Thomas Jefferson

Revisiting the U.S. Constitution

Why should libertarians celebrate the blueprint that made powerful government possible?


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I am mystified that so many libertarians still see the U.S. Constitution as a landmark achievement in the struggle for liberty. On principle alone, they should have become wary in time. A document that is adored at virtually every position in the political firmament should arouse suspicion among libertarians.

Moreover a smattering of historical knowledge should have been enough to turn suspicion into outright skepticism. The Constitution was not the first constitution of the United States. Under the Articles of Confederation (for all its faults) the central quasi-government had no power to tax or regulate trade. Under the second constitution the new government assumed those powers with a vengeance and more, including the express power to grant patents and copyrights and unspecified powers, such as the power of eminent domain. You'll not find this power to steal property enumerated in the document proper, but thanks to the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment (part of the "Bill of Rights"), which feebly limited the assumed power, we know it is there. Considering this historical context alone, how could a libertarian be in love with such a document?

The push for a new constitution came from men who openly complained that America's problem lay in too little, not too much, government. "The evils suffered and feared from weakness in Government have turned the attention more toward the means of strengthening the [government] than of narrowing [it]," James Madison, father of the  second constitution, wrote to Thomas Jefferson. "It has never been a complaint agst. Congs. that they governed overmuch. The complaint has been that they have governed too little," James Wilson added.

Further historical investigation reveals that the handiwork of Madison and Alexander Hamilton (not a promising parentage for a libertarian) was put over on the American people by dubious means. The federal convention in Philadelphia was called for the express purpose of amending the Articles. Under the prevailing rules, any amendment would have to be approved unanimously by the states. But once assembled, the convention tossed out the Articles and started from scratch, working from Madison's centralizing scheme. Moreover the rules for ratification were changed: only nine states would be needed to ratify. And if that were not bad enough, the misnamed Federalists handicapped the Anti-Federalists during the ratification debates with their control of the mail and newspapers.

Little wonder Albert Jay Nock, in Our Enemy the State, called the Philadelphia convention a coup d'etat.

Speaking of the ratification debate, isn't it strange that libertarian constitutionalists ignore the most libertarian activists and writers of the day—the Anti-Federalists—to keep their narrative intact? That alone should make one suspicious. (No, the Bill of Rights did not fully address the Anti-Federalists' objections.) Lysander Spooner, author of "The Constitution of No Authority," is ignored as well. (Randy Barnett is an exception, though I think his attempt to give the Constitution a Spoonerian defense fails.)

The eminent historian Gordon S. Wood shed even more unflattering light on the Constitution in his in his magisterial The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Wood shows that as the 1780s wore on, the revolutionary leaders, Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian alike, were unhappy with how things were turning out. Both sides had hoped that the people would embody classical republican values and put the general welfare over their particular financial interests. To their dismay, people were more interested in improving their economic well-being than it contributing to the new nation's good.

The Hamiltonians were especially upset that the public was taking its egalitarian, anti-aristocratic attitudes to such great lengths. The Hamiltonians did not expect the common people to govern themselves. Rather, they (that is, white males) were supposed to elect as their representatives detached wise men who were immune to the vicissitudes of the marketplace.

Democratic participation by common people was more acceptable to the Jeffersonians, but like the Hamiltonians, they lamented the preoccupation with commercial self-interest and the use of state legislatures to secure it. "By the 1780s," Wood wrote, quoting Yale College President Ezra Stiles, "it was obvious that 'a spirit oflocality' was destroying 'the aggregate interests of the community.'" Government had been envisioned as an above-the-fray enlightened referee that balanced competing particular interests and served the general welfare. Instead it had become an auction house.

What to do? Convene a federal convention and try again. And that's what they did.

Those who wanted a new constitution reconciled themselves to the fact that people would inevitably put their own "narrow" interests first. "Madison and others were now willing to allow these diverse competing interests free play in the continent-sized national republic created by the new Constitution of 1787," Wood wrote.

But Madison and the Federalists … were not modern-day pluralists. They still clung to the republican ideal of an autonomous public authority that was different from the many private interests of the society…. They now knew that [quoting Madison's Federalist 10] 'the regulation of these various interfering interests forms the principal task of modern Legislation,' but they also hoped that by shifting this regulation to the national level these private local interests would not be able to dominate legislation as they had in the states and become judges in their own causes.

The advocates of the new constitution believed that a central government could play the umpire's role, Wood added, "because the men holding office … would by their fewness of numbers be more apt to be disinterested gentry who were supported by proprietary wealth and not involved in the interest-mongering of the marketplace."

This point was critical. Common people were preoccupied with making a living. But those who were suited to govern did not have to work and therefore only they could be counted on, first, to ascertain the general interest and, second, to work unfailingly to achieve it. Hamilton made this argument even though he had to earn his living as a lawyer. When this was pointed out, he replied that lawyers were different from self-interested merchants, mechanics, artisans, and farmers. According to Hamilton, Wood wrote, "being a lawyer was not an occupation and was different from other profit-making activities." Lawyers and other professionals, Hamilton said, "truly form no distinct interest in society" and thus can be "an impartial arbiter" of the everyone else's claims. Anti-Federalists scoffed at this claim, understanding that no ruling class could be expected to be disinterested.

This should be enough to make libertarians wary about the second constitution. But there's more. Madison and the other centralizers believed that what was missing in American government was amonarchical element. The revolutionary leaders were happy to be rid of the British monarchy, but they came to believe, in light of what I've described above, that perhaps they had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. "Madison," Wood wrote, "expected the new national government to play the same suprapolitical neutral role that the British king had been supposed to play in the empire. In fact, Madison hoped that the new federal government might restore some aspect of monarchy that had been lost in the Revolution…. That someone as moderate and as committed to republicanism as Madison should speak even privately of the benefits of monarchy adhering in the Constitution of 1787 is a measure of how disillusioned many of the revolutionary gentry had become with the democratic consequences of the Revolution." (Later, the Madisonians saw the judiciary as playing this neutral role.)

Thus, Wood writes, "In place of the impotent confederation of separate states that had existed in the 1780s, the Federalists aimed to build a strong, consolidated, and prosperous 'fiscal-military' state in emulation of eighteenth-century England, united 'for the accomplishment of great purposes' by an energetic government composed of the best men in the society."

Let this all sink in: the prime movers of the second constitution sought to reintroduce hierarchy, aristocracy, and even elements of monarchy in order to rein in the radical social and political egalitarianism that had made the American Revolution unique in world history. We libertarians of course would have rejected the patricians without fully embracing the plebeians. After all, aristocratic rule versus government as egalitarian dispenser of economic favors is a false alternative.

Wood emphasizes that things could have turned out worse. "The Anti-Federalists lost the battle over the Constitution," Wood wrote. "But they did not lose the war over the kind of national government the United States would have for a good part, at least, of the next century. Their popular understanding of American society and politics in the early Republic was too accurate and too powerful to be put down— as the Federalists themselves soon came to appreciate. Even the elections for the First Congress in 1788 revealed the practical realities of American democratic life that contradicted the Federalists' classical republican dreams of establishing a government led by disinterested educated gentlemen."

But in time, despite setbacks here and there, the Federalists and their successors prevailed. In many respects the second constitution fulfilled its illiberal purpose. Should libertarians celebrate the blueprint that made powerful government possible?

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog.

NEXT: DC Prepares for Epic Snowball Fight

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  1. In the fantasy world of Sheldonia, only anarchy is libertarian enough!

    What a pile of crap. Sure the constitution itself isn’t perfect libertarianism, but have you read those first ten amendments to it? They happen to be the most libertarian stuff enshrined into government in all of history.

    Again Sheldon rails against all of us who just don’t get that being libertarian means being a sniveling weasel like him.

    1. All hail the mighty Constitution! Perfect except for its interpretation by mortal men!

      As James Madison said, but apparently didn’t believe,

      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.

      The Constitution is full of flaws, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find them. Your bootlicking obeasance is embarrassing.

      There are many things that can be done to improve the damned thing, such as allowing states to directly repeal federal laws, and allowing individual citizens to sue about unconstitutional laws, with their trials heard by juries alone. But the basic flaw is that it is interpreted by government judges, and if you can’t understand that, you are not trying very hard.

      1. I do understand that. I praised the Bill of Rights, not the constitution.

        And I agree with you about the flaw of judicial interpretation.

        That doesn’t change that Sheldon always goes for the perfect over the good.

        Were we to scrap the constitution now and start over, what we’d end up with would look a lot more like a statist nightmare than what we currently have.

        1. I’m not disagreeing that Richman is an idealist, but I’m not seeing him call for scrapping the Constitution here so much as calling for a less romanticized view of it.

          1. On balance he does seem to see it in a negative light. I don’t think that is remotely fair from a libertarian perspective if you are willing to ignore the tacit support of slavery in the document. Outside of that I think most libertarians would be reasonably satisfied with a federal government that actually stuck to the very narrow powers the constitution seemed to confer. Yeah it might not be precisely what many of us want but there comes a point where if you are 90% there you have more pressing concerns and windmills to tilt at.

            1. Fuck. You. Sheldon.

      2. “Perfect except for its interpretation by mortal men!”

        Quite unlike the British constitution, yes? Howabout the Somali constitution? Is that a libertarian paradise?

      3. I become very wary when I see/hear the word interpret except in relation to language translation. It’s a code word for “‘you’re about to get some twisted thinking…”. BTW how much for two scarecrows?

  2. Most libertarians do seem to agree with The Bill of Rights. Its biggest failure in my view was to push Freedom of Religion rather than Freedom of Belief followed perhaps by the failure to push Freedom of Communication over Freedom of Press/Speech.

    1. The legality of government laws is judged by government employees, and it should have been obvious what a conflict of interest that is. No words can ever overcome that basic flaw. Even if the Constitution had forbidden police powers, or explicitly called out the natural right to control yourself and your property regardless of harm to self or the distaste of others, it would all be for naught as long as the government defined its own limits with government employees defining what those words meant.

      1. Although, as bad as judicial review can be, free speech has fared well (see Citizens United) and even the right to bear arms has (Heller). Of course it only takes one more progressive on the court replacing a conservative for the erasing of these rights to gain momentum.

        At that point libertarians will be resigned to civil disobedience of the state to get our point across. Notably that’s a step closer to the anarchy Sheldon would seem to prefer.

        1. Free speech has fared well? We have obscenity laws, copyrights, free speech zones, FCC censorship, and some areas have laws against using ‘swear words’ in public places.

          As for progressives erasing rights, that definitely happens. However, many conservatives (social conservatives, really) still want to erase rights, but the rights they want to erase are different from the rights the progressives want to erase. Conservatives seem more receptive to limiting freedom of speech if it’s done in the name of stopping flag burning, obscenity, etc.

          1. I’ve never understood why many Libertarians scoff at copyright. Patents sure, they are a gov’t granted monopoly, but a copyright is a simple common law extension of property rights over the products of your labor, or the labor of someone you contracted labor from.

      2. This is true but the simple fact is that many libertarians are not opposed to the state. If you want to label them as not libertarians , ok. But I won’t go that far.

      3. That was the purpose of “separation of powers”. I think one problem is there is not more of it.

    2. I think I’m more inclined to call the Bill of Rights a failure. Back when having one was initially being debated, the side against it basically said, “If we start enumerating specific rights, then inevitably someone is going to come along and claim that rights not specifically enumerated aren’t guaranteed.” The side that wanted it responded, “Don’t be stupid, this is clearly a document about a government of limited and specifically enumerated powers, nobody could read it that way.”


      1. If there were no Bill of Rights, the government would interpret this as all rights belonging to the government. We’re fortunate to have a BoR.

  3. It’s funny, as a kid when I first learned about the Articles of Confederation and the Federalist/Anti-Federalist deal I would’ve punched Hamilton right in the face given the opportunity. Might not be popular with some folks, but Richman’s on to something pretty important here. Right from the beginning there were people who saw the revolution as an opportunity not to remove an oppressive state but to replace it with one in which they’d be in charge. The Constitution, rather than being some sort of holy document of our own little nightwatchman Camelot, isn’t even really a compromise between the Fed/Anti-Fed camps so much as the biggest, most powerful state that the authors thought they could sneak through.

    It’s important, because a lot of people seem to conflate libertarianism in this country with Constitutionalism (for lack of a better term) and rightly accuse libertarians who argue for rights on the basis of their inclusion in the Constitution of simply preferring that the government conform to their preferences. Yes, getting our government to adhere to its own founding document would be a good start as to limiting state power and restoring and protecting individual liberty, but it’s vital to remember (and to vocally assert) that these aren’t rights given to us by an old piece of parchment. I have a right to speak not because of the 1st Amendment, but because I’m a human being.

    1. ‘Libertarianism is just the slippery slope to constitutionalist tyranny’ would rank about #5000 on the list of biggest problems that libertarians have in selling their ideas to the public.

    2. Well said, sir/madam. Especially the second paragraph.

    3. I like what you wrote but would like to add that that right to speak as a human eing must be protected oor backed up with the power to retain it.

      It is the power, not the right, that allows one that freedom as we all here know that there is always someone willing to take that right away if the power to resist did not exist

    4. it’s vital to remember (and to vocally assert) that these aren’t rights given to us by an old piece of parchment.

      It may be worth pointing out that the addenda parchment and supporting parchment of the same time period, written by the same group of people who wrote the constitution, does, in fact, vigorously assert exactly this. Given the zeitgeist of the day and the structural composition of the document, it was probably taken for granted that the constitution would be understood as a rights-securing document and restraint upon national government. On the off chance that it wasn’t, that’s why the 9A was added to the bill of rights.

  4. The gospel according to L. Neil Smith — a better novelist than political philosopher. The Articles of Confederation were fine if you didn’t mind paying a tariff to ship goods from New Jersey to New York, and wanted the united states in congress assembled stuck on the eastern seaboard, at the mercy of every power in the area — and with half the country holding slaves (unless foreign conquerors got rid of it).

  5. Oh dear.

    Someone needs to explain to poor Sheldon that our problems grow as our leaders depart from the text of the constitution, despite any insincere admiration they may express for it. And we could likely solve many of those problems by simply following it more closely.

    As a document written by men, it is of course imperfect, but it is nonetheless the most perfect set of organizing principles that anyone has yet devised.

    Of course poor Sheldon thinks he could have done a better job had he just been around in 1787 to set those old aristocrats straight. Sure. Sure.

    1. “And we could likely solve many of those problems by simply following it more closely.”

      Following it more closely isn’t happening, nor even realistic. The state continually engages in extortion, theft, and violence. Everything you purchase, sell, and even resell, and many cases use (like property) has an extortion rate attached to it, even one’s income. Any desire to peacibly refuse will be met with violence.

      1. Don’t blame the constitution for our inability to follow it.

        No other foundational document could be written any better — especially not today — so our focus should be a return to constitutional governance, not disparagement of the constitution as somehow inadequate or misguided.

  6. Adored? Wasn’t my impression all through college. I hear college is even worse now.

  7. Anarchism is just simplism. The framers of the Constitution did their best to create a representative government that was a watchdog on itself, by creating three branches with each branch having as its self-interest the containment of the other two.

    Did it/does it work? Has it withstood the test of time? Has it completely succeeded, completely failed? Has it succeeded most of the time?

    All worthy questions, but the anarchist notion that the constitution “just made the government bigger” and “government employees get to interpret the Constitution’s meaning” miss the point of balance of power.

    Anarchism always gives way to statism, because anarchists are incapable of constructing an even flawed protection against statism; they have abandoned the art of statecraft.

    The extent to which we have liberty in this country at all is the extent to which the Constitution’s framers took up the challenge of statecraft, and to which many people after them tried to clean up the oversights and compromises in that initial effort.

    1. When was the last time there was anarchy? Must have been before the Egyptian Pharos. Maybe the closest was the Native American tribes, who also had ‘leaders’…generally elders. I believe it was Jefferson who used much of the Iroquois’ style of governing to formulate his concept’s.

      1. Look at Somalia. Or Syria. Libya.

        That’s what anarchism brings.

        1. Libya and Syria were getting along with far less ‘chaos’ prior to NATO going in to fix them and bring them democracy. Somalia I don’t know enough about to comment.

          1. Libya and Syria were getting along with far less ‘chaos’ prior to NATO going in to fix them and bring them democracy.

            …when they were under autocracy. Bad example if you’re trying to vindicate “anarchy”, to the extent that Libya and Syria represent it. But Libya and Syria also aren’t anarchist states in the present time either. So, also bad examples.

            1. No Pat, the implication bacchys made was that those countries were in anarchy. My rebuttal was that it was far saner in those countries prior to NATO intervention. It is not NATO business to remove governments we don’t like if they are not about to invade us, is it? Or do you believe the USA and NATO should make all countries do as they are told by us?

              1. Yes but the argument is over whether anarchy is a valid way to secure Liberty. He probably agrees that toppling stable governments does not help. But bringing in the nato intervention is irrelevant in this discussion, due to the fact that the previous “better” governments were not anarchies. Idt I get the point you’re trying to make.

              2. Maybe so, but NATO didn’t create the rebellions in Libya and Syria, it aided them after they had begun. When Obama believed that democracy would organically grown on the ground without any guiding hand, he ended up with Islamic radicals hijacking the revolutions.

        2. Straight up bullshit, and a favortite argument the liberals bring up when they attempt to tie the conditions of Somalia to freedom.

          This while, like you, ignoring the governments that created those conditions in the first place.

          1. Exactly. People forget the whole Black Hawk Down incident occured during the Clinton administration!

            1. They also ignore that Somalia was a fucking failed Socialist State shithole. Fuck anyone in the ass with a rusty dildo who tries to use Somalia as an argument against Anarchists.

  8. What’s wrong with anarchy? Seems right now, world wide, we live in a sort of managed, legalized anarchy. The laws of countries give certain people the right to rule over others ie Federal Reserve Act.. For example, it is very difficult to earn a living in this country unless you pay for a license or permit or certification. There are a few exceptions, writers for example. But some Democrat has suggested ‘journalists’ be licensed by the government now too. The same sort of ‘strong men’ who would rule with an iron fist in days gone by, now do so by the ‘legal’ ascension to great wealth which provides access to great power.

    Really, when a government department selects who will build the railroad from St Louis to San Fran making a handful of ‘chosen people’ very wealthy, it’s really more than ‘crony capitalism’ it seems to me. It looks a lot like the King setting his brother in law up with a great gig. If the author of this piece is an idealist, he and I are on the same wave length.

    1. Oh yeesh. Anarchism has the same delusions about human nature as Marxism. Any philosophy that has to spend time ‘reeducating’ the lumpens while not in power is not one that should ever be in a position where it can win an election to implement its ideas. Because if it does then Year Zero and gulags and concentration camps will soon follow. If anarchist libertarians are content to instead yap about NeverNeverLand, well, what on Earth is the point of that?

      And as long as modern presumed-to-be-practical libertarians derive ANY thinking from anarchism, then the only result is that they will EASILY be painted into the irrelevance of being forced to defend Somalia as an exemplar. Seems a bit more presumed-to-be-practical to be able to point to other semi-exemplars like Switzerland or Estonia or Taiwan or Hong Kong or Dubai or Botswana or Chile or Costa Rica or even Canada.

      1. Well, I’d ask you if utilizing the Constitution to benefit yourself is an example of human nature? Of course it is. Only, if you get Congress to pass your self benefiting bill (think Monsanto for example) it’s all legal and nice and the citizens have no recourse, so the law is used to develop monopolies. Can’t sue the government either, which sadly I discovered when an illegal immigrant killed my wife. The government is not responsible for not enforcing the laws. The EPA sends heavy metals into the river which meanders through 3 states, and there is no recourse for the ranchers who rely upon it.

        My point is, you have controlled, legalized anarchy now, but you have to be government or a wealthy corporation to benefit from it. These people then philosophically and essentially become Lords and Masters of the ‘serfs’.

        Anarchy would be roughly as perfect as the current situation, save one major difference, the individual would have an equal opportunity to engage the market.

        1. Wow.

          My sincere condolences.

          I have many years tried to make the poin to friends that Mexico is much more democratic than the us. They laugh at me and refuse to entertain my point.

          If a us citizen has a paperwork problem in which the government is involved they have a problem. say there is a typo on your car title. In the US you must go through a fairly extensice and a little costly government approved process.

          In Mexico you give the clerk a couple of bucks and the problem goes away.

          The point is that government is always for sale. In Mexico everyone has access to that marketplace. in the US if you offer a title clerk 10 bucks to make a typo go away you might end up in jail.

          If however, you offer the government a million dollars in campaign contributions or some other big ticket legal bribe your problems go away.

        2. The intent of the Constitution was to create a system of competition for power (including some explicit protections/space for individual self-empowerment). Not to ask philosophical questions about power or its exercise.

          I totally agree with you that, in practice, we have gotten away from that. In the name of ‘efficiency’, we undermined that competition – and in so doing tilted the playing field towards monopoly/centralization of power (and not just in governmental power but in market power too). And once that happens then yeah the worst sorts will be attracted to controlling it. The solution however is not to try to recreate something new from scratch. It’s much simpler. Point to what we once had – and to countries which still do have elements of internal governmental competition (Switzerland and Canada and even postwar Germany now). They directly emulated us – and we need to return to what they emulated. Maybe then we can progress towards a different philosophical vision of power/exercise – but not until then.

          Also – My condolences to you. I can’t even imagine how much that situation hurts.

        3. Only, if you get Congress to pass your self benefiting bill (think Monsanto for example) it’s all legal and nice and the citizens have no recourse, so the law is used to develop monopolies.

          Monsanto is not a monopoly, although actual monopolies (think public utilities) can rarely be created and never sustained without government.

  9. When I saw the article preview, I knew right away who the author was.

    1. BINGO!!

  10. The first amendment alone immediately puts the Constitution head and shoulders above every other founding document in the world. The clear, unconditional and absolute language used in the first amendment remains radically libertarian. No way would today’s Congress (or even the people in a referendum) would declare absolute freedom of speech to be a natural right that no government shall be permitted to infringe, period. Instead, before the period would be some caveat about the common good or public safety or emergencies like foreigners using Twitter to preach non-Judeo-Christian extremism. And would we today prohibit the government from passing laws establishing religion or restricting is free exercise? LOLyeahno. The caveat would probably come first: “Unless necessary to prevent the spread of radicalism, Congress shall pass no law…”. Look at the piece of shit the French passed as a declaration of rights. The exceptions swallow it. The Bill of Rights is generally free of exceptions (“without due process” is actually a protection of rights in more contexts than it is an exception to one), even if the language could be clearer in some amendments. The rest of the Constitution obviously could be improved a hell of a lot but for a product of compromise written 225 years ago with no examples to copy from, it is a remarkable libertarian accomplishment.

    1. The First Amendment has been scoring victory after victory lately. These kinds of articles are just pathetic and thinly veiled attempts to restrict it (while denying doing any such thing). They must be crying.

  11. I am a very avid reader. My areas of most interest is the Age of Sail and the Age of exploration. I have read hundreds of narrative non fiction titles on both subjects.

    One thing I have learned in my reading is that the founders of the US were fanatical about the idea of free trade. It was at the core of their beliefs and it was the defining principle behind their actions to break from King George and set up their own ruling body in which those principles were to be inshrined.

    Reality took over once they were free from George and the first test of their convictions were the powers that held sway over the Mediterranean. They at first resisted the tribute demanded of them but then also secretely paid tribute to the pashas. They had not much of a navy to resist and it cost less to pay tribute than equip a navy to resist. Eventually that cost factor switched poles and they fought and won . Soon after none of the European powers paid tribute nor had their peoples captured into slavery by the Moslem Pashas. ( Yes horror of horrors WHITE PEOPLE WERE ONCE SLAVES TOO)

  12. My point is this. The founders were truely fanatical about their free trade principle but even they faced reality and didn’t strictly follow their own beliefs that wwere written down in the Constitution that many of them helped write.

    That same willingness to skirt the Constitution when deemed necessary by those in power existed from day one. While I don’t think the Constitution says exactly that the US should never pay tribute to be allowed to trade in a certain area it was the guiding principle of the document.

    That willingness to skirt the Rule Of Law ( I know I’m using license here but it’s OK because I’m pretty hungover and trying to wait until noon to have a beer for apperances sake) has always been there but has been used for less than stellar purposes as the years have gone buy.

    Saying that it is far from perfect yet still the best there is is trite I know, but it is also a fact.

    The faults of the document lie not in the document itself as there will never be a perfect document to rule man. The faults lie with those who interpret it for their own purposes and we who allow them to do so.

    Penal Tax anyone ?

    1. Also… I have no dogs in the hunt but I predict:

      Pats 19
      Broncs 9

      Zona 19
      Cats 35

      1. Thanks buddy, you have convinced me. Today is my beautiful ballerina ( literally) wife’s 30th birthday and we had a pre celebration last night. I’m 59 but thanks to the miracles of modern medical science she is stiil abed and probably somewhat tender but I am up and running.

        Pats Broncs based upon Manning playing the entire game. If manning gets “hurt” early then:

        Pats 24
        Broncs 20

        Manning going out changes the dynamics measureabley. Manning has had a great run but he is done and is a shadow of himself. it is embarrassing to watch him play. His dad Archie should make him face reality. It will be a shame if he insists on playing next year. All the greats hate to hang it up but he is 2 years past the point where he could leave gracefully like some did.

        AIkman began to trip over his own feet in the pocket while he still had a rocket arm and left while the memory of his superior play was still foremost in people’s mind when they thought of Troy Aikman. It’s sad to watch someone like Manning try to hang on.

        1. …beautiful ballerina ( literally) wife’s…

          That comment is worthless without pictures!

      2. Patriots lost. No Super Bowl this year for that dirty cheater brady.

    2. 5 o’clock somewhere, my friend.

  13. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ?

  14. I saw the headline and I thought, “Richman. It has to be.”

  15. The US Constitution is without question themost important document for protecting individual liberty ever written, Sheldon the Slaver’s pathetic whinging aside. Anybody who denigrates that this (admittedly imperfect) document is in any philisophical sense non-libertarian is at best ignorant of history and at worst looking to take your rights away.

    Shut the fuck up Sheldon, you’re out of your element!

    1. That wasn’t even an argument. It was just a statement followed by ad hominem attacks.

  16. Sheldon has really outdone himself this time.

    Almost all of the issues we have with the federal govt infringing upon liberty is not due to the Constitution being screwed up, but due to obvious misintepretations of the plain text of the document.
    Here a few:
    Commerce Clause; Obviously everyone here understands the fucked up nature of SCOTUS interpretation (famously in Wickard v. Fillburn, but not beginning with this). Of course, this clause came about because states were trying to put tariffs on other states under the AoC.
    Free speech: The 1A is pretty fucking clear.

    1. (Sorry accidentally submitted)
      Guns: the 2A is very clear, particularly in context of the language used at the time. In addition, most of the founders have speeches or letters on the record which clearly indicate that every citizen should be armed.
      Eminant Domain: Again blame the SCOTUS for saying a city could take from one private citizen to give to another.
      Civil Asset Forfeiture: Nowhere in the Constitution does it even hint that the govt should have the power to do that.
      Slavery: The founders included the 3/5 compromise to keep the southern states in the intial union, while trying to reduce their power. In addition, there is the amendment process which was used to correct this.

      I guess if one is an anarchist, then any government is bad. But ours is the best example of the attempt to limit government to a few important functions. I am sure with hindsight we can think of ways to improve it. But comparing the real document to some fictional “perfect” ideal is just bullshit.

      1. It’s amazing how many people insist on remaining obtuse about the 1A and 2A. Imagine if those amendments did not exist at all.

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  18. The problem with anarchism is that libertarians have chosen to attack the state – a coercive monopoly – as government which leaves no real choice left other than the concept on anarchism.

    This is totally wrong, They should attack the the state/coercivive monopoly and leave the concept of government for their own view of how society should be ruled.

    This makes far more sense to me.

    1. Government doesn’t have to be coercive. In fact coercive government is tyrannical. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force. That form of government is not tyrannical.

      1. I like it, but Rothbard (and many others) no longer call it “government” at that point. If there are no taxes and no initiations of force, it’s not government anymore.

  19. Wow. My first Sheldon article I’ve clicked on. And my last. So many inaccuracies in this article. How the hell did he get a gig at Reason writing steaming piles of shit like this?? He’s an 8th grader isn’t he??

    1. I play drinking games with his articles.

      1. I’m just shocked that he avoided somehow blaming Israel!


        /Sheldon derp

        1. Yes, in Sheldon’s pathetic mind, Israel is somehow behind any deficiencies in the constitution. Maybe he thinks they eventually use a time machine or something.

        2. Next Week on the Sheldon Comedy Hour: Sheldon explains how the Elders of Zion brainwashed the Founding Fathers into writing a Constitution with a strong executive so that, two hundred years later, the strong executive could be used to prop up the state of Israel!

          Also: Listen to Sheldon explain how the U.S. and Iraeli governments invented the Monroe Doctrine as an excuse to murder Palestinians!

          All on next week’s Sheldon Comedy Hour! Don’t miss it!

      2. Dear God, man! Do you want to die?

        1. I will die by the rules of my own stupid law, damnit.

  20. The Bill of Rights was a deliberate fraud [for political gain].

    “….The Judiciary Act of 1789 was signed into law on Sept.24th. 1789, while the Bill of Rights did not leave congress until the next day,Sept 25th 1789.

    Keep in mind that the same people who passed the Judiciary Act into immediate law of the land status, were, at the exact same time busy putting the final touches on a document [the Bill of Rights] which they knew had to be ratified by the individual states before it ever [if ever!]became law . That ratification of the Bill of Rights took almost 2 years.

    That means that for almost two years before the Bill of Rights ever went into effect, a Federal law was in operation that already, pre-emptively, granted “supreme” power to the Supreme court to ultimately decide what both it and the constitution actually “meant”….”

    See: “The Bill of Rights Scam – [aka The 1789 Judiciary Act Scam] ”

    Regards, onebornfree.

    1. Fuck off spammer.

  21. The problem with your whole “the constitution sucks” bullshit, is that I just can’t think of anything better than the constitution.

    So, there. Neener neener.

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  24. Largely, yes, Sheldon.
    As you stated prior, their intent was not for a ruling aristocracy, but for a stable central view. One neither necessitates nor causes the other–Though abuses of the latter for the former exist, the likelihood of the latter from the former are slim.
    They were imperfect men, spawned of very imperfect cultural and political histories; and struck compromises miraculously sufficient for their day, and from their day’s resources and experience. To wit: lawful protections and defense for all. Without some federal strength, and ignoring the slave phase, God knows what a few states might have tried to pull-off.
    I submit that adherence to the subject document would result in the greatest possible protection of personal liberty possible.
    Democracy is mob force. Libertarians should avoid its voluntary use a descriptor for anything else.

  25. It’s sad how folks call anarchy chaos, and that it is a pipe dream, or even simplistic. All while saying 535 plus “Top Men” surrounded by standing armies will somehow limit their power, and work to ensure all are free.

    Chaos is government, not anarchy. Because where there is no substantial (or none at all) political involvement, free people provide products and services effectively, efficiently, all without the chaos and violence of the state.

    Shoes, watches, computers, jewelry, clothing, electronics, the UL, many building materials, computer desks, furniture, snow shovelling, photography, weddings, televisions, private security, the internet, driveway and parking lot paving, private arbitration………..when has there been a shoe shortage or crisis, or a TV crisis, or a wedding hall shortage and crisis, and so on for what was previously mentioned? How long did these crisis last?

    Meanwhile, everything the government tries to control or intervene in, winds up in crisis, or chaos followed by violence. The view that these top men are capable of securing and protecting liberty, or that they someday will follow that piece of paper, and give up the powers they grant themselves while ignoring that document is the real pipe dream.

    1. That’s why Jefferson thought there should be a revolution every 20 years or so.

  26. Government is a fiction, where individuals can advocate extortion, and violence, while being shielded from consequenses by their benevolent politicians and standing armies as they convince enough individuals to vote for them, thereby being able to steal the liberty and property of others with their “votes”. Any refusal to obey, or revoke any consent to be governed will be met with violence.

    1. Just restrict it’s authority to the the retaliatory use of force. Problem solved.

      1. That is a terrible idea, and it is shown now how they can’t handle the ise of force as it is. There have been over 70+ interventions/invasions into other places since WW2 alone. And most of thise had nothing to do with protecting and defending liberty.

        For you to want top men, who can’t handle foreign policy, or even get a handle on the defense budget, which has been ongoing since the USS Constitution, to have the power to do as they please, is bo solution. If tgey wrote on a piece of paper, that these top men were limited in what they can do, they will not, as they haven’t been with the Constitution, obey such restrictions or limitations. They care not for what the individual says, nor care for any restrictions, else most of the interventions would never have happened.

        How you would want inefficiency, waste and abuse, instead of efficiency and effectiveness through free voices and choices of individuals in the market just doesn’t coincide with liberty at all.

        1. You do understand all that requires the INITIATORY use of force? You do understand the difference between the two?

  27. A Sheldon article and no mention about Israel? I’m shocked!

    “But they did not lose the war over the kind of national government the United States would have for a good part, at least, of the next century.

    So the Constitution managed to hold government in check for almost a century and you see it as somehow anti-liberty? Maybe if little Sheldon would read more history he would realize what an accomplishment this is. Someone please remind Sheldon what number republic France is up to now.

    1. Oui oui: Fifth Republic plus more than a half dozen non-numbered iterations. C’est bon, non?

      *twirls mustache and resumes condescending expression

  28. The solution is simple.

    Amendment 28

    Articale 1
    No person may initiate the use of force, threats of force or fraud against any other person’s self or property.

    Article 2
    Force may be used against those who violate Article 1.

  29. While I’m not an anarchist, there is some tragic truth to this. That said, the first constitution was far from perfect either. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, the second affirmed more rights albeit at the cost of allowing taxation. What the Bill of Rights really got right was the Tenth Amendment, which was an attempt to make it clear that just because a right was not specified didn’t mean it didn’t exist and that, at best it was in the people’s hands, and at worst would be a state issue– and not a federal issue. Of course, we’ve failed to apply this. There have been written more amendments despite the Tenth making any further just a recursive exercise in writing what need not be written. There have been increases in the power of the Federal government even beyond those which the second, more controlling constitution, would have wanted or permitted. Perhaps a better constitution can be envisioned which denotes a clearer set of powers and limitations.

    1. But the tax allowed was a head tax that was the same for everybody.

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  31. I can see valid points on both sides of the argument.
    Even if you’re not a Sheldon Richman fan you have to agree good points were brought up in his article.

    1. There are nuggets of insight in every one of Richman’s articles. However, they are completely obscured by the over-the-top assertions he continually makes, often as throwaway lines, that are so preposterous that it is impossible to take what he says seriously. He has become a standing joke, which is regrettable when, as you say, he touches on good points that would warrant more serious and thoughtful treatment.

  32. What a low-quality article. I’m a hard-core libertarian myself. Richman’s distorted interpretation of the Founding is as wrong as any “Progressive” perversion of history. Note that he continually goes back to Hamilton quotes to make his points, whereas we all know it was Madison who was the architect of the Constitution. And Madison was heartily supported by Franklin, the archetype of the “working man”.

    I’m fine with Reason providing a forum for diverse ideas, but it would help if the editors set a minimum standard of intellectual honesty and accurate scholarship for articles.

    1. How about an actual argument instead of name calling ? The core principle of the constitution is unlawful ..Men have no right to legislate the freedom sof other men..No do they have the ability to give the,selves power to take the labor of other men …I would hope Reason had a better standard for commentors

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  34. As an Anarchist I believe all governments eventually become corrupt. That said the original Constitution was suppose to limit the power of the Federal Government and leave it in the hands of the States. The problem with any government no matter how noble is that it architects eventually die and the new group always believe they have a better idea. The problem with people is that they think if everyone just agreed with them the world would be better off. The problem with any government is like with nature it’s first prime directive is to grow. This will always happen so get over it or drop out

    1. It wasn’t to limit Federal power it was to give the Feds limited power. In other words the Feds didn’t have all the power and the States took some back, the States gave a small portion of their sovereignty to the Feds to make the country workable.

  35. Yes the constitution is flawed. I’d like to see the writers of reason gather and create a constitution then present it to the readers for comments and I guarantee the readers will find the flaws and even if it was perfect anybody under its control would find a way to use it against anyone they want control over. We have the best constitution and its up the people to maintain but since not everyone is a libertarian out side of this forum there are others who would like to see it differently.

    1. “anybody under its control would find a way to use it against anyone they want control over. ”

      Not if it limited government authority to the retaliatory use of force.

      1. The present government is already constitutionally limited yet people still found a way around that didn’t they

        1. But it’s not limited to the retaliatory use of force. In other words the Constitution allows for the government to initiate force. That’s the flaw in it.

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  37. A rather superficial review of the intentions of a few Founders, without a word of comparison between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. There are several aspects of the Constitution which warrant libertarian disdain, but none of them are mentioned here.

  38. Richman’s thesis is sound: the Constitution supplanted a federation of sovereign states with a national government. Whether this was a good thing is debatable. Whether it is consistent with libertarian ideology is even debatable. Richman obviously thinks a national government of continental scale is a bad thing, a line of thinking that runs counter to the indoctrination that everybody gets in school. Some of the comments above suggest that the government schools are doing their job quite well.

    Personally, I think Richman failed to mention the Constitution’s most contemptible feature: Article IV Section 2 Paragraph 3. This provision legally recognized and enforced the oppression of slaves at the national level whereas the Articles of Confederation were silent on this matter. The fact that there was no feasible way that this provision could have been amended coupled with the fact that the Constitution made no provision for secession made the bloodletting seven decades later inevitable. Though better than most, the Constitution, in fact, was originally a deeply flawed document. Of course, Amendment XIII rendered Article IV Section 2 Paragraph 3 moot.

    1. The states and the Feds are both sovereign. For instance the Feds can’t force Colorado to make cannabis illegal. The slave provision was actually a compromise by the North. They didn’t want the slaves to count at all.

  39. That reminds me a bit of that painting made by Jon McNaughton.…..enMan.html

  40. “The Constitution is the Adam Lanza of government.”/Sheldon Richman
    I will say this is one of the more coherent of his articles. He still sucks Hihn wiener though(and Hihny even posted some coherent babble!).

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  42. The Constitution is a slave contract written by slave-raping hypocrites.

  43. Just rewriting this at the bottom Hihn.

    1) No I didn’t, airline security, falls under airline security. That would be funded and provided by the airlines. Is your reading comprehension that bad?

    2) Shoe stores, and other things basically free from gov’t involvement are examples of areas of the market that perform well without crisis, shortages and so on. It shows how the market is able to handle complex things without “top men”.

    3) Wow, what nonsense. Were you unable to comprehend what Privateers were, and their stellar performance in their jobs, and also the ability of private merchants to build ships more efficiently than what the ships of the gov’t could do? This is well documented, something you refuse to see as again, it doesnt fit your narrative. So looking at the already successful private production of defense through privateers, corsairs, it’s not gard to deduce how the private production of defense would work. There are far more detailed writings available if you bothered to step out of your comfort zone.

    4). Someone supposedly so liberty minded shouldn’t even be asking how they would defend their home. Fists, feet, and other means of defense are available. If you can’t handle that, then you would pay for private security that could be rolled into your homeowners insurance, or through a security company where you would receive a bill, just like any other service. Do you seriously not know how the market functions?

    1. As for the cost of protection from foreign invasion, there are many factors involved. There are many individuals who would join a voluntary militia to defend their property and the lives and property of others. So folks like my brothers and sisters who already volunteered for military service would help save your ass. 1) An armed society is difficult to invade. 2) Again, for protection on the seas and shores, privateers. Just as an example Geico’s 13 million customers could reactivate and put to sea four modernized Iowa’s complete with scramjet, VLS, etc. and even O&M covering one year for $69.23 per month over 1 year.

      The 313 ship fleet, including 400 million O&M per carrier x 11 and 200 million O&M per ship (which is high as those numbers differ with the class of ship) would cost those same 13 million Geico customers 415.38 dollars per month.

      How much would O&M for 10,000 M1A2 Abrams be? Maybe around $64.10 per month for those 13 mil customers.

      The market would determine the price for protection, as owners of ports and ships, or large buildings and so on would pay more than someone living in a rural farm that just pays for missile defense and private security services. Suppose there are 30 missile defense sites that service 40,000 customers. Their cost would be around $50 per month. Again, the o&m costs are very generous in these examples.

  44. Again, such a liberty minded person should be able to figure out that complex things can be and are handled by individuals in the market. Did you know most powerplants (and the associated equipment transformers and so on)are privatly owned? Do you think they would all explode without these top men and their regulations? You do know the ASME is a private non-profit organization right? Oh, and it was a government owned power plant that had an ash containment moat failure……that private companies previously warned them about. And many state’s DEP pollutes far more than the private institutions they regulate.

    1. Dnt forget the UL too

  45. Anarchists need to understand that those who either value or sympathize w/ anarcho-capitalism are their allies, and that it is counter-productive for their anarchist goals, to engage them on their seemingly necessary legal system.

    Anarchists say that the non-system will righteously regulate itself for the benefit of all. Prove your belief by furthering anarcho-capitalism with your allies. When we are all filthy rich and free because of it, we can discuss the particulars of your non-system system, and your non-ruling rules, and your non-governing governance. (I think we’d arrive at something nearly exactly like the US Constitution, after slashing words and clauses that might be twisted.)

    1. edit: “…seemingly necessary RELIANCE UPON A legal system.”

  46. Having studied and read up on the Constitution’s creation process, I can agree with Bismark’s comments on sausage and laws.

    The creation of the Big C was a vicious contest between the interests of wildly divergent factions. The current body of popular thought is that slavery was the big problem, but at least here we can address the fight between the Federalists and the anti- Federalists.

    I toss in the gross failure of the early defenders of Lady Liberty to recognize that the authoritarian Statists would be drawn to the nodes of power in the new country and begin to erode the very freedoms so newly won. Tyranny is patient and ever ready to nip just a bit more freedom. Lovers of our Lady need to be vigilant as a suburban homeowner fighting crabgrass. We seem to have taken the summer off.

  47. “Considering this historical context alone, how could a libertarian be in love with such a document?”

    I’m not so much in love with the document as I am scarred as hell at what would have and still might fill its vacuum.

  48. Due to the first convention which was to modify and revise the ‘Articles of Confederation’ the results were exactly what should be feared today .. a Runaway Convention. It is all the more reason for why there should not be a present or latter day Con-Con .. or, as some are calling for a “Convention of States.”
    Now. .. I do not “adore” the U.S. Constitution … but, since it does exist I wholly expect those serving in the government who swear that sacred oath and make that binding covenant to fully and completely stay within the confines and 4 corners of that contracted compact. Since far too many representatives Serving Us Up do not honor their oath to the existing U.S. Constitution it is ludicrous and folly to believe that they will honor and respect their sacred oath to those who are hoping for a “New and Improved” revised constitution.

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  49. When I first encountered the Libertarian Party in the 1970s, I did not hear constantly about the Constitution. When, in the ’80s, I started to hear it in both left and right (so to speak) I took it for a sort of patriotic rebranding for the Age of Reagan.

  50. Thanks. I’d seen the painting, but not his awesome description of it.

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