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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15255/they-read-the-constitution-but-why/

They Read the Constitution But Why?

January 6, 2011 by

So far as anyone knows, this is the first time that the entire U.S. Constitution was read in session at the House of Representatives. The main champion behind the initiative, Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, explained why: “I think it is important that we send a message to people at home that the Constitution is an important document.”

Well, many people already agree, but that’s not really the source of the problem, is it?


Enjoy Every Sandwich January 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Are the members of our supposed political elite capable of speaking even one sentence that isn’t just a vague platitude?

CJM January 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I sent Mr. Goodlatte a copy of Rothbard’s “The Case Against the Fed” last session. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe he’s slowly coming around?

Lee January 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Enjoy this little crumb from from the new masters. If history holds true you’ll get little else.

Simon Grey January 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“I think it is important that we send a message to people at home that the Constitution is an important document.”

So I guess that means we can expect him to oppose all legislation that is unconstitutional, right? I won’t be holding my breath

Kevin January 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm

At the very least this will take up some amount of time that would otherwise be used for some criminal purpose.

bob January 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm

my thoughts exactly. a perpetual filibuster would be miraculous.

J. Murray January 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Why bother? It’s not like they’ll comply with it.

Jim January 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Why did they read it? So that people would finally stop accusing them of not having read it! That’ll teach ‘em!

Let’s hope that they remember what they read when it’s time to renew or kill the Patriot Act once and for all. That will be the real test to see if they learned anything from their homework.

David Hayes January 7, 2011 at 1:17 am


You second paragraph makes me sad, the patriot act has been around for almost a decade…

Cory Brickner January 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm

There are a few problems with The Constitution. First of all, it’s just words. As Butler Shaffer has said on many occasions, words can be interpreted by whomever to mean whatever. Secondly, as Lysander Spooner put it, those of us in the present tense are not bound to this document. We never have contractually obligated ourselves. At best, those that created it and signed it did. Lastly, the Constitution itself was literally co-opted by force by the Federalists to supplant the Articles of Confederation. There was always talk of modifying The Articles, but never of a Constitutional Convention to create a centralized authority to dominate over the states. Even the terms of ratification by the states that were verbally agreed upon before allowing for modifying the articles were changed once the convention was co-opted. I’m specifically referencing Spooner in “The Constitution of No Authority” and Albert Jay Nock in “Our Enemy The State” although numerous other texts also support these notions.

The reality is the Constitution will not save us. A centralized governmental end-all monopoly authority always has a negative impact on liberty. The very nature of government is that it is the sole power broker with whatever pseudo checks and balances on it are perpetrated by the government itself. Tom Woods makes this point very well in “Nullification” as do other authors in their respective texts. It is like saying that wolves will prevent the other wolves from slaughtering the sheep. The reality is, the wolves argue about how they divvy up the sheep.

There is only one way to preserve individual liberty, and that is having unanimous consent with respect to ownership of property. If it is mine, you can’t have any part of it unless I say so. I’ll defer to Stephan Kinsella to represent my views of property for the time being.

Don’t get me wrong, it’d be nice to shrink government back down to where it was at ratification. But also don’t have any delusions about the politicians during the period. Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Webster, etc., and even Jefferson interpreted The Constitution to allow them to expand on Federal power even though such power was never explicitly granted. Alien and Sedition Acts, Federal Land Grabs, “Continental” full value debt repayments, and many other schemes and laws happened due to Government using its unconstitutional monopoly power.

In the end, if human beings truly wish to understand liberty and the bounty it provides, we will have to rid ourselves of the state, of mob rule, and understand that it is the individual and the fruits of our labor that trumps all else.

billwald January 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm

The Constitution was designed to give the Supreme Court final say on what the Constitution “means.” If the purpose of the reading was to give new Republican representatives information about that the Constitution “says,” they should also read all the Supreme Court decisions.

jl January 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm

But it’s all constitutional, according to the most expansive possible reading, as legitimated by the Supreme Court! The nine robed justices have decided!

Ryan January 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

They actually didn’t read the entire thing. Rather, they omitted the Prohibition Amendment and 3/5 Compromise. See here.

Libertarian jerry January 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Cory Brickner is correct, The Constitution is just interpreted words. I used to believe that The Constitution meant what it said and that if you could just explain your position in court everything would come out right in the end. Unfortunately most courts today are nothing but corrupt Administrative Courts and will not allow any part of the Constitution to be used in your defense. With that said, the American people get the government they deserve. And,most American people,not all, but most want Socialism. They don’t call it Socialism,it’s mom and pop on Social Security and medicare,it’s the poor on welfare,food stamps and medicaid,it’s unemployment checks,it’s public education etc.,etc.,but it’s still Socialism. Yes,Socialism has grown enormously in America and there is nothing that the Constitution can do to stop that growth,let alone turn it around.

Bruce Koerber January 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

The Symbolic Significance Of Dr. Ron Paul And Dr. Rand Paul.

There are symbolic victories. Often they lead directly to authentic, substantive victories.

As we move along during this period of ideological change symbolic victories do make a significant contribution to the unfolding of events.

What is the symbolic significancce of both Ron Paul and Rand Paul being in leadership roles? It is exciting to think about how people will become reacquainted with the idea of nobility. Noblemen, in this case true statesmen, have always been a main feature of classical liberalism societies and so it is important for people to become familiar once again with the role of noblemen (statesman) in society.

Dave Albin January 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Maybe you are right, but they are surrounded by sharks…

Wildberry January 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm

You are the sole voice of any optimism whatsoever here, so let me lend my support.

Most who have responded here have led with their cynicism and have managed to ridicule what must otherwise be events not inconsistent with a change in the right direction. For that reason alone, they should be supported with enthusiasm.

If the Pauls are surrounded by sharks, we need to give them more colleagues that will take their back. If the Constitution is meaningless, what hope do we have as a nation?

Change is driven by populism. Rather than try to encourage a small wave into a tsunami, cynics ridicule it for not emerging fully formed. As if anything of this magnitude is going to be that easy. Ironically, it sounds like the very thing often criticized here: The expectation that “something or someone” is going to ride in from the west and save the day.

If liberty is about individual rights, then its longevity is about individual vigilance. If you cannot be the source of popular support, at least recognize the difference between acts consistent with liberty and those which are not. Acts consistent with liberty, no matter how insignificant or symbolic, should be recognized and supported.

It is indicative of Murphy’s criticism that he claims ancap Rothbardianism for Libertarianism. His treatment of minarchists as a common mistake of analysts of libertarian thought assumes the high ground for Ancap adherents. Of course this completely dismisses the views of the namesake of this site and Rothbard’s teacher, L.V. Mises, which the leadership here now insists are archaic.

It is delusional to think that the reason for popular rejection of Ancap philosophy specifically, and Rothbard in general, is because it is still a budding philosophy yet to meet the educational critical mass of popular thought. For many that have encountered it, including myself, it is an experience of not adopting those who agree with them in part, but a rejection of those who do not agree with them in full.

Popular acceptance has never arisen from such rejection of common sense and common beliefs. Therefore, I will take anyone’s bet that Rothbard’s vision of the world will never be a threat to anyone or anything, and will forever remain in academic and political obscurity.

Mises.org is popular not because of Rothbard, but because of Mises and Hayek. It is Austrian economics, not Ancap ethics that have popular appeal. This transformation of every discussion to a promotion of the Rothbardian view on everything but economics, which was his primary focus, is what keeps it in relative obscurity, and is driving people like me and others away. The balance of sentiment expressed on this thread is indicative of what I’m describing.

Oh-Noes January 7, 2011 at 1:05 am

I think it’s pulling you in Wildberry. (These An-Cap Blogs got you in a Tizzy)!

So Mises.org should water-down its philosphical exploration to appeal to “On the Fence” Conservatives? Mises didn’t applaud the Nation State, as the last vestige of hope, as long as it was contained by good people. He focused mostly on the the unfettered market and individuals and a pretty damn sound theory.

You have FreeRepublic.com for that worn-out traveled road, why do we need another site, that promotes liberty from government in one respect mainly from a limited sophmoric stance (economically speaking), but applauds it in the form of imperialism abroad? There is no good honest/legitimized government with good guys and girls who espouse everything you believe in, and will do the right thing/s when the time arises.

I came to this site not knowing much of Murray Rothbard or his An-Cap leanings, if I may use that word. I didn’t run from it. And I was that cliche “On the Fence” Conservative, searching for a more accurate truth of my political surroundings and how things really work, coupled with sound & consistent reasoning towards liberty.

I know there is a Rothbard “Enemy of the State” T-shirt in your not too distance future. Why not pick your size & hit the “Buy it Now” button in the Store?

DixieFlatline January 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

The world has always been flat! We just need better maps!

DrB January 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I support the reading of the Constitution. I pray the ‘Tea Party’ elected officials will hold Republican and Democrat feet to the fire. I am optomistic. But I am not naive. With Progressive interpretations of the ‘interstate commerce clause’, ‘necessary and proper clause’, and the ‘general welfare clause’ to name a few — they are all following the Constitution! Really?

Franklin January 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm

“They Read the Constitution But Why?”
Theater, of course.

J Cortez January 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

Completely agree.

Joshua_D January 6, 2011 at 10:09 pm

How about reading the Federal Legal Code next?

Justin J. January 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

Yeah, followed by the Tax Code. That should gum up the works a bit.

David Hayes January 7, 2011 at 1:19 am

Heck you don’t even need to pull those out yet, they just need to read a couple of the omnibus bill that are sure to come up.

jon January 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

“I think it is important that we send a message to people at home that the Constitution is an important document.”

“Especially since we violate it every day, and desperately need the public to have the completely wrong idea of what goes on here.”

Valject January 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Solving a problem is action taken, but taking action is not necessarily solving a problem.

We also would have accepted a reading of Peter Rabbit. Now on to the Lightning Round!

Walt D. January 8, 2011 at 10:14 pm

What next? Are the Democrats going to demand equal time to read from “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf”?

T.D. Doering January 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm

They read selected parts, and skipped the important parts.

Ned Netterville January 10, 2011 at 10:30 am

The Constitution made slavery and taxation legal. “Nuff said about any pretense to legitimacy.

DrB January 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The Declaration of Independance and the Constitution are both great anti-slavery documents. “All men are created equal” doomed slavery from that point forward. Politicians kept putting the issue off. Sometimes ‘free’ society takes longer to get to a given point than would a statist (without unintended consequences, or in the statists view ‘intended’). The three-fifths clause is an ANTI-slavery clause. The Founding Fathers would not have been able to keep the Union together without it. The several slave states wanted to count slaves as ‘people’ so they could have more congressional representation. Non-slave states argued that if the south NOW wanted to count what they previously referred to as property then those from the north could count horses and pigs. In effect the 3/5ths clause reduced the congressional representation and voting power of the slave states. Another eventual nail in slavery’s coffin.

The Anti-Gnostic January 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Except all men are not created equal.

I’d say what would ultimately doom slavery would be its unprofitability. Slaves are never as productive as employees.

DrB January 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm

That the Congress did NOT read the 3/5ths clause was PC garbage!

DrB January 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm

ALL men are indeed created EQUAL. They are equal in the eyes of GOD, equal in the way the law treats them (or should be, and if not that is a fault of human leaders NOT the Constitution) and equal in deserving protection of thweir Natural rights.

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