Constitution

Why Do America's Leaders Act Like We Don't Have a Constitution?

Is there no one left to enforce the Constitution against those in power?

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aprilzosia/Flickr

What if we didn't have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law? What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that's what folks came to expect?

What if those elected to office, and those appointed to it, as well, took oaths to uphold the Constitution? What if those who took the oaths promised fidelity to the Constitution? What if the Constitution declares itself to be the supreme law of the land? What if the supreme law of the land means what it says?

What if all in government, from presidents to park rangers, from generals to janitors, from judges to jail guards, take substantially the same oath? What if very few who have taken their oaths take them seriously? What if very few who have taken their oaths have actually read the Constitution? What if very few who have taken their oaths understand the values the Constitution upholds?

What if even fewer understand the historical, moral and legal bases for those values? What if most who took those oaths did so expecting someone else in government to tell them what the Constitution means and how to deal with it?

What if the whole purpose of the Constitution is to limit the government, not to unleash it?

What if the plain language of the Constitution puts clear limits on what the government in America may lawfully do? What if those in government began cutting constitutional corners about 100 years ago and overlooked prohibitions and limitations in the Constitution because they enjoyed exercising power over others and because they thought they knew what was best for everyone?

What if those prohibitions and limitations—some of which were in the corners that were cut—were written into the Constitution intentionally to keep the government off the backs of the people?

What if personal liberty is the birthright of all persons? What if government is essentially the negation of that liberty?

What if the Constitution represents the value judgment of Americans that our rights are higher in value than the government's powers to interfere with them? What if those who wrote the Constitution believed that personal liberty is the default position and government power the exception? What if the Constitution means that our rights should be maximum and government minimum?

What if our rights are natural components of our humanity? What if that humanity is a gift from God? What if we were created in His image and likeness? What if the greatest likeness we have with Him and the greatest gift from Him is free will? What if we are perfectly free as He is perfectly free?

What if He created us with such free will that we are free to reject Him? What if we are so free that we are free to reject the government? What logic could underlie an argument that we are free to reject the Creator who made us but not free to reject the government we created?

What if a government that rejects its own Constitution were to be rejected by the people? What if the people have had enough of politicians and government leaders who promise safety and demand the surrender of liberty? What if liberty once surrendered is never returned? What if the liberty-for-safety trade is a facade that impairs both liberty and safety?

What if that trade makes government's job easier, but does not keep us safer? What if the Constitution was written to keep the government's job from becoming too easy? What if it is easier to listen to everyone's phone calls than only to those as to whom the government has probable cause to listen? What if the Constitution recognizes that liberty is personal and cannot be sacrificed by a majority vote of representatives, but only by individual consent?

What if the greatest right protected by the Constitution is the right to be left alone, the right to be oneself, the right to answer only to one's own free will? What if the Framers who wrote the Constitution so valued the right to privacy that they wrote very specific criteria into the Constitution to govern the government's ability to interfere with it? What if the government violated those criteria millions of times a day in the name of safety?

What if the violation of the right to privacy is a gateway to all other government violations of personal liberty? What if every government witch hunt never stops until it finds or creates a witch? What if every government inquisition never stops until it finds or creates a heretic? What if government does create modern-day witches and heretics and then arrests them and seeks credit for keeping us safe from them? What if they never posed any threat? What if we fall for this?

What if those who love power defeat those who love liberty in a government election? What if there is no one left to enforce the Constitution against those in power? What if all this is happening right under our noses? What do we do about it?

NEXT: Our Crazy Treatment of the Mentally Ill

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  1. I wish Mr. Napolitano would answer his own questions. He’s much more informative when he does.

    What if we lived in a world where Mr. Napolitano answered his own questions? What if when he answered his own questions we learned something? Would that be informative?

    1. Was there a single period in this article?

      1. Not according to my browser.

        1. What if your browser doesn’t work properly?

          1. Then I wouldn’t want it ‘fixed’ because I’m happy with how it’s behaving.

            1. Now I’m in the mood for some music. I think I’ll put on Dixie Dreggs – What If?

        2. Your browser missed it’s period? You should have browsed with protection.

          PS This is now an abortion thread.

          1. You are a sick man…Damn funny, but sick. That’s why I enjoy the comments so much.

          2. All right then, I am busted… I had furtive sex with your browser, you caught me fair and square. I did it with my in-semi-comma!

            1. If you’d had used the colon, this wouldn’t be an issue.

    2. Isn’t that the point? What if we all cared enough to find out the answers. What if the only answer is revolution?

      1. What if people understood these questions and didn’t get pissed when they weren’t told what to think?

  2. What if the color blue you see is different from the color blue I see? What if they never stop making Transformers movies? What if they transferred Hitler’s brain into the body of a great white shark? What if Community was still on network television? What if delicious bananas were just God’s way making boys question their sexuality? What if the Bear hadn’t flung his poo at Sheriff Lobo? What if Tommy Shaw had made music?

    1. The judge is just asking for it with this article

      1. He asks for too much.

    2. What if the color blue you see is different from the color blue I see?

      Then qualia exist.

    3. What if they never stop making Transformers movies?

      “If”?

  3. You would think that the Judge would avoid this horrendous writing style after the last time. Two years later, the commentariat still brings it up on nearly every Napolitano article. Yet he does it again.

    Reading this article reminds me of agonizing conversations I have with my 8-year old. They usually end with me telling him to stop talking.

    1. What if you stopped having those conversations with your boy?

      1. What if Almanian! stopped posting snarky comments? Would Almanian have anything left to say? Would it be the end of Almanian!’s presence on the H&R comment boards? Would anyone care?

        1. What if Roger’s butt hurt?

          1. Almanian! Moms are fine but that’s my boy you’re talking about.

            1. Wait, who’s the father, you or Roger?

      2. Have you ever tried sitting down with your children, and hitting them?

    1. The woman stuck the chopsticks standing up in the nutella thing. Is that ok in Thailand? Not in Japan or China.

      1. Thai funerary rites are different than the Confucian-influenced Sinosphere. Culturally, the sight doesn’t have the same morbid associations as they would in Japan or China. That having been said, I wonder if the taboo does exist among the large Sino-Thai population in Bangkok.

        1. Well, I still take my shoes off at people’s houses when I visit the states. They probably think I’m putting the moves on them.

      2. Actually, what I found most shocking was the Thai gyro/chicken (?) shawarma girl.

      1. I’m abivalent towards Thais, I just don’t like the King of Thailand.

        1. What do you have against Yul Brynner?

  4. Well I’ll tell ya the answer to one question – if yer goddamned aunt had a disck and mustache, she’d be your uncle, that’s fer GODDAMNED sure.

    1. A disc and a mustache does not an uncle make.

  5. If the Judge wrote his blog from here in Australia, would we get answers instead of questions?

    1. It would explain his hairline. 😉

      1. I was thinking more like it may explain his tan …. But New Jersey is a long way from here.

  6. How effective is a govt going to be when it depends upon govt employees swearing an oath to a piece of paper written by people that have been dead for centuries and every new interpretation results in less liberty?

    1. Effectiveness got nothin’ to do with it.

      1. *effective at protecting freedom. My bad.

  7. Yeesh. I remember some recent articles the Judge wrote that didn’t have quite so many rhetorical questions, and the commentariat joked about it. Apparently he saw the comments and took them seriously, and felt he had to make up some lost ground. This one is 100% questions.

    1. With the commentariat, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. That being said, a long string of questions causes me to stop reading and skip ahead. (futher reducing the number of reason articles I actually read)

    2. It’s almost like the commentariat (including me) are just snarky dicks. I dunno…troubling.

      1. Snarky Dicks…sounds like a good name for a band.

        1. Meh, we’ve come up with better.

          1. There’s your band name.

            1. How about “The Sonic Vikings?” That sounds like a cool band, amiright?

              1. Isn’t that Yngwie Malmsten’s band?

                1. Rising Force. Clearly patriarchal. rapey. crazy Swedish Viking people.

  8. Why Do America’s Leaders Act Like We Don’t Have a Constitution?

    That’s not terribly difficult to answer. Very few people have even the faintest idea of what the Constitution actually says, and among those few most of them don’t like it, since if followed it would constrain their statist schemes.

    It’s not just that politicians and bureaucrats don’t have to fear punishment for breaking their oath; they actually have to fear punishment for keeping it. Somebody who stands in the way of Big Government on the grounds that it violates the Constitution can expect a major shitstorm.

    1. Yeah, color me shocked that a document designed to limit the power of certain individuals is being ignored and marginalized by those same individuals.

  9. This article made me feel like I was interrogated.

    1. Are there people out there who still believe anything Obama says? Personally, I’m to the point where I believe the opposite of everything he says is true.

    2. shrike is going to throw a hissy fit.

    3. Oh, it’s a podcast.

      1. And a damned good one. Don’t you forget that.

        1. No such thing. Podcasts herald the decline of literate civilization.

  10. I started reading this article with high hopes…I usually enjoy his insight :/

  11. I could not stand to read this. I got through about 3 to 4 “what if” and then had to stop. While I generally like Judge N. and his thought process, this writing style is vile.

    Just for a change of pace,

    “What If” the Judge wrote in a less contrived style that was less irritating?

    “What if” half the people who might read his words and think about his points didn’t stop reading in the second paragraph because of the irritating style.

    ok, stopping now, this is even irritating to write.

  12. oh oh

    1. Sad kitty is MIA.

      1. Someone put it on a bus to california.

    2. What if the links were late? What if the links were never posted? What if the commentariat stormed the Reason offices because we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore?

      1. What if the commentariat could be bothered to travel as far as the reason offices? What if the commentariat was something other than a bunch of internet snarkers?

  13. Mourning lynx are late again. Everyone at Reason get drunk during the filibuster and Letterman’s last show or something?

    1. What if reason witheld the links because the commentariat mocks the Judge’s style?

    2. Someone needs to tow the lion and get them posted!

    3. Must be ENB’s turn.

      1. busy looking for something abortion something links

        1. Can always fall back on a “sex worker” link, yes?

          1. Or a deep dish link.

          2. That bus driver lady from The Brickbat wasn’t the only one on the sauce this morning.

        2. Busy having another Twitter circle jerk with Weigel.

      2. What a slut.

        1. Don’t you dare mock ENB. She’s awesome. Mock ESB. She deserves to be mocked.

          1. Oh come on. No Sad Cat, might as well restart yesterday’s howling shitfit about the proper use of vulgar slang.

        2. You are dead to me.

  14. As thoroughly irritating as the judge’s writing style is I believe the reason he does it is because a number of things he writes, if done in declaratory fashion, would generally lead to requirements for evidence. This could easily make his articles several times longer and difficult to follow.

    As an example, above he poses the question “What if those in government began cutting constitutional corners… …because they enjoyed exercising power over others…” … had he simply stated that he thought this was the case it would be hard to walk away from that statement without something to back it up.

    Granted, his writing style still is grating but I highly appreciate his ideas even if they may not be teamed with a more preferable means off expression.

  15. How am I to stay regular when lynx are late? I do my best work while pinching one out and the turtle is coming emerging already.

  16. My eyes glazed over about the fourth question in.

    1. I gave it another shot. Now I have this stupid John Lennon tune stuck in my head.

  17. Wow. So many questions with one answer: FYTW

  18. What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law?

    There’s a real possibility that under such a condition, procedural shenanigans would not exist; for instance, there would not exist the concept of the “right to vote.” At the same time, such a government would not be able to use the constitutionality of its existence as an excuse to trample on people’s rights, which is no better than arguing Divine Right used by modern-era kings. And kings have been murdered many times throughout history ?let’s not forget that. It is quite another thing to topple a “constitutional government” of several million minions.

    There is a reason why little Marxians love constitutional governments ?precisely because tyrants can then be easily replaced. Remember that the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics had a constitutional government.

    1. The Divine Right has been replaced with The Will of the People, and instead of it being given by God it is given by Representation.

      The costumes and the names given to the supernatural entities have changed, but everything else remains the same.

  19. What if the greatest right protected by the Constitution is the right to be left alone, the right to be oneself, the right to answer only to one’s own free will?

    Wouldn’t that be interesting. Would that entail a guaranteed income so that my free will is able to exercise itself unburdened by the drudgery of securing basic needs? Or does it mean someone whose will it is to commit mass murder gets to do it unburdened by law enforcement?

    Such a wonderfully sophisticated worldview you guys have!

    1. No, and no. Where in the Constitution does it guarantee food or shelter? Don’t be daft, you know what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” does, and does not, entail: freedom to do anything but infringe upon the rights of others

      1. You don’t understand. There are things people need in order to survive. So they are forced to obtain these things or they will die. Everything from food to shelter to medical care. We’re all forced to acquire these things. We’re forced to buy them from the corporations. In fact, the corporations force us to buy them. In addition, we need jobs to pay for these things. That means we’re forced to work for the corporations. Or to put it another way, the corporations force us to work for them. They force us to work for them and they force us to buy their products. Everything is force. Nothing is voluntary. So liberty is actually tyranny of the corporations. The only thing that can save us is government, because government is voluntary. It’s not force because it’s us, the people. And we vote. So whatever you think is voluntary is actually force, and whatever you think is force is actually voluntary. See? Up is down, left is right. Am I right?

      2. I know as a concrete fact that the pursuit of happiness entails basic needs being met. Prove me wrong.

        1. That is not a fact, nor could it be – to demonstrate, “prove” that basic needs are a required part of “happiness”, and that your understanding of that applies to every single person. I’ll wait ….

          That statement is actually just something you believe. How can you ever “prove” a belief wrong? Idiot.

          What you probably meant to say, if you weren’t so mentally lazy, is “I know as a concrete fact that the ACHIEVEMENT (not pursuit) of happiness entails basic needs being met”. And that I would say I also believe.

          However we are not talking about guaranteed ACHIEVEMENT of happiness – just the right to be free to pursue it, whatever form it takes for you, as long as you don’t impinge upon the rights of others.

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  21. What if what if actually was what if? Then if what?

  22. Why? Because they’re power hungry and they can get away with it.

  23. “What if those who love power defeat those who love liberty in a government election? What if there is no one left to enforce the Constitution against those in power? ”

    The good Judge is about 70 years late on his “what ifs”.

    FDR killed off the constitution.

    Now we’re like most other Western democracies, where the government does what it wants, but is generally not too despotic, and that’s all people expect.

  24. “Is there no one left to enforce the Constitution against those in power?”

    No. The Constitution was rendered irrelevant by the Progressives. May it rest in peace.

    1. So what are conservatives doing about that when they hold power? (Eg during the years of GW Bush)? Or you implying that they have no interest in restoring the US constitution to vigorous health?

  25. What if those elected to public office realize that they are dictatorial leeches instead of leaders?

  26. A.N. wrote: “What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law?”

    1) Not having a constitution does NOT necessarily mean a country has no laws. After all, Britain famously has no WRITTEN constitution (or rather, more accurately, it has no single document with the title of “constitution”) yet it still has laws, including some which deal with constitutional matters. For example, the (English) Bill of Rights of 1688/9.

    2) That reference to “Constitution” with a capital C seems to be a reference not to constitutions in general but to THE U.S. Constitution. Having no U.S. Constitution would imply that the Articles of Confederation were still in existence. If however that also did not exist then each state–or at least the original 13 at any rate–would each have their own constitutions, legislatures, and laws.

    That is to say, while positing the non-existence of the US FEDERAL constitution would necessarily also mean not having a Congress, President, and Supreme Court, all of which were created by that document, the STATE constitutions, along with their legislatures, governors, courts, and LAWS would still exist, at least in the case of the original 13 colonies, because their existence does not depend on the existence of the US constitution. (Beyond those 13 matters do become more complicated.)

    In other words, the entire premise on which this article is founded is arguably flawed.

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  31. What excellent ideas! Something I did with my kids (and now do with my grandchildren) is keep my shopping list within easy reach then ask them if there is anything they need when I go shopping. They write it on the list since I’ve told them I will forget if it is not written down

    ?????

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