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There is certainly a lot of talk about the American Constitution these days. Obama, of course, has throw it out the window, according to the Tea Party. The illegal aliens are abusing it according to conservative Republicans. And California’s Proposition 8 tramples it, according to the district  judge who just overruled this democratically established law. Of course, these same constitutional villians have the temerity to appeal to this very Constitution for their side’s views, as well. The rightwing has the tendency to argue that because of our “representative” form of  government that governance should match the weekly Gallup pole rather than the results of the last election. If the majority of the country, according to polling  data, oppose Obamacare, then no Obamacare. It is so obvious! The Religious Right agree (depending on the issue) but add that this is a “Christian nation” and therefore biblical standards are implied in our founding documents. There’s a lot of wishful thinking in this argument, to be sure. So, they argue, if homosexuality is an sin according to the Good Book, then no marriage for gays. Black and white. Right? Of course, I don’t hear a lot of support for stoning heterosexuals who commit adultery, a much more clear biblical mandate. The Religious Left have their “constitutional” arguments as well. While they are very happy to marry two men in a Christian ceremony, this is not the issue, they insist. The issue is civil marriage, they point out. Separation of church and state and all that. Why, it’s the very governing principle that our Protestant founders hard-wired into the Constitution. Shouldn’t gays and lesbians have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as the straight community? And isn’t it the role of government to protect the liberties of the minorities against the prejudices of the majority? It’s stage two of the civils rights movement! It is all so self-evident––to quote one of these devout founding fathers. So this constitution of ours must be a pretty broad document for it to be interpreted in so differently, huh? And that’s  the thing about our beloved constitution that some of us love. And the rest of us, cannot stand.

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7 Comments

  1. I would make a few arguments here:

    You said that “isn’t it the role of government to protect the liberties of minorites against the prejudices of the majority” but wasn’t it government that gave us Jim Crow Laws. I would rephrase that to say that it is the Constitution that protects minorites against the prejudices of the majority elected government. The Constitution set the rules that government must follow.

    I am also not following your logic since you seem to not mind minorities (lets call them millionaires this time) from the prejudice of the majority (everyone who makes less) to take away a greater portion of the minorities (let call them millionaires again) money. So you seem to create new logic as needed.

    As far as marraige goes, tell me again why the state is involved. I was thinking it was between a man and wife, before God and other witnesses. If someone decides to call marriage something elses it doesn’t make my definition any differnet. If the state makes the definition differernt it also doesn’t make my definition different either. I don’t see why the stae has any say. Any legal property right or parental rights can always be handled by private contract anyway.

    I actually don’t find too many people on the right that make the “policy by polling argument”. That seems to be a bigger argument on the left than on the right.

  2. I say it IS the role of government to protect the minority against injustice.Government is fallen not flawless yet it is SUPPOSE to protect the minority. The state is involved in marriage because we have no church state like England. The polling argument has been used about health care ad nauseum. Right wingers seem to think that what people say in surveys should change a voters’ mandate.

  3. A couple of things:

    It is important to define “government” first. My definintion would be something like “a political unit that exercises authority”. That definition doesn’t explain how it get its authority or if that authority has any virtue. Authority can be gained by force or by conntract. In our case the contract is the Constitution and it contains the virtues the authors held highest. Again, the contract limits the lawmakers. So the proper role of government is to live up to the contract, and one of the virtues is the protection of the minority.

    Secondly, I noticed you changed “the prejudices of the majority” to “injustice”. My question though is how can you take one injustice (poor health care) and solve it with another injustice (taking of private property).

    Confused by the Engalnd church state argument. I neither want church prescribing a state marriage or a state prescribing a church wedding.

    As far as the polling, I am neither a republican or democrat. I don’t have a dog in the hunt. On balance though, the left wingers are slightly worse than the right wingers.

    I think you were a good critic of the Bush era. The funny thing is you’re just like the head in the sand “Bushie” when it come to looking at your own party. Your only argument seems to be- “they did it first”

  4. As one example, I have been working on a design for a Habitat for Humanity project and I became interested in the history of zoning for this particular area. Zoning was one of the things that got going in the progressive era around 1900-1920. The dirty little secret is that it was a mechanism for protecting property values and excluding undesirables. By undesirable it meant excluding blacks and emigrants. Now that was the work of government. The market, on the other hand, was working to integrate neighborhoods. Whites were obviously selling to blacks, otherwise why would they need a law saying you can’t.

    So why can’t poor people live in Lakewood. Because the government says you have to have a minimum 5,000 sq ft lot just to qualify. So the government is SUPPOSED to protect but in this case it protects the minority (the few residents) from the majority (the large number that would move to Lakewood if the lots were smaller and more affordable). So you want affordable health care for everyone but how about fighting for affordable living for people in your own neighborhood.

  5. You speak in absolutes. Of course, government can be and will be unjust, bureaucratic and cruel. So will the free market if not governed. And, in spite of libertarian Utopian thinking, so will the rugged individualist, sinful lad that he is. Government has been ordained to constrain evil. They are the umpires in the game. They are not above corruption. That is why a free press is also important in the mix. The framers advocated balancing power in ways beyond three branches of a centralized government and states’ rights.

    Affordable health care is another constitutional issue. It is part of that whole life and liberty thing. The rich should always have advantages and the upper hand to more opportunities, wealth, etc. They should also be charitable and willing to pay taxes to aid the less fortunate. If they don’t like where there taxes are going they can vote the bums out.

  6. You speak of both government and the free market as if they are both entities that can at times be called good, unjust or cruel. The free market is a “process” not some entity that can be considered good or bad. Here’s the process-

    Artie has a hat that I like, I offer him $100 for the hat, he takes the $100 and I get the hat. Artie values the $100 more than the hat and I value the hat more than the $100. That’s the free market, no compulsion (free) from either side.

    Saying the the free market is unjust or cruel is like saying that addition is unjust or cruel. Now Artie could have lied about the hat and told me it was something that it is not, but then Artie would be unjust, not the process by which a price was established.

    As far as umpires go, I would say that balls and strikes were established first. The umpires (governing authority) are there to administer justice based on calling balls and strikes what they are. Government is certainly ordained but it will only constrains evil in as much as it follows the rules.

    As far as the free press goes I would just broaden that to freedom of speech and call it a natural right for everyone. In other words it is not something government gives, it pre-exists. If you confine freedom to the press then government just narrows the definition of what “a press” is. I saw Karl Rove, claim that Wikileaks is not a “real” press organization and I see the left claiming that Fox News is not a real press organization.

    On your last point, if someone knocks down my door, points a gun at my face, and says “give me your money, I’m giving it to charity” I don’t see it as some higher virtue. I could see a possible justification for stealing money to save a dying friend, although the crime would have to be admitted and restitution made for there to be any virtue. I also don’t see how a minority (millionaire tax payers) would be able to vote out a majority (non millionaire tax users). That just isn’t logical.

  7. Another one of your miss understandings is the Libertarian as rugged individualist. The guiding principle though is “non-aggression”, which is defined as the initiation of physical force, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property, is inherently illegitimate. A libertarian could be an individualist or communalist, it makes no difference, but the “non-aggression” axiom hold true.

    For the Christian libertarian, sinful lad that I am, I also live with a covenantal relationship with God, my family and my church. In each of those covenants I voluntarily give up my right to live a a “rugged individualist”.


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