Night of the Living Constitution


Sheldon Richman, editor of the Freeman, explains that constitutionalists who wish to preserve liberty by hewing closely to an imagined original meaning of the U.S. Constitution have to face it: the Constitution is and must be living–which paradoxically explains why it is, in so many ways important to those dedicated to limited government, dead. An excerpt:

It's not as if the "proper" interpretation (whatever that may be) can be hardwired somehow to guarantee that legislators, presidents, and judges will act in certain ways, or that the public will demand it. At every point people will be making the interpretive decisions, including the decision over which interpretation is right….a particular interpretation of the Constitution in reality means that people act in particular ways to achieve particular values in particular situations. There's no automatic pilot.

…..To change the Constitution in a pro-freedom direction, we first have to change the (tacit) constitution, that is, people's ideological outlook. If there are lines that government won't cross today (and these are becoming fewer), it is because enough people would find such action intolerable.