The constitution and our rights

I have tweeted the following Lysander Spooner quote to friends on Twitter (in modified form due to length) on many occasions. It may be one of his all time best quotes.

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

~ Lysander Spooner

And to think that Spooner never lived to see the age of Obama and the NSA!

Lysander-Spooner-Quotes-5One of the most disappointing things in political discourse is to hear so many claim that the constitution if followed “as it was written” would “guarantee our rights”. This is almost as bad as those who think that the American constitution grants us our rights in the first place.

I believe in natural rights as did Murray Rothbard. We have certain rights that are inherent due to our humanity, and they can be summed up by simply saying we have the right not to be the victim of aggression. We might argue a bit over what, exactly, those inherent human rights are and how best to enforce said rights, but we must believe that natural rights predate the state and its constitution or we are believing in “rights” that are really just privileges bestowed by the state at its whim. After all,  if men can bestow “rights”, then they are not rights at all, because they can just as easily be taken away.

The right to life and liberty in our time is most often threatened by the state — the very institution that so many think is supposed to protect our right to life and liberty. They think that if only we would just “follow the constitution” that everything would be just fine again in this country. But how does one expect the state to be constrained by a piece of paper that it enforces itself? Has it ever really followed the constitution in all matters? Have all men and women in the USA ever been protected from the state?

Ron Paul did run a magnificent campaign for the nomination of the GOP by calling for the nation to follow the constitution in countless matters where the state is presently not following the constitution. In doing so, he was calling for an end to our overseas empire, and end to the drug war, and a drastic downsizing of the central government of the US. For this he was attacked and marginalized on many occasions by the “leaders” of our nation-state.

The simple fact is that the U.S. constitution is not a document that will “protect our rights” even if we follow it as it was written. After all, consider this part from the constitution:

Article 1; Section 8

1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

2: To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

4: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

6: To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

7: To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

9: To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

10: To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

13: To provide and maintain a Navy;

14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And

18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

That part by itself puts lie to the belief that the constitution limits the power of government.

But the main problem is that the constitution in no way supports the non-aggression principle. The NAP says that we may never comment aggression against someone who has not first attacked us. We may never use force, fraud, or intimidation against the innocent to get what we want and yet the U.S. constitution authorizes just that.

If we ever are to live in peace and prosperity, free from the coersive force, fraud, and theft of the state then we must come up with a system that does not have as its very foundation the monopoly use of force to control the population. One would think that is obvious to even the most dense and propagandized person in the country.

We must work to create a voluntary society where men are free to interact with each other in voluntary cooperation; and the U.S. Constitution is a roadblock to that goal not a pathway to it. Stop worshiping the constitution, it is not worthy of veneration.


4 thoughts on “The constitution and our rights

  1. Mark, I published an article with somewhat different opinion (lots of the same subject matter, most notably the Spooner Quote). I think that to the extent that reverence for the Constitution (more specifically the Bill of Rights) causes the people that revere it to stand up for their rights (not through voting or traditional lobbyists so much as through free speech and, on occasion, acts of defiance), it is a tool for good, but this should not be confused with the words on the piece of parchment granting rights. Would love to hear feedback from you.

  2. Pingback: The US and its useless constitution | On the Mark

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