The U.S. Constitution turns 227 today. You wouldn’t know it by the way it’s honored mostly in the neglect these days, but our nation’s written charter is the oldest such functioning document in the world today.
I had an opportunity Monday to attend a short presentation and discussion of the Constitution (yes, I take my citizenship seriously that way and there was a time not too many generations ago that most Americans did). I thought this quote from one of the panel members worth sharing:
“Constitutional Law is not like the law of gravity. It will only work as long as people appreciate it, study it, and uphold it.”
This same presenter — a Constitutional scholar with a Doctorate in Law (J.D.), also noted that Alexis de Tocqueville cautioned decades ago of the possibility America would fall into a ‘soft despotism.’ That despotism would rise, he believed, as government gradually convinced citizens to stop being self-governing and self-sufficient, and instead allow the government to take care of them.
I’ll say it again: the solution to our problems isn’t to ask government to do more. It’s to expect less of it, and to demand that it stay out of our way when we take care of issues we’re perfectly capable of handling ourselves. Government intrusion into everyday life has happened because we allowed it — asked for it, even. Nothing in the Constitution pre-ordained that development. In fact, that document was designed as best the Framers could manage to avoid that result. But nothing they did could prevent us from trading liberty for security, or the false promises of equal outcomes for all.
Now that we’ve learned that lesson the hard way, perhaps it’s time to return to the wisdom expressed by James Madison, the Constitution’s principle architect:
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
That obligation comes via two parts: setting clear boundaries in the charter itself, and having a citizenry educated enough to play referee. That citizenry must boldly and forcefully tell Uncle Sam when he’s out of bounds, and demand that he return to his rightful place.
Today’s million-dollar question: does such a citizenry even still exist? Or have our minders successfully diluted it, replacing it with an imported constituency that cares nothing for our nation’s Constitutional inheritance, so long as the subsidy checks keep coming and they have enough change for the next model iPhone?
The Constitution: it’s not just for folks with a Juris Doctorate. It’s every American’s birthright, and every American’s obligation to defend.
Appreciate it. Study it. Uphold it.