Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

November 30, 2004

Homespun Symposium III

Filed under: Government,Society-Culture — Bunker @ 4:12 pm

I see no greater threat to the United States than that which boils within our own border: creative interpretation of our Constitution.

I know most of you have read, many times, about how I fear our Constitution is being made irrelevant by those with an agenda and a sypathetic judiciary. The reason it troubles me so is that our Constitution has stood for longer than any other in history, and has served as the fulcrum for more changes than any other nation has experienced. This country has evolved from an agrarian society with limited manufacturing isolated in a small area to an industrialized economic powerhouse that still holds strong enough agrarian roots that we can feed ourselves easily, with more than enough to take care of dozens of other nations who can’t.

The men who wrote, debated, rewrote, and ratified this document had a wonderful understanding of human weakness, and built into the rules of government the ability to weaken any populist pressure to increase the interference of the government in our personal lives. At the same time, the document told our government, in no uncertain terms, precisely what it was allowed to do, and gave it leeway only in how to accomplish those things. It is that leeway which politicians have used to expand the authority of the federal government, and which judges have turned to advantage. We have reached the point where judges evaluate our Constitution using as example laws in other countries–countries which have never matched the US in any measure.

People speak of a “slippery slope” when discussing pieces of legislation or court rulings. I think the better metaphor is a cookie. Rather than having our society slide from its position to something less agreeable (depending on which group advocates or opposes), our society and government are weakened regardless of direction by the incessant change, even if just small nibbles from the cookie. Nibbles add up. Whether the Left takes a piece from the Right or vice versa, is irrelevant. A piece is missing.

This does not mean change is bad. Change, in my experience, is usually good. But in society, the method of achieving it determines its value more than anything else. Madison and the rest understood that. They made change difficult. They made it difficult so that any change would require a national referendum, not a simple majority. As they understood, and the French Revolution validated, controlled change is the only way to establish and maintain a unified government that serves the citizens rather than controls them. A simple majority, made up of a few vocal advocates and their sometimes bewildered followers, should not set the tone for our government. Momentum can be a very bad thing when a small group on a personal mission builds on success. It can get out of control, and guillotines get erected.

Those who regard the Constitution as a living document are correct–it is. But not in they way they want it to be. Their thought is that it is open to interpretation as befits new circumstances. The Founders saw it as a living document in that it can be changed–and it has been, many times–to better suit the environment of our nation as it grew.

An Amendment requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to make the grade. Pretty stiff. But once it leaves DC, it needs the support of three-fourths of the state legislatures. That means neither “Jesusland” nor “Coastal Elites” can make policy to suit themselves. The cookie doesn’t crumble with change by Amendment, but is strengthened by the unity required to make it happen.

We must all remember that there are 300 million of us, each with some issue that interests us. When we join a group, whether it be a union, the NRA, or NAMBLA, we add our voice to that group’s agenda, whether we agree with all the issues that group advocates or not. And each issue has the potential to erode individual liberty because for every issue, there are those for and against.

If you happen to be the “against”, your liberty is weakened by frivolous change to satisfy the “for.”

To counter this we must get back to the amendment process for issue of import, and change in the function of government. Although I oppose an amendment to define marriage, it may be good for it to be brought forth for discussion and debate on its merits. As with the Equal Rights Amendment, it may die in statehouses, but cause society to look within and make changes.

And that, my friends, will strengthen, not weaken us.


  1. […] hose who wanted federal intervention then don’t want it now. When I wrote about the greatest threat to our nation the other day, I briefly mentioned this as an outcome. The Constitut […]

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  3. Good post, Bunker.

    Comment by Paulie at The Commons — November 29, 2004 @ 6:03 pm

  4. I think that it should be a requirement for everyone to read the federalist papers at least once befor they leave high school. To many people do not understand the workings and the thought that went into the writing of the constitution.

    Comment by Jerry — November 29, 2004 @ 7:41 pm

  5. CavX has a new post that made my skin crawl, and I know it will do the same for you: Calling the Hogs in DC

    Comment by Sarah — November 30, 2004 @ 12:52 am

  6. What’s Our Greatest Danger?
    This week’s Homespun Blogger Symposium, proposed by Big Bill’s Bloviating Blog, is: What, in your mind, represents the single greatest long-term threat to the United States of America, and what should be done about it? Bunker says he sees no…

    Trackback by The Commons at Paulie World — November 30, 2004 @ 8:42 am

  7. Homespun Symposium III
    This week’s question is from Bill:

    What, in your mind, represents the single greatest long-term threat to the United States of America, and what should be done about it?
    My knee-jerk reaction is to answer ‘Terrorism.’ I think, however, that th…

    Trackback by MuD & PHuD — November 30, 2004 @ 8:53 am

  8. Nicely done, Bunker. And I agree, judicial activism is a blight on our land.

    Back during the womens suffrage movement, the recognized that in order to secure their right to vote a constitutional amendment was necessary. They knew that the constitution, as adopted, did not grant women that right. In a similar situation today, does anyone think that they would go to the trouble of working to get an amendment passed? No, they would simply find some judge to issue a favorable ruling and work it up to the Supreme Court. Then they’d look for new “prenumbras”

    Comment by The Redhunter — December 1, 2004 @ 9:02 pm

  9. The circumvention of our Constitution has been a source of vexation of mine for some time. Nicely written, Bunker! Your points are well made.

    Comment by knuckles — December 3, 2004 @ 4:17 pm

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