Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Monday, January 23, 2012

Constitutional Freedom

Here's part of the declaration of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

It seems pretty straightforward.. the 'self evident' truths are:
1. that men are created equal
2. they are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights, which are:
   a. Life
   b. Liberty
   c. Pursuit of happiness.

This is the premise.  The logical conclusion:

1. The purpose of govt. is to secure these rights.

Think of it like computer programming.. This is an 'if/then/else' routine.

IF = Men are granted rights by their creator: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness
THEN = Govts are instituted to secure these rights and get their power from the people
ELSE = When govts don't do their job, the people can alter or abolish it & make one that does

I still find this one of the most simple yet revolutionary concepts in human history. It is the basis for America.

Change is inevitable, & is also possible in the us constitution. We've done it many times in our history, so it can be done. Amendments have been altered, added, & repealed. The system works. It is not easy or efficient, perhaps, but the checks & balances protect us from whimsical changes that have not been thought through or debated.

By and large, the founders were religious, and reflected their times. Many were less so.. prefering the label 'deist'. But they still saw the need to secure religious freedom. To avoid a sectarian slant, jefferson phrased it like this:

"to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them"

So anyone who prefers 'nature' to god can do so easily in the US. The govt secures the religious freedom of the citizenry. It does not 'establish' any particular religion or philosophy. The proliferation of denominations, religious sects, philosophical positions & ideologies show that this freedom has been pretty successful in the us.  Now maybe some do not like all this religious freedom.. or freedom of the press.. or speech.. or allowing citizens to be armed. But unless they can go through the long process of changing the constitution, the rights remain. The bigger danger seems to be when the branches of govt do not follow the constitution. Activist judges limit, infringe, or outlaw our basic rights. Executive orders are given which are not provided for by law, yet the executive branch gets away with it. Congress whimsically passes laws that have no constitutional authority or provision. These are are the real dangers to our constitution. We need to insist on elected officials who will follow the constitution. If they want to change it, fine. Do the work & change it. But this slithering behind the scenes & whittling away at our freedoms is unacceptable.

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
Patrick Henry

"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."
Samuel Adams 

Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty. 
Thomas Jefferson

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