listens to you, it will listen also to others. And when it isn't your opinion that's in the majority, well, unbuckle your belt, son, you're going to have things inserted in your behind, and you're just going to have to take'em.