2018/09/21

Which Constitution?

constitution

A common refrain from Conservatives is their stated desire to return to the principles enshrined in the Constitution. What they never consider, and what no one ever asks, is which Constitution? Many of them claim to be constitutional originalists, but it's doubtful they'd relish going back to the original Constitution. Ask a constitutional Conservative if he wants slavery reinstituted, women denied the franchise, and if people bound to service should be counted as three-fifths of a person on the census. What would the Framers make of student loan scam victims essentially indentured to banks?

Our blatantly and increasingly dysfunctional political system cannot enact the people's will. When Congress splurges on defense spending in the interests of foreign nations but can't spare one red cent for a border wall; when a fabrication about alleged teen shenanigans from four decades ago paralyzes the Senate beyond the ability to conduct a straightforward judicial confirmation, we're not dealing with a good system gone astray. We're living the inevitable end state of a political philosophy built on false premises.

In a word: Weimerica.

The Founding Fathers themselves warned that the Constitution was fit only for the governance of a people informed by Christian morals. That should've been a major clue for constitutional Conservatives. The US Constitution is not infallible. It is based on compromise, not immutable truth. The very fact that it can be amended demonstrates that Constitutional principles are not first principles. Such arguments can only be backed up by appeals to unchanging Christian moral principles.

Conservatives will no doubt object that they already acknowledge the laws of nature and nature's God. All well and good. They and I both accept Christian moral principles, so let's cut out the middleman and base a sociopolitical order on those.

9 comments:

  1. We have proven that we cannot keep a republic, and will have democracy, then tyranny.

    The problem for Conservatives is that operating instructions are not values.

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    1. Constitutions aren't the 10 commandment-shirts. So what's made by man's hand can be undone by 5he same.

      This entire breakdown is due to the soixanthuitards. They finally ensconced themselves into influence positions after a 80 years of softening up.
      The future will be a mix of Louis Napoleonic politics with Victorian morals.

      xavier

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    2. "... operating instructions are not values."

      Words fit to be carved into the Washington Monument in 10-foot tall letters.

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    3. *nods*

      I take comfort in knowing that whoever wins in November, the losers will deserve it.

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  2. We’ll need more than just a system based on immutable laws, we’ll need immutable laws on how to interpret said document and on it’s practices and applications. That’s been Francis angle of attack in the Church: not on the laws but on the understanding of them and their practice and application.

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  3. Couple thoughts:

    Right after the Civil War, Orestes Brownson wrote about what it means for a nation to be constituted. He's basically an apologist for Lincoln, in that he's defending the idea that a written constitution does not a nation make, but rather a naturally constituted nation is required before a constitution may be written. The South could not secede from the naturally constituted Nation even when they rejected the written constitution. At least, thus says Brownson.

    Further, any written constitution will only function insofar as it accurately embodies the characteristics of the natural Nation to which it applies. Compromises are merely invitations to come to a better understanding later.

    A Nation, says Brownson, may be naturally constituted by a people sharing a physical place when some or all of the following are shared by all the people, which shared characteristics make up the Common Wealth, or Republic:

    - Language
    - Religion
    - Culture
    - Aspirations
    - recognition of others as part of your nation

    There were others, I think, that I'm forgetting.

    Thus, the Swiss, with a well-defined territory, can be a nation and write a constitution even though they have three languages and more than one religion, because they share a culture, aspirations, and identity. The Austro-Hungarian Empire could only be an Empire, not a nation and republic, as it lacked most of these characteristics. The revolutionary French could write all the constitutions they wanted, but they would not stick because such constitutions represented the fantasies of the revolutionaries, not the shared character of the French.

    In America, wanting a return to rule under a Constitution would mean something different and more than just wanting to apply 18th century rules. The Civil War was the major point at which some of the compromises worked out at the Constitutional Convention were renegotiated by other means. We Americans are, in the ideal, working out what is implicit in our character, both individually and as a nation, when we talk about how we are constituted. Brownson thought that such thinking would eventually lead to America becoming a Catholic nation, as no other set of beliefs were ultimately compatible with our desires to be free and self-governing, and that our territory would expand to absorb the entire Western Hemisphere, since all other nations would, seeing our example, reach the same conclusions and thus become Americans.

    Brownson may have been crazy optimistic, but I think he was on to something: that those desires which have bound and inspired Americans are in fact based in truth: that God made us free and would 'confirm our soul in self-control, our liberty in law' if, in fact, we could place all our trust in Him. That this is impossible in a fallen world does not mean it should not be loved and aspired to.

    So, I think in this sense, calls to return to the principles enshrined in the Constitution are not wholly without merit. At the very least, a return to a faith that laws must reflect divine reality, that only a Creator can endow people with rights, that we have a duty to follow our own laws when it comes to making and enforcing laws, are not bad things.

    They won't cure Original Sin, nor bring about a Heaven on Earth, but such a return to principles could make things better. That's not to be scoffed at.

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    1. It was Lincoln who completed the United States' transformation from a nation to a multi-national empire. The South's culture and aspirations markedly differed from those of the North, and as the former's attempt to secede shows, they no longer viewed Northerners as members of their nation.

      All of which ignores the one actual defining characteristic of a nation. A nation is the largest extension of the family. That denotes blood kinship. Switzerland is a country. The post-Civil War US is an empire. Israel is a nation.

      That's not just an arbitrary political contention, either. Defining a nation as a large group of extended families is essential to Biblical understandings of nationhood.

      Quick aside on Brownson's argument for American Catholicism: I'm pretty confident you and I agree that the US should ultimately be Catholic, as should everyone. That's the whole point of catholicity, i.e. universality.

      Many argue that the US is from its origins an Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation. What they overlook is that a) England was Catholic for a thousand years before Henry VIII, and b) The individualistic, liberalizing tendencies in Protestantism facilitated the original nation's gradual undoing.

      As for returning to the principles enshrined in the Constitution, the examples you mention come from the Declaration of Independence. The original Constitution does not mention God.

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