Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Unconstitutional

Many people need SOMETHING...some seam-free prescriptive document by which to live their lives to the letter.

Many choose the bible as a comprehensive set of rules. Others consider themselves atheists...but are just as rigidly bound by another piece of writing.

The American Constitution is held up, by radical constitutionalists and those Libertarians who came to the flock without doing much background research, as the be-all and end-all in terms of How Things Should Be Done.

To listen to them is to think that this scrap of paper materialized some few hundred years ago from nowhere to be implemented with immediate and complete success.

The truth of the tale, as anyone who cares to give it much thought will tell you, is that it was written by a bunch of pretty clued up guys. A handful of men gathered together to decide on the rules that a fledgling nation state would play by and the only thing that they had to guide them was their judgment...and their philosophy – whether it be based on a god, the writings of dead Greeks or on Locke et al’s.

The Constitution is simply a SYMBOL of a set of moral philosophies as those ideas pertain to a government.

That’s it.

And it’s quite brilliant, actually. These guys took a bit of a stab in the dark and – for the most part – got it right.

The problem is when you base your entire idea of the way the world should work on that teensy little laundry list of Do’s and Don’ts. It’s not going to make you sound like anything other than a raving loon if you need to prop every argument you have on The Constitution.

“Taxes? No! Bad, bad, bad....except for luxury taxes on tobacco and alcohol...”

“Life, liberty and property? I THINK they’re good ideas, let me just look them up...”

"Coffee or tea? Lemme just pull out my copy of...."

(Yes, yes, the last is a JOKE. I don't need 20 emails telling me that there isn't a constitutional amendment on refreshments.)

Badnarik is a nice guy, I’m sure. Very brave to be the frontman for the Libertarian Party in America. Very brave.

I’d recommend that the man expand his reading list somewhat so that every question he is fielded doesn’t come back to 'It's in the Constitution' or ‘It’s not in the Constitution.’* Or that he doesn't argue both for adherence to it and it's abolition at the same time.*

*Via A Stitch in Haste, via VodkaPundit, via my RSS reader - credit where credit's due, people.

It just makes him sound like a born-again parchment worshipper and I don’t really think America needs another religious nutter for President.*

*No, of course it doesn't mean I endorse Kerry over Bush. As I said in an email to a friend that asked recently: "Bush, even though he's an angry-sky-god-worshipping, anti-science conservative. It's like asking: 'Would madam like to be strangled to death or shot this evening?' You choose the least painful."

This post isn't about trashing Badnarik, though, it's about seemingly-simple prescriptive solutions to problems and issues that are too complex to simply gloss over. It's also about the one thing that I froth about regularly on here - stripping back politicies, ideas, media articles, blog posts or metacontexts (Perry, I can't get rid of that word from my vocabulary, you should be proud) to their rawest, originating ideas and having a good, hard, long look.

The Constitution is a wonderful document, don't get me wrong (oh, OK, get me wrong - it keeps things interesting), but it's the ideas that spawned such a document that get me excited. If we understand those ideas, then the Constitution can not only be better utilized in word and in spirit, but perhaps we can use those ideas and come up with something that better expresses them to serve us.

M

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