On Sept. 17, 1787, 39 delegates signed the document that structured the United States government and continues to shape the lives of its citizens.
The Constitution secures the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration succinctly sets forth the principles of American government, the abuses of the English monarchy, and the separation of the thirteen colonies.
Sadly, the Constitution is no longer at the heart of today’s political debates. Whether debating the power of the executive in foreign affairs, the reform of immigration laws, or the role of the Supreme Court, the Constitution and its principles are pushed to the periphery. This is dangerous for several reasons.
First, the Constitution protects liberty, forming a limited government of enumerated powers sufficient to provide for the domestic tranquility and foreign defense.
Secondly, the Constitution shapes the character of the citizenry. The liberty given to American citizens provides the space for citizens to govern their own lives, freeing them to worship God and pursue their happiness.
Third, it allows politicians to elevate policy prescriptions to the level of principles. Principles should always inform policy prescription, not vice versa. Americans have flipped these prescriptions, avoiding a hard look at harmful government policies.
Fourth, the United States Constitution is the longest lived and most successful constitution in the world. No other nation has enjoyed the prosperity and liberty of the United States nor has any other nation been governed by the same document for such a length of time. For example, there have been five republics in France since the abolition of the monarchy in 1792 and the current one was born in 1958.
Fifth, the Constitution’s structural principles of federalism and separation of powers may be used to limit an overreaching and intrusive federal government. The Constitution established a regime of enumerated powers; all others were reserved to the states.
Separation of powers prevents tyranny and enables each branch of government to properly fulfill its role-making, enforcing, or adjudicating law. It has been abandoned with the creation of the administrative state that regularly combines the legislative, executive, and judicial powers the Founders so carefully separated and cabined.
This Constitution, written by the Framers and approved by the people, has been abandoned for what is often called the living Constitution. The argument is simple: the Framers could not anticipate modern capitalism, modern technology, or the modern definition of justice.
In other words, modern society has progressed so far that the limits placed upon the national government prevent future progress. Therefore, it is necessary for the Constitution to stretch and grow with changing times.
Progressives have both abandoned the Constitution and created the Administrative State. The limits of the Constitution were ignored to create numerous agencies to deal with the problems of modern life. These agencies often violate the unitary authority of the executive, the non-delegation doctrine of legislative authority, and separation of powers. They not only in effect create law but they also enforce and adjudicate it. Great and excessive power has been placed in the hands of fallible men.
The Constitution, however, upholds principles that are based not on material conditions but upon human nature. All men are born equal with individual rights that cannot be violated. In order to better protect their rights they consent to form governments.
The Federalist Papers present the sober view of human nature held by the Founders. Men are neither angels, removing the necessity of government, nor are they without any possibility of doing good. Therefore, a limited government is necessary to protect the rights of individuals and the best check upon the government is republicanism.
The present Supreme Court vacancy represents the chance for Americans to examine the Constitution, its structure, its underlying principles, and how it shapes the regime.
American citizens should reflect long and hard about which parties and politicians best govern in accordance with the Constitution and its limits, as well the principles of the Declaration that state all men are born equal.
It is only through a return to the Constitution and fidelity to the principles it protects that the American regime can be restored to her former glory. That is a goal Americans devoted to liberty should strive for.
Zachary Rogers is a Colorado native of rural Elbert County. He earned an AA at Pikes Peak Community College, a bachelors of history from the University of Colorado Springs with a minor in philosophy, and a masters in political theory from Hillsdale College. He has worked at GE Vital Signs, Subway, Community Banks of Colorado, and Best Buy. He has interned as an education intern at the Independence Institute, Hillsdale College Churchill Project, and as a graduate research assistant for the Hillsdale College Allan P. Kirby Jr., Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship.
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