Wednesday, September 15, 2010
What I LOVE about the Constitution
Though leery of bumperstickers, I recently tattooed my car with the one pictured above. Once I'd done so, it occurred to me that I should probably spend some time preparing an answer for anyone who might happen to ask me why I love the Constitution. After quite a bit of thought, here's the response.
For starters, I love that it's short, separates powers, contains the rule of Law rather than men, and that its primary aim is the limitation of the government, not its citizens.
Contrary to what most people think, the US Constitution doesn't purport to catalog the rights of citizens [or states!]. Rather, it restricts government officials and specifically defends the citizens' rights which are most often violated by tyrannical rulers. In short, while it calls itself the 'rule of the land' it is more accurately thought of as the 'rule of our land's leaders'. It is not the law I have to follow. It is the law that Obama, Pelosi, and Roberts have to follow.
But my real, one-word answer is this: DEPRAVITY. It's been said that more than anyone, America has John Calvin to thank for her gov't. And this leads to my answer. Ultimately, it is because the US Constitution takes the idea of human depravity seriously. Political power inflames a man's radical depravity and corrupts him. So the best forms of government will limit that power. Here is how James Madison, the 'father of the Constitution'and devoted Calvinist, put it in one of his better known Federalist Papers:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."
[photo: I heart the Constitution by Liberty Jane on zazzle.com.]