Fight the Power

The unfulfilled promise of “constitutional conservatism”

The day before last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., a group of prominent conservatives gathered a few miles away at the Virginia estate of our first president. Their Mount Vernon Statement swears fealty to a "constitutional conservatism" that "applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal" and "honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life." If only they meant it.

Constitutional conservatism certainly sounds better than “compassionate conservatism,” which turned out to be code for big-government conservatism. And it was easy to hope, after a CPAC gathering where libertarian Republican Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll and the attendees seemed united in opposing the spendthrift ways of George W. Bush as well as Barack Obama, that the thread of a properly limited federal government could bind the strands of a movement that has been unraveling since the end of the Cold War.

Yet conservatives, like the feckless Republicans who were assailed at CPAC by uber-columnist George Will and Fox phenom Glenn Beck, tend to forget their principles when they hold the reins of power. The most conspicuous signatories of the Mount Vernon Statement include several conservatives who are famous for using the federal government to advance their moral agendas, even when there is no constitutional authority for such crusades.

The document’s John Hancock is Ed Meese, who as attorney general during the Reagan administration enthusiastically waged wars on dirty pictures and politically incorrect intoxicants. Whatever you may think about the morality of pornography or drugs, the enumerated powers of the federal government do not include the authority to ban either of them.

When Congress sought to stop people from drinking, it recognized that amending the Constitution was the only legitimate route. Nowadays it does not hesitate to suppress vice and compel virtue, at best throwing in a boilerplate reference to interstate commerce by way of justification.  

Likewise, one searches the Constitution in vain for the power to create a national board of censors charged with regulating the content of TV shows. Yet Brent Bozell, the Mount Vernon Statement’s seventh signer and main organizer, is the founder of the Parents Television Council, an organization dedicated to manipulating this power, which would be unconstitutional even if the First Amendment did not exist.

The apostles of constitutional conservatism also include Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. In addition to supporting the unauthorized wars on drugs, pornography, and broadcast indecency, Perkins and Wright both favor national restrictions on abortion, cloning, suicide, and gay marriage, all matters that the Constitution leaves to the states (which are in turn subject to the limits imposed by their constitutions).

My point is not that Perkins and Wright are wrong to think that pornography, abortion, and gay marriage should be banned (although I do disagree with those positions). My point is that their avowed commitment to respecting the Constitution cannot be taken seriously if they do not care how they reach those goals.

By enlisting the federal government in their moral crusades, conservatives do not merely alienate potential allies who reject their premises about the appropriate use of force. They sanction the idea that the federal government can do whatever the Constitution does not explicitly forbid, as opposed to the Framers’ vision of a federal government that can do only what the Constitution explicitly allows.

Justice Clarence Thomas highlighted this problem in his dissent from the 2005 Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal government’s authority to arrest patients who possess marijuana for their own medical use. “If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause,” he wrote, “then it can regulate virtually anything—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

I do not expect constitutional conservatives to be libertarians. But is it asking too much to expect them to be constitutionalists?

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Suki||

    Good Morning reason!

  • Kyle Jordan Prime||

    Good morning Suki.

  • Suki||

    Hi KJP!

  • Killowog||

    Get back to Oa kid.

  • ||

    Good morning!

  • Suki||

    Hi Kate!

  • ||

    Social conservatives, whatever their claims to respecting the the Constitution, ultimately need state force to push any of their views forward.

  • Sucki||

    Social conservatism can be advanced by diminishing state force too dipshit.

  • ||

    How? Without some sort of coercive force, cultures change and evolve and become more, well, liberal.

  • JohnD||

    Your preconcieved notions are not facts, TB

  • KDA||

    Not true. I am a Christian, but I would think non-believers could at least get on board with the thought that religious doctrine was an evolutionary psychological response to ailments and personal activity that could pointed to as causing harm to individuals and the people around them. Robin Hanson, interviewed over at econtalk.org by Russ Roberts didn't really get into this on the "Signalling" podcast, but I think you could derive some of these lessons from their discussion, too. Would you not agree?

  • KDA||

    All that said, I'm in general agreement with Sullum's article.

  • robc||

    Sometimes culture becomes more conservative on its own. See the cyclical Great Revivals for an example.

    Although, I guess it depends on what you mean by "conservative".

    Going on Postrel, the war isnt between conservatives and liberals, but between stasists (not statists) and dynamicists.

  • robc||

    typing hard.

  • Too Bad||

    Even turning a blind eye to your borrowing language from physical science to make your idea sound more legitimate (science is something that relies on reliable, repeatable, and predictable demonstration, btw), your idea still doesn't work.

    Your idea is that things return to a natural state when left alone. The state where there is no state force is not Liberalism. It's anarchy.

    Which no one is advocating, before the red herring gets chased. Totalitarianism, bad. Anarchy, bad. Efficient government that operates within the bounds of its Constitution on a sustainable budget, good. M'kay?

    Ask someone on their knees at gunpoint in Seirra Leone how diversed they are and whether they feel their civil rights are being championed. Maybe the crime lord might comment on how liberal his society became with a total absence of state force before shooting the person you were just talking to.

  • weeds season 4||

    Great share thanks for the post

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    The Republicans want to use the government to monitor every action you take in your own bedroom.

    The democrats want to use it to monitor every action you take in every other room of your house.

  • Sucki||

    Cite?

  • K-Y||

    Humor is difficult, right?

  • Some Guy||

    I do not expect constitutional conservatives to be libertarians. But is it asking too much to expect them to be constitutionalists?

    It's probably asking too much for them to even bother pretending to.

    Any time I hear someone claim to be "conservative", by automatic assumption is that they are for absolute state power to regulate morality, have no respect whatsoever for individual rights other than guns, and are gleefully in favor of bailouts and subsidies.

    So people who believe things other than that need a new word, since "conservative" means what people around here claim it does as much as "liberal" means what it did 200 years ago.

  • JohnD||

    Some Guy, your tendancy to sterotype people speaks volumes about your mindset and beliefs. And not in a good way.

  • Some Guy||

    Some Guy, your tendancy to sterotype people speaks volumes about your mindset and beliefs. And not in a good way.

    So it is your assertion that peoples' beliefs tend not to have any correlation to their descriptors of those beliefs?

    If someone says they're an "environmentalist", you make zero assumptions about anything they stand for? How have you survived to this point?

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +1

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Any time I hear someone claim to be "conservative", by automatic assumption is that they are for absolute state power to regulate morality, have no respect whatsoever for individual rights other than guns, and are gleefully in favor of bailouts and subsidies.


    Regulating morality includes passing laws against murder, theft, rape, etc.

    I am for respecting rights either explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, or generally recognized as of 1868 (the year the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified). Thus, I oppose anti-blasphemy laws, while having no problem with anti-sodomy laws.

  • ph||

    Regulating morality includes passing laws against murder, theft, rape, etc.

    No. Your not having a right to use force against me is not the same thing as whether you should.

  • K-Y||

    The name is Dumas.

  • ||

    “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone
    beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.”
    - Ronald Reagan

    My liberty begins, where yours ends, I don't have a right infringe on your rights or vice versa.

    I have no problem with regulations on the issue of abortion, a debate in which both sides have good points. But, on issues like what Bob and Scott do across the street from me or in Mass. is no one's business. David Hyde Pierce marrying a guy doesn't trouble me, nor does it affect the sanctity of Heterosexual Marriage. The same goes for crusades like banning the "N" or now the "R" word, these stupid moralistic crusades only harm our country more. Because, the fact is if you never come across anything in this society that offends you, you're not really living in a free society.

  • Some Guy||

    Regulating morality includes passing laws against murder, theft, rape, etc.

    No it doesn't.

    Thus, I oppose anti-blasphemy laws, while having no problem with anti-sodomy laws.

    And I assume you consider yourself "conservative." Thank you for highlighting my point.

  • Karl Born||

    I will have to respectfully ask: Do you really mean that or are you just trying to make a point by claiming to believe in something that you do not believe in? As far as constitutional interpretation is concerned, that makes some sense (though I would not agree with it), but I do not understand why someone would decide which laws to support and which to oppose by considering what qualifications people in 1868 would have placed on the right to liberty. Did you only intend for your comment to concern constitutional interpretation, possibly?

  • watch weeds season 4||

    I agree, great points!

  • Sucki||

    Any time I hear someone claim to be "conservative", by automatic assumption is that they are for absolute state power to regulate morality, have no respect whatsoever for individual rights other than guns, and are gleefully in favor of bailouts and subsidies.

    Your "assumptions" aren't based on anything but your ignorance and biases.

  • Some Guy||

    Your "assumptions" aren't based on anything but your ignorance and biases.

    And firsthand experience. And incredible accuracy.

    Do you think Glenn Beck is a libertarian? I bet you do, don't you?

  • JohnD||

    Do you think he is a Republican?
    And your first hand experience has allowed you to personally interact with every conservitive? I doubt it. You are sounding more and more like a left wing loon.

  • Some Guy||

    Do you think he is a Republican?

    He most certainly is.

    And your first hand experience has allowed you to personally interact with every conservitive?

    So you think that seeing a behavior in 95 out of 100 doesn't give any basis for an assumption on a larger group?

    I doubt it. You are sounding more and more like a left wing loon.

    Based on what? So you think that the opposite of someone that wants corporatists to stop claiming to be spokesmen for free markets and for those who are for unnecessary and wasteful wars (real or on drugs) and publicly mandated religion to stop pretending they are constitutionalists is a "left win g loon"?

    Well, that says a lot about you, then.

  • watch weeds season 4 episodes||

    Couldnt agree more!

  • ola||

    Glenn Beck a libertarian? How about is Glenn Beck a lunatic? Just listen to him talk about his sky god and the musings of an upstate New York charlatain.

  • ||

    You do know he's basically a comedian and entertainer, don't you? (Actually, I'll be you think he's a 'journalist' because he has a tv show.) The ranting is his schtick.

  • ||

    Is it too much to expect for our trolls to be at least semi-intelligent?

    Obviously, Troll School needs more money for its programs.

  • jacob||

    Troll ACADEMY sounds so much better

    I'm sorry, you're just a troll

  • weeds season 4 episodes||

    Great share thanks

  • bongwater||

    He sounds pretty correct to me. For examples see reason.com. That website (in case you never heard of it) has plenty of articles about conservatives love of government power.

    Or mabye one of Jacob's many articles on the drug war and conservatives respect for individual rights.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That's the problem with liberty. Sometimes people will do things you don't like.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    That's not fair. Liberals and conservatives are totally different. Liberals believe they are fit to do your thinking for you, for your own good, because they have been selected by millenia of human moral and intellectual progress and you are too depraved to be left alone.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, believe they are fit to do your thinking for you, for your own good, because they have been selected by their corn god and you are too depraved to be left alone.

    See the difference?

  • ||

    Heh, corn God. Too true. They also are under curious delusions about the Founding Fathers: the left thinks they were protosocialists, the right thinks they were God-fearing Christians.

    Really though, they were deists (a few agnostics, atheists maybe) who loved dirty jokes, beer, and fine women. Sam Adams came up with his best ideas when he was drunk.

  • robc||

    Depends which FFs you are talking about.
    Some were atheists, some were deists, some were God-fearing Christians.

    I think they all loved dirty jokes, beer and fine women.

  • ||

    You're both wrong. Thomas Paine was the only person who can be called one of the "Founding Fathers" who called himself a diest. (And calling him a Founding Father is a stretch; he didn't sign the Declaration, the Constitution, nor anything else important.)

    Jefferson was accused of being a Deist and denied it. Franklin had rejected Deism decades before the Revolution. All the others, without exception, were professing Christians. Here's good data: http://historyhalf.com/freedom-from-religion/

  • Beamer||

    Look up Ethan Allen -- he was an atheist.

  • Almanian||

    I used to think I was "fiscally conservative and socially liberal". Then I realized I was just mostly libertarian. Leave me the fuck alone, I'll do the same to you, and all you elected assholes please just do what the Constitution says you may do. Nothing more. Thanks.

    "Constitutional Conservatives"? Apparently not so much. Shocker.

    Constant assaults from the left AND the right. Meet the new boss, etc. etc. etc. Toujours pret...

  • Suki||

    +1

  • HAL||

    Leave me the fuck alone

    Sorry, Dave. I can't do that.

  • JOhnny MAckson||

    There you go again, HAL. Always wanting to touch the humans. Remember what happened last time?Go find the help that you need. I mean really. LOL

    Jess
    www.anonymous-tools.se.tc

  • NeonCat||

    When AIs fight, OIs get trampled.

  • ||

    "Liberals" and "conservatives" alike see the Constitution as scribbles on a whiteboard, to be erased and rewritten whenever there is a "compelling state interest" (a conveniently vague notion) to do so. Of course neither of them will admit as much; they use different propaganda schemes but end up in the same place.

  • ||

    What's depressing and pathetic is how freely so many people stereotype others. All conservatives are aaa (event conservatives can't agree on what that would be). All liberals are the bbb (also not true). All libertarians are ccc (ok that might be true). All independents are ddd. All (insert choice) are eee. Admittedly, It's probably much easier than actually finding out the truth, which might actually require some effort. Fantasy is so much more entertaining.

  • K-Y||

    You are your own best example.

  • ||

    "The document’s John Hancock is Ed Meese, who as attorney general during the Reagan administration enthusiastically waged wars on dirty pictures and politically incorrect intoxicants. Whatever you may think about the morality of pornography or drugs, the enumerated powers of the federal government do not include the authority to ban either of them."

    Hold it. I don't support the drug war or the war on pornography whatever that is. But that is totally shoddy sentence. Even under a restrictive view of the Constitution, the Federal government can regulate interstate and foreign commerce. The Feds absolutely have a right to ban the importation of drugs from other countries and the transport of drugs across state lines for the purpose of conducting commerce. And they have the same power to regulate interstate TV and radio broadcasts. They would have that power even under a Lockner reading of the commerce clause. Yeah, you could say all pornography is protected by the First Amendment. But, first not all pornography is protected even under the most expansive view. And second, no court before the Warren Court, including the Lockner Court that Sullmn at least claims to endorse, would have. And in the end, what are we really talking about here? There is pornography everywhere in this society. This is the Parents TV Council's mission statement from their website.

    "The PTC's primary mission is to promote and restore responsibility and decency to the entertainment industry in answer to America's demand for positive, family-oriented television programming. The PTC does this by fostering changes in TV programming to make the early hours of prime time family-friendly and suitable for viewers of all ages.

    Because of the pervasive and powerful influence of television, the PTC seeks to discourage the increasingly graphic sexual themes and dialogue, depictions of gratuitous violence, and profane/obscene language that have crowded out family viewing options. The PTC concentrates on broadcast television, which uses the public airwaves to enter every home with a television set, and expanded basic cable, which millions of households rely on for their TV programming."

    They don't want porn from seven to ten on broadcast TV from seven to ten. OMG, the dark night of fascism is falling on America.

    It would be nice if Sullumn would realize that not every bad policy or idea, no matter how objectionable is unconstitutional.

  • ||

    One other thing Sullumn, they have this thing call HBO. You might have heard of it. Who watches broadcast TV anymore anyway?

  • ||

    "Who watches broadcast TV anymore anyway?"

    TV watchers without cable?

  • Coeus||

    Use the damn V-chip. I'm so fucking tired of people constantly trying to make the world into a Chucky's Cheese.

  • ||

    The FCC was created in 1934 when Lockner was still good law. Unlike many New Deal creations, I don't think it's existence was ever challenged in court. Maybe it was, but I don't think so.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Even under a restrictive view of the Constitution, the Federal government can regulate interstate and foreign commerce. The Feds absolutely have a right to ban the importation of drugs from other countries and the transport of drugs across state lines for the purpose of conducting commerce

    Well...no, at least, not according to how it used to read. how it was read was "the federal government has the power to 'make regular' (i.e. regulate) interstate commerce", that is, they had the power to tear down trade barriers and make the States a free-trade zone.

    Yeah, you could say all pornography is protected by the First Amendment. But, first not all pornography is protected even under the most expansive view.

    Fallacious appeal to authority. Who cares what 'views' we're currently misgoverned by?

    They don't want porn from seven to ten on broadcast TV from seven to ten.

    What about the First Amendment is so hard for you to understand? If you don't like what's on television, don't watch. It really is that simple - as stated before, it's conservatives such as yourself who infantilize the populace in the name of "the children".

  • ||

    "Fallacious appeal to authority. Who cares what 'views' we're currently misgoverned by?"

    Yes because the First Amendment protects child pornography. The First Amendment doesn't protect lots of speech. The issue is where that line falls. Screaming "which part of make no law don't you understand" is just question begging.

    "Well...no, at least, not according to how it used to read. how it was read was "the federal government has the power to 'make regular' (i.e. regulate) interstate commerce", that is, they had the power to tear down trade barriers and make the States a free-trade zone."

    The clearly had the power to ban good from being imported. And the Court upheld federal regulation over interstate commerce in things like stockyards United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995) and the price of beef even under Lockner. I would agree that the Feds have no power to regulate you making drugs in your basement for your use or even selling it to your neighbor. But I think even under Lockner they have the power to ban the transport of certain goods across state lines. The clause says "regulate" not "make regular.

  • ||

    "It really is that simple - as stated before, it's conservatives such as yourself who infantilize the populace in the name of "the children"."

    No it is not that simple and you know it. Further, why is it so difficult for you to grasp that just because I think a law is constitutionally permissible that I support it.

    Are you actually so stupid and primitive in your political views that you think that the Constitution prohibits every law you don't like and allows only the laws you do? Seriously, you seem to have a very hard time grasping the concepts of "constitutionality" and "desirability". Just because I think that something is permissible, doesn't mean I think it is a good idea. I know that is probably a pretty advanced concept for you. But give it a try and think about it.

  • RichN||

    Libertarians and social conservatives need to unite behind fiscal responsibility, smaller government and the 10th and let the chips fall where they may in regard to the states as far as abortion, gay marriage, pot legalization etc...

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."

    As long as the progressives can keep dividing the fiscally responsible smaller government hodgepodge of libertarians and social conservatives then conquer us they will.

  • Yoda||

    Around the teabaggers, a perimeter create.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    Have you been under a rock the past half-century? Social conservatives and libertarians simply can't work with each other. Proof? I got it. Source? Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism.

    In 1969, Young Americans for Freedom held a weekend national convention. It was on Labor Day weekend. YAF was split between two factions: the "trads" (social conservatives a la Russell Kirk, with a bit of Buckleyite "kill the commies") and the "rads" (consisting of the minarchist libertarian caucus and the more confrontational anarchist caucus. Opposed to war and friendly to the counterculture). The "rads" called for YAF to take a stand against the drug war and support draft resistance. The anarchist faction called for an outright abandonment of conservatism, which they claimed was incompatible with freedom.

    David Schumacher burned his draft card, right there on the convention floor. The "trads" snapped; their oppressive nature became manifest. It ended in a fistfight between the "rads" and the "trads".

  • The Angry Optimist||

    John - more appeals to the Supreme Court. Hey, John, guess what? That same Court you cite decided Wickard v. Fillburn and Gonzales v. Raich. If you want to selectively pick and choose which SCOTUS decisions back you up, that's fine and dandy, but simply appealing to their authority is a losing proposition for you.

    But I think even under Lockner they have the power to ban the transport of certain goods across state lines. The clause says "regulate" not "make regular.

    re-gu-late: to bring order, method, or uniformity to

    Further, why is it so difficult for you to grasp that just because I think a law is constitutionally permissible that I support it.

    Because of how gleefully and breathlessly you supported the PTC and Ed Meese? Because you were a sarcastic bastard and instantaneously jumped to an example of free speech that you know most people will want banned or monitored?

  • ||

    AO,

    You have really come out of your tree lately. I cite the Lopez case because it shows that even in the good old days under Lockner the Congress had the power to regulate goods that moved from state to state. No one that I know has a problem with that. It is when they started saying that the clause meant the Congress could regulate things that "effected the national market" or "indirectly affected interstate commerce" that they went off the rails. The clause says "regulate interstate commerce". It doesn't say "make regular". By your reading of it there is only a dormant commerce clause and nothing else. That is your opinion, I don't see how it says that.

    "Because of how gleefully and breathlessly you supported the PTC and Ed Meese? Because you were a sarcastic bastard and instantaneously jumped to an example of free speech that you know most people will want banned or monitored?"

    I think Ed Meese is wrong, but I don't think he is out to destroy the Constitution. Unlike you, I don't think everyone who disagrees with me or has what I feel is a dumb idea is acting outside the Constitution. And child pornography example is a very good one. The First Amendment does not protect it. It also doesn't protect fraudulent speech. The point is that it is not so simple as to say "no law". The question is what speech is and is not protected. And when you scream "no Law" you are just begging the question and wasting yours and my time.

  • Throckmorton J. Scribblemonger||

    Just one little point regarding the meaning of "regulate": as used by the framers, it did indeed mean to "make regular." Just as with many other words, our modern-day understanding often is quite different than how the word would have been understood and used in 1789.

    Back then, nobody would have though "regulate" meant "to impose comprehensive government control by administrative executive agency." But that is what people think today - the "regulators" include the FCC, EPA, OSHA, etc. Government agents representing an executive-branch agency, created and empowered by delegation of legislative power from Congress. Acting under that authority, the "regulators" create and enforce administrative law in the form of detailed, comprehensive regulations, which establish, in many cases, codes of conduct to which the "regulated" entities must adhere.

    Such a thing would have been anathema to several of the framers of the Constitution. That is not what they had in mind. "Regulate" was understood to mean "make regular" as in establishing orderly, systematic functioning. As used in the Second Amendment, "well-regulated" meant orderly and properly functioning. Think of the old-fashioned wall clocks you might have seen in antique shops that say "regulated" on the face. That means the clock has a mechanism that keeps "regular" time, so you can depend on it being accurate.

    The idea behind empowering Congress to "regulate" interstate commerce was indeed to make it "regular" - to remove barriers that impeded the more free flow of commerce.

    The power to control or forbid certain items or practices generally was understood to remain with the states, under the "police power", also known as just "the police." This again had a different meaning than how we understand it today. States reserved the power to legislate to protect the health, safety, morality and well-being of the citizenry.

  • ||

    I would agree with you that things like OSHA and EPA and such are totally out of line. But, I think when you are talking about good going from state to state, I don't see how the feds can't regulate that. That is interstate commerce. And "make regular" is not so simple as it seems. Take something like pharmaceutical drugs. If you left it up to the states, you would have 50 different FDAs. Some states would let anything in and others would make it impossible to sell anything. It does make sense to streamline all of that into one national system (granted that system should be no FDA). I think by definition once you start making commerce regular you end up regulating commerce in ways you don't think are constitutional.

  • ||

    "Take something like pharmaceutical drugs. If you left it up to the states, you would have 50 different FDAs. Some states would let anything in and others would make it impossible to sell anything. It does make sense to streamline all of that into one national system (granted that system should be no FDA)."

    No, it doesn't. Private organizations could easily do what the FDA does. All people need is a source of unbiased information about pharmaceuticals. Government doesn't need to get involved at all, except to set up a court system to allow those harmed by pharmaceuticals to sue those responsible.

  • K-Y||

    No one that I know has a problem with that.

    That's because nobody of any intelligence can stand you.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    But I think even under Lockner they have the power to ban the transport of certain goods across state lines.

    Only if you embrace Wickard reasoning. The "Dormant Commerce Clause" is the real Commerce Clause, where Congress has the power to tear down (or to not tear down, as in the case of Maine v Taylor) trade barriers amongst the states.

  • ||

    Why would regulate not mean regulate but instead "make regular" other than you say so? You don't like it. Well too bad. Take it up with the people who wrote the document and said "regulate" rather than "make regular".

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Why would regulate not mean regulate but instead "make regular" other than you say so?

    What, you're entitled to opine on what is protected speech, but I cannot opine on what I think was meant by 'regulate'?

    Be a serious adult, John. Try using your own intellectual reasoning and knowledge of history and figure out which one you think is closer to the word's meaning at the time:

    "For the first century of our history, the primary use of the Clause was to preclude the kind of discriminatory state legislation that had once been permissible." - Gonzales v. Raich. That's historical fact, John. It was with the rise of the progressive movement that things got screwed up (in the manner you're now supporting, you so-called "conservative" you).

  • ||

    "Be a serious adult, John. Try using your own intellectual reasoning and knowledge of history and figure out which one you think is closer to the word's meaning at the time:"

    So you are now so concerned about the "words' meaning at the time". Okay, then tell me how the 1st Amendment protects pornography when at the time it was drafted no one thought for a moment it protected anything but political speech?

  • K-Y||

    Congress shall make NO law

    not

    Congress shall make some laws, determined by technical innovations to be created in the future and justified by the development or lack thereof in cultural standards and practices.

    No means no, John. You are like a constitutional rapist, buddy.

  • ||

    More fiber in your diet might help make you regular.

  • Steve Chaos||

    An instructive example: I was at my local 2004 GOP caucus (mostly because I loathed anyone the Democrats were going to put up, and I felt like stirring up some trouble at the platform plank selection part.)

    So, getting past the loyalty oath to Bush which began the meeting (I am not lying, here - this actually transpired), we finally get down to the nuts and bolts. So, I proposed a few things:

    -A requirement for zero-based budgeting for Congress (i.e., balanced budget), and calling for a Constitutional amendment to that end. Nope. Response: "That might restrict the president's ability to cut taxes."

    -Next, a plank calling for Congress to be explicitly limited to its powers delineated in Article I, Section 8. Response, "Too radical." Voted down with prejudice.

    Forgive me if I think things haven't changed so radically in a half-decade.

  • robc||

    Zero based budgeting does not equal a balanced budget.

  • Steve Chaos||

    You're right, I meant the latter. Sorry, a little ill at the moment.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Libertarians and social conservatives need to unite behind fiscal responsibility, smaller government and the 10th and let the chips fall where they may in regard to the states as far as abortion, gay marriage, pot legalization etc...

    Social conservatives have not shown themselves interested in constitutionalism. Remember the brief push for an amendment banning gay marriage?

    Sorry, not interested.

  • ||

    How is amending the Constitution not showing interest in Constitutionalism? Isn't asking for an Amendment rather than insisting the document says something it doesn't, the essence of Constitutionalism?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Fine - small governance, then. And, to me, no, the Constitution was not meant as a document for social engineering, John. Sure, it may follow the letter, but not the spirit in which the document was drafted, which was to define powers and leave the rest to the states. Putting a "NO FAGS LOL!!!" amendment is abhorrent.

  • ||

    Fine. You don't like the Amendment. But don't say people who want to amend the Constitution are not committed to the document. It says right there in the document that it can be amended.

    And as far as the "spirit in which the document was drafted", homosexuality was illegal pretty much everywhere back then. Whatever spirit it was drafted in, protecting the rights of homosexuals wasn't it.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    And as far as the "spirit in which the document was drafted", homosexuality was illegal pretty much everywhere back then. Whatever spirit it was drafted in, protecting the rights of homosexuals wasn't it.


    Are you sure that it was homosexuality that was prohibited, instead of sodomy ?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Fine - small governance, then. And, to me, no, the Constitution was not meant as a document for social engineering, John. Sure, it may follow the letter, but not the spirit in which the document was drafted, which was to define powers and leave the rest to the states. Putting a "NO FAGS LOL!!!" amendment is abhorrent.


    Would you support ratification of the ERA ?

    How would a ratified ERA affect the relevance of Baker v. Nelson , Rostker v. Goldberg , and Michael M. v. Superior Court ?

  • ||

    "Isn't asking for an Amendment rather than insisting the document says something it doesn't, the essence of Constitutionalism?"

    Not really. That's acknowledging that the document doesn't say something you think it *should* say, and wanting to make it say it. Keep those flood gate closed please.

  • Throckmorton J. Scribblemonger||

    Isn't asking for an Amendment rather than insisting the document says something it doesn't, the essence of Constitutionalism?

    I don't think so, no. But it is an open acknowledgement that the Constitution does not say what the proponents of the amendment would like it to. The problem is, the amendment they are proponing is quite contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and its original purpose.

    Setting aside for a moment the larger question of why the government should even have a say in who gets to marry whom, if there is any government at all that has that legitimate power, it is the individual states' governments, not the federal government.

    Just as the lefties want federal power to impose certain pet agenda items upon the entire country, the religious right would like to impose a ban on gay marriage across the entire country by Constitutional amendment, rather than leaving the issue up to the individual states, which is where it should remain.

    Of course, the simpler answer is that governments have no legitimate interest in forbidding any two consenting adults from marrying, as long as they are indeed consenting and adults - and not directly related (there are legitimate reasons to forbid incestuous marriages).

    There was a time when people thought miscegenation statutes were a good idea.

  • ||

    Where does it say that a constitutional amendment must adhere to the "spirit of the document"? It doesn't. And the country is free to amend the document in anyway they choose. It is not a document handed down from God to remain the same forever. It is a document that lives by the consent of the people. And the day the people as a group decide that it should be something else and follow the rules and change it, it gets changed, period.

    You just don't like the Amendment. But it is ridiculous to say that any amendment, no matter how loathsome, is somehow unconstitutional or not permitted.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    But it is ridiculous to say that any amendment, no matter how loathsome, is somehow unconstitutional or not permitted.

    John, Defender of Social Engineering by Big-Government Fiat! Convenience enters; principles go out the window.

  • ||

    You have turned into such a fucking moron. I mean it is just pathetic anymore. If 2/3s of the congress and however many necessary states passed an Amendment that declared a monarchy. They could do it. Admitting that fact does not mean that I think it would be a good idea.

    No wonder they banned your dumb ass. You and lonewhacko deserve one another.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Poor baby - you're desperate. This must be the Spaghetti form of argumentation: throw everything against the wall and hope something sticks.

    I can call supporters of a gay marriage ban (and you are one, latent or overt) anti-constiutionalist or anti-Founder or anti-whatever-the-hell-I-please, especially because you'll be on here mewling next week about liberal social engineering.

  • ||

    You can call them whatever you like. But to call them anti-founder when the founders would have never endorsed such a thing, just makes you look stupid.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    I am enjoying this little breakdown of yours, I have to say.

    The Founders wrote "Congress shall make no law". Apparently you and every other progressives have difficulty with the basic English language.

  • ||

    They wrote make no law and then just forgot to repeal all of their laws on sodomy and obscenity. It was an oversight I guess. Whatever it was, they could not have meant something other than you say they did.

    And the breakdown comment is funny. Project much there Tiger?

  • ||

    And of course unilaterally changing the definition of marriage and revamping all of the existing family laws is not an example of social engineering. You shoving your vision of society down everyone's throats is good government. Anyone objecting is a social engineer and "anti founder" whatever that is. You are starting to get into comedy. Seriously is someone trolling as the Angry Optimist?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    "Unilaterally"...what do you even mean by that? From what I have seen, all three branches of government in multiple states have been involved in "changing" the definition of marriage.

    Of course, appealing to the traditional definition of marriage is...a logical fallacy (argumentum ad antiquitatem).

    Yes, wanting to make a top-down, uniform national policy on marriage runs counter to the spirit of the Constitution and the ideas of the Founders.

  • ||

    So it is your opinion that the constitution doesn't protect gay marriage? What are you telling me the founders hated gay people?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    They wrote make no law and then just forgot to repeal all of their laws on sodomy and obscenity.

    Those were federal laws, were they, john? Just so you're anchored to the context, we were talking about Federal Attorney General Edwin Meese.

    So it is your opinion that the constitution doesn't protect gay marriage? What are you telling me the founders hated gay people?

    Huh?

  • ||

    So is your objection to porn laws based on the 1st Amendment or on the commerce clause? Yeah, there were not federal laws back then. But the founders would have objected to those laws on the basis of the feds having no power to regulate such things period not because they were protected under the 1st Amendment. No founder would have ever thought for a moment that the Amendment protected pornography.

    And as far as the Constitution and gay marriage, does the Constitution protect gay marriage or not? If it doesn't, then I guess the founders were not too fond of gay people by your standards.

  • Steve Chaos||

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Isn't asking for an Amendment rather than insisting the document says something it doesn't, the essence of Constitutionalism?


    Indeed.

    The suffragists chose to work on amending the Constitution after Minor v. Happersett , and it took less than half a century.

    By contrast, gay rights activists are petitioning the courts with bullshit legal theories to get them to ignore Baker v. Nelson .

  • RichN||

    Who cares? It would never pass anyway! Libertrians and social conservatives have to unite on fiscally responsible smaller government and leave those type issues up to the states or we all loose and progressive fascism wins in the end by applying the age old divide and conquer strategery.

    Why do you think the progressives within both parties are terrified by the Tea Partiers? Either we hang together or hang separately, its that simple!

  • Kroneborge||

    Actually I really don't see where the consitution allows for the ban of child porn.

    Just like other things that should be a crimes (robbery, murder etc) they were left to the states.

    Also, no I don't have a problem with consitutional amendments if there is an issue that people think should be handled by the Feds for national uniformormity.

    The bar for a amendment is pretty high. And it doesn't happen lightly, or often.

  • ||

    How do you have things like radio and TV without some kind of national regulation? If New York allows station A to broadcast at 50,000 watts and Connecticut allows station b to broadcast on the same frequency, how do you work that out? It seems to me that that is one of the few areas where a national government helps. Yes, you could have the states sign compacts like independent nations, but damn that is a long process. I hate the FCC, but I am unconvinced that an FCC run by state compact would be any better.

  • ||

    Just because you don't have the answer doesn't mean that people and businesses won't be able to devise an effective means of handling this issue.

    Secondly, even assuming the airwaves would be a bit of a chaotic mess without govt intervention, does fixing that merit accepting Leviathan? (of which FCC is part). I humbly suggest no, it does not, and life would go on just fine without the FCC.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    Just because you don't have the answer doesn't mean that people and businesses won't be able to devise an effective means of handling this issue.

    Secondly, even assuming the airwaves would be a bit of a chaotic mess without govt intervention, does fixing that merit accepting Leviathan? (of which FCC is part). I humbly suggest no, it does not, and life would go on just fine without the FCC.


    The FCC is a constitutionally legitimate exercise of the commerce clause.

    Constitutionally legitimate means that its role is reasonably implied from the Constitution; it does not mean every idea coming from the FCC is good.

  • ||

    Thank you. That is exactly correct.

  • Some Guy||

    FCC as a referee of the airwaves = good.

    FCC as a censor = bad.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    If New York allows station A to broadcast at 50,000 watts and Connecticut allows station b to broadcast on the same frequency, how do you work that out?

    Oh, the horror...people might have to find voluntary ways to work out their problems.

    of course, this still has nothing to do with your egregious emotionalism re: "porn at 7PM" - that was just a rank appeal to baser instincts.

  • ||

    Maybe you missed it but have entire channels devoted to porn. You can even get it off this new fangled thing called the internet. Maybe you should lose the antennae and get satellite and you would be less pissed off all the time.

    I honestly don't think this is you. I think someone is trolling in your name. You are just putting out comedy now.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Yes, John, and maybe you have heard that you can get pot from just about anywhere. That does not mean a War on Drugs is legitimate, either.

    Hey, you can get criticism of Hillary Clinton all over the internet, too! I am sure, then, that you're rending your garments with all of your progressive buddies about the Citizens United decision.

  • ||

    Wow. You actually made a cogent metaphor. Are the meds finally kicking in? Did you take them late today?

    First, porn is not political speech. It doesn't get the same protection as political speech. We don't ban people from advocating things like radical Islam and Nazism. But, we do ban extreme forms of pornography. That is because political speech if more important and more protected under the Amendment. Why do we know that? Because porn was never protected when the Amendment was written. We can't read their minds, but we sure as hell know that they were not talking about porn when the wrote the Amendment. Does that mean the government can ban all porn? No. It certainly doesn't. But I think it does mean that the freedom given government in that area is greater than it is in the area of free speech. And I don't see how telling ABC, "no boobs before 11 PM" is beyond that limit, especially when that kind of product is so available everywhere else.

  • Kroneborge||

    Even "if" we accepted that banning porn before 11:00 was an acceptable curtailment of free speech (and wasn't somethign better handled by the remote control) then it would still be a state issue.

    Also note that most networks still wouldn't show any porn most of the time, because that's not what most families want to watch.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Maybe you should lose the antennae and get satellite and you would be less pissed off all the time.

    All I get is AFN right now, and you would be pissed too if you were resubjected to that batch of crap.

  • ||

    Fair enough. AFN sucks bad.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Who cares? It would never pass anyway! Libertrians and social conservatives have to unite on fiscally responsible smaller government...

    Who cares what would or would not 'pass'? What you basically just said was "ignore the Big Government stuff we do, because it is not politically feasible anyway, and know that we're really with you!"

    Kiss off, mac.

  • ||

    Once the social conservatives are in power, they'll do terrible things and libertarians would be blamed.

  • RichN||

    "Who cares what would or would not 'pass'? What you basically just said was "ignore the Big Government stuff we do, because it is not politically feasible anyway, and know that we're really with you!"

    Not exactly! I said libertarians and social conservatives need to unite on common ground ie reducing the size, control, and taxation needed for big government and stop allowing strawman arguments like a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage to divide us. Most libertarians and conservatives can agree these type issues belong to the states to decide.

    In other words "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" dutifully applies. We either hang together or we hang separately.

    You have to decide if you'd rather live in a Republic where you are free to vote with your feet if you do not agree with the laws of your state or a republic where there is nowhere to run because of an over bearing centralized government dictating to the states.

  • ||

    The justifications for Constitutional liberty are demonstrated by the 19th century Democrats who followed Jefferson, Madison and Calhoun, as cited in The Changing Face of Democrats on Amazon. Today, we are given Rousseau, Marx and Obama and the notion the community interests are more important than individual interests. claysamerica.com

  • Kroneborge||

    "You have to decide if you'd rather live in a Republic where you are free to vote with your feet if you do not agree with the laws of your state or a republic where there is nowhere to run because of an over bearing centralized government dictating to the states."

    +1

  • Pat||

    It was good to see that someone, besides myself, had read the Thomas dissent in Raich v Gonzales. It should have floored the national drug reform community but they ignored it because it was written by the 'liberal' hated Thomas.

    The Reich-wing authoritarians, who control the leadership of both of the dominance parties in Washington, use morality as their front to impose their belligerent intolerance. This was one of the two legs that Jim Crow stood upon for nearly a century; trumped up morals laws to oppress unpopular social and racial minorities. It was what Richard Nixon meant "[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." H.R. Haldeman's diary according to former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum in his book "Smoke and Mirrors". Nixon, in collusion with the Dixie-crats in congress in 1970, re-invigorated Jim Crow using the drug war's moralistic blather to do what the constitution would not otherwise allow, a nationalized police force.

    The reason that the drug war will never end is because these Reich-wingers and racists gain too much power and control with it.

  • weeds season 4 online||

    Thanks good share I really enjoy reading here

  • Karl Born||

    If the Mount Vernon Statement had been more detailed, I might have been able to hope (or wish, arguably) that it reflected the signers' new-found or renewed commitment to constitutionalism, but unfortunately, it is not that detailed. The Twelve Points are a little more detailed: http://conservatism.the12points.com. (As the author, it may seem self-serving for me to post this, but I think we need to get those ideas out there. That's why I wrote the Twelve Points in the first place.)

    I do like the Mount Vernon Statement, though, and I think it will have its uses. Maybe emphasizing the themes of freedom and constitutionalism now will plant metaphorical seeds in the minds of new conservatives, leading them to actually become genuinely liberty-minded, constitutional conservatives in the future. For me, the "seed" came from the Declaration of Independence itself, but the Mount Vernon Statement's updated context may help it to "plant the seed" more effectively.

  • ||

    Our founders never intended politics to be a career. Not 20 or 30 years! Don't like our present government? Vote OUT ALL the incumbents!
    That sends a clear message. Do the job or you're FRIED! You work for us!

  • ||

    Liberalism exposed and the real problem with them:

    http://sroblog.com/2010/02/26/...../#comments

  • ||

    The Amish are a socially conservative society which forswears the use of force. There are certain orthodox Jewish groups which likewise avoid the use of secular courts.

    I have no doubt that, in a libertarian world, there would still be many enclaves of socially-conservative people.

  • abercrombie milano||

  • ||

    So informative things are provided here, I am really happy to read this post,I am just imagining about it and you provided me the correct information. I really bookmark it for further reading,So thanks for sharing the information.

  • surpa shoes||

    Very good post. Made me realize I was totally wrong about this issue. I figure that one learns something new everyday. Mrs Right learned her lesson! Nice, informative website by the way.

  • شات||

    Thank you, my dear on this important topic You can also browse my site and I am honored to do this site for songs
    http://www.xn----ymcj1bbw2eyau3b.com
    This website is for travel to Malaysia
    http://www.xn----ymcj1bbw2eyau3b.com

  • دردشة||

    You end up with rule by whichever sociopath with a gun manages to win.

  • mbt shoes clearance||

    clothes

  • cheap adidas shoes||

    clothes

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement