Getting straight on the Constitution |

Getting straight on the Constitution

For those needing an unequivocal public example to make a point, every once in a while opportunity knocks. In this case it comes in the form of a recent letter to The Union, which contains in its last paragraph a distilled essence of how and why our body politic is sick — a plurality of its potential voters apparently completely misunderstands our Constitution and the system in which it is embedded. The letter was about the Affordable Care Act and states:

“Health is part of the welfare the Constitution seeks to provide and is a right of and a necessity for an ethically functioning society.”

A similar example of blatantly ill-informed remarks is heard from none other than Nancy Pelosi: The ACA “fully realizes the promise of our Founders of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Aside from problems of finance and putting on a unified face to other sovereign nations, the states of the union were doing just fine under the Articles of Confederation; those who recognized the need for a somewhat stronger central government were also extremely concerned about limiting its extent and the powers to be exercised, hence the meta-law of the Constitution. It is first and foremost a document of restraint, not one that grants license or makes promises.

It does not “seek to provide” welfare, and any such interpretation is both ignorant and perverse. This level of misunderstanding competes with the all-too-common notion that the Declaration’s mention of all men being created equal refers to equality of outcomes, not of opportunity or equality in the sight of the law.

On the Democratic side, the thrust of the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns was about the concept that government exists to help people. If a person has a need, then government should seek to fulfill that need, and moreover, for a need like health care, he should have a positive right to that care. Is this not exactly what the letter writer’s paragraph asserts? That the Constitution and Declaration have completely different notions of individual rights is apparently not germane to Progressives holding these beliefs.

On the contrary, it is absolutely crystal clear, both from reading the documents themselves and comments of the founders in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere that government’s intended function was to protect individuals from external dangers and to recognize and protect naturally pre-existing rights to life, liberty and property, which are fundamental to successful individual existence. They would have been scandalized by the current implementation of the welfare state.

Progressives have insisted that by virtue of their alleged concern for the downtrodden, they occupy the moral high ground. I submit to you that no system can be moral that uses force to take wealth from one group whose only offense is to possess it and use it to fund the benefits of programs for others with fewer resources.

Initiating force is always wrong, and every Progressive proposal involves the use of force and violence against innocents to enforce compliance. No, the Progressives are not entitled to lecture others on ethics.

Furthermore, if something is a right, it cannot conflict with other rights; forced re-distribution of property fails to meet this criterion.

The bottom line here is that we are in this mess, this struggle over budgets and debt ceilings, etc., because those on the right side of the political spectrum, those who are charged with preventing and/or correcting such egregious misinterpretations as those cited here, have failed utterly in their responsibility. They refuse to challenge the ethical position staked out by Progressives.

There are a precious few on the right, howling in the wilderness, who are not afraid to say we have to roll back, scale back, even eliminate aspects of the welfare state if we are to survive.

I am not saying let’s eliminate programs like Social Security and Medicare overnight, but for crying out loud, let’s not create yet another entitlement program such as the ACA. Let’s reject the nonsense about income inequality and social justice that currently holds sway as totally inauthentic expressions of our way of life and our Founders’ intentions. There are far too many Republicans who have given up on resisting (or maybe never wanted to) and go along to get along; these people need to be un-elected ASAP.

For an in-depth and fully annotated discussion of justice and fairness as well as a simple three-plank platform for change, please visit my blog at http://

Rob Chrisman lives in Nevada City.

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