If we are to err, rather than err to the side of caution, let us err to the side of liberty.
Nobody special said that but it that has been in my head for a couple of days.
I’ve been thinking about the progressive left’s newfound respect for the Constitution of the United States of America – how they now want California to secede and to also invoke an Article V Convention of the States. Given that they are only in this mood when they have just had a spanking and they would never have read the Constitution far enough to get to Article V unless the right had mentioned it after the 2008 presidential election. Now they see themselves as the rational cool kids – per Zoe Lofgren (D–Empire of California) – as opposed to the knuckle dragging, Tea Party, Gadsden flag waving rubes from 2008.
Rather than my usual visceral opposition to all things leftward leaning, I’m thinking this is one I can get behind.
I think it is important to remember that America started as an experiment. The Founding Fathers were keen on new things and testing ideas. There had never been a country of the sort they were contemplating and they had no idea of it was going to work – as a matter of fact, that was still in doubt until after the War of 1812. It should be no surprise that these men probed every corner of their intellect as they searched for the mechanism to preserve liberty. I personally think that is why they left us with a controlling framework based on principles rooted in Natural Law and left the implementation to us (this is why the Electoral College and the 10th Amendment are so important because they allow each state to decide what its people want without forcing the entire country to accept what New York, Washington and LA want).
Some examples are the fact that Jefferson thought a constitution should be revised every 19 years. Thomas Paine believed in “Ground Rent”. In his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice , Paine advocated the use of an estate tax and a tax on land values to fund a universal old-age and disability pension – as well as a fixed sum to be paid to all citizens on reaching maturity – are or are not considered “progressive” ideas by modern standards.
Was Jefferson advocating a “living” constitution? Was Paine a red diaper doper baby, advocating what we would call “big government”? Was he saying that legislation was the tool to improve society, i.e. social engineering? Is he advocating collectivism or “social justice”?
Some would say that it is an insult and apostasy to even suggest that the Founders held collectivist ideals. I’m sure that Paine might have been branded a communist (if the term had been invented at the time) – and yet Paine is one of the Founding Fathers. THIS is precisely why I note that that “politics” are a function of the times contemporary to the people and the actions and beliefs of individuals can only be defined or explained in context with those times’.
I’ll also point out that Paine’s pamphlet was published 7 years after the full ratification of the Constitution, so he was talking about how the new government should implement the new Constitutional provisions, not the creation of the Constitution itself – what Paine appears to be advocating is state implemented collective land ownership and something that is considered a “progressive” policy today. Based on his statements, Paine surely thought such a thing was within the realm of constitutionality.
Unlike today’s progressives who experiment with perfecting the people, the Founders were experimenting with the perfection of liberty. The most important thing they knew was that they knew nothing – that’s why they based the country on transcendent, immutable Natural Laws. THOSE were the ONLY things of which they were confident.
Can the implementation of Constitutional principles go wrong? You bet – they can and they have.
We have a country today where I feel sure that over half of the population could not even define liberty – and couldn’t care if the food stamps and the Obamaphones keep coming. They think that “liberty” means having someone (not themselves) take care of the “mundane things” for them. They think “liberty” means the government forcing the “evil rich” to send them a check. These people aren’t going to be swayed one inch by a discussion of what the Founders intended the role of the Supreme Court to be or a close reading of the definition of what constitutes a Natural Born citizen. They couldn’t identify a Natural Law if it was the only Law in a police lineup.
But I’m not Hobbes. I do believe that people can govern themselves and as Kant said, people can’t stay ignorant forever. Reality can’t be held at bay by government in perpetuity and she is a bitch of a teacher when she is unleashed in her full fury.
So let us help the progressives open Pandora’s Box and remember that if we are to err, rather than err to the side of caution, let us err to the side of liberty.