Is the Constitution for Everybody?
By Ben Shapiro (Archive) · Wednesday, February 8, 2012
According to The New York Times, the American Constitution is losing popularity with people around the world. “The Constitution,” writes Adam Liptak, “has seen better days … its influence is waning.” Liptak points out that in 1987, over 160 of the 170 countries on Earth had cribbed from the Constitution — but today, few countries do. Why? Liptak suggests, quoting Professor David Law of Washington University in St. Louis, that our Constitution is “Windows 3.1.” It’s difficult to amend, and it doesn’t guarantee so-called “positive rights,” such as healthcare, housing and education. Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia said that he relies more on the legal framework of India, South Africa and New Zealand than on that of the United States.
Intuitively, this sounds wrong. Why would you rely on the legal frameworks of nations that still allow disparate treatment of “untouchables” or countries that until 20 years ago still had different legal standards for blacks and whites? Why not rely on the legal framework that provided for equal rights as early as 1868 and that guaranteed freedom from government overreach almost a century earlier than that?
The answer is simple: More countries today want governments that provide for them rather than governments that keep them free. That is why tyranny is on the move across the globe. The choice to reject the principles underlying the U.S. Constitution isn’t a mere choice of one legal form over another — it’s a choice in favor of a philosophy of slavery over a philosophy of freedom. The same countries that provide their citizens with “free healthcare” force their citizens into relative poverty and undercut their citizens’ access to high-level healthcare; the same countries that provide “free housing” breed slums and crime.
There’s another problem, too: More countries today want governments that are “efficient” rather than governments that leave them alone. In order to provide those positive rights, governments must have the ability to act quickly, to tax easily and to invade property rights regularly. Sure, those governments can be corrupted and frequently are, but they “get things done.” And in a world where the government is both father and mother, getting things done is the priority. As defenders of Mussolini put it, at least the trains run on time (the trains didn’t, by the way).
Sadly, the international notion that the Constitution is antiquated has now penetrated our politics. President Obama said last week, “What has frustrated people is that I have not been able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008. Well, you know it turns out that our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.” This is the international critique of the Constitution to a T: the Constitution creates inefficient government that can’t cover all your needs. Hand me power and all will be well.
Unfortunately, America moves closer and closer every single day to the international constitution rather than our historic Constitution. No other constitutional government has been half as durable; none has withstood the test of time. Newfangled constitutional theories may sound pretty, but they always exact penalties rather than granting actual rights — and they invariably open the gateway to tyranny.
Today in America, tyranny comes from two sources: the courts and the administrative government. This week, the Ninth Circuit ruled, in insulting and absurd fashion, that the state of California was banned by the federal Constitution from enshrining traditional marriage as the standard. How did they come to that conclusion? They simply imposed it from above, without any legal explanation whatsoever. They were efficient; they granted a “right.” And they removed the right of the people of California to determine their societal wants and needs in the process. Real rights were subverted in favor of phantom leftist rights.
Meanwhile, the administrators at the federal government decided that Catholic employers had to guarantee birth control to employees. Once again, this was a “right” enshrined by the Obama administration into law, via a broad provision in the Obamacare bill. Again, government was efficient; again, it granted a “right.” And all government had to do was destroy religious rights in order to do it.
Is the U.S. Constitution dying? It isn’t dying because it was never alive — it’s a document. What is apparently dying is the constitutional mindset in America, the mindset that says, “Leave me to my own devices, and I’ll succeed. I just need the right to be free.” The rest of the world has relied on America’s constitutional mindset to support it through trials and tribulations for well over a century. Who will support us when we abandon the philosophy that has stood for American freedom for centuries?
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