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You might think I am a huge fan of the U.S. Constitution, or of the idea of constitutions in general. That would not be a very good characterization of me at all. Why? To put it most succinctly,those who idealize the constitutional restraints that are imposed on governments (in the name of promoting the rule of law) seem to me to forget that in practice government has grown because it has used the constitution as a means to obtain greater power. But there is no legitimate reading of history that suggests the liberal “founding fathers” intended any of this.

What has been the result? Of course a complete abrogation of the rule of law – the only thing which in my view separates we humans in civil society from a band of looters, thugs and bandits. Now we have governments at every level using the power of the pistol to achieve specific outcomes for the benefit of themselves and specific constituents, while the rest of us sit here like voiceless hosts holding our bags of blood.

The hardest part to swallow is that all of this government expansion gets dressed up under the guise of “social justice” and all of the resulting “redistribution” serves those well connected special interests and ends up making the real objects of the social justice worse off than they otherwise would be.

Remember that we live in a world of complex people, complex social rules and mores, and one with varying incentives throughout the many institutions that “govern” our lives. Do I have a “solution” or something “better”? I think particular constitutional forms may work better than others – especially ones which can somehow figure out a way not just to separate powers, limit the ability to confer advantages to special and particular interests, but also to figure out a way to introduce more of the competitive feedback processes that make other institutions more successful than governments tend to be. Our government cannot remotely do well the things that are its core functions, yet there are members of the congregation who wish to see it do even more.

An imaginary world where there were infinite and costless “exit” options would seem to do the trick. But that is candy-cane thinking – real sweet, but it makes you sick trying to do more than eat a little bit of it. Happy Constitution Day to all – no paeans will be heard pouring out of the Unbroken Window.

2 Responses to “Why I’m No Fan of “Constitution Day””

  1. Harry says:

    I got to your “those who idealize the restraints” and noticed your begging the question.

    I, for one, do not worship James Madison. Nor do I put Jefferson, or Franklin, nor any of them in any pantheon, like the communists did by preserving Lenin’s body.

    However, Madison and Hamilton, and the others understood human nature well, and I think they were able thinkers, at least equal or better than other continental European thinkers who preceded them.

    These men wrote a constitution mindful of the power of the king and the power of the democratic masses, with enough prescience to anticipate the French Revolution and Napoleon, and to let our country to win a bloody war over slavery.

    My question to wintercow is how could we have done better, notwithstanding unrelenting war on our free way of life?

  2. Michael says:

    I came to the conclusion a while back that there does exist a perfect law. Unfortunately, we are all put to death under it. All other forms are flawed, and probably are only temporary at their best (tyranical at worst).

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