Butler Shaffer explains the painfully obvious about the “rule of law” and the Constitution in America:
The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
In case any reader still clings to the platitude that the American political system is based on the proposition that ours is “a society of laws, and not of men,” I urge you to pay close attention to the events of recent years. Political behavior does not exist in abstractions, such as the “state,” or the “government,” or a “constitution,” but is activity engaged in by such men and women who find the machinery of state power a useful device for accomplishing ends that they value. Those who desire to control others through access to the tools of violence that define the state, have rationales to convince their intended victims of the “rightness” of their rule. From explanations such as “God’s will” to the “divine right of kings,” the authority of some to enjoy coercive power over others – along with their subjects’ duty of obedience – is so engrained into the minds of people as to seem as self-evident as the forces of gravity.
The Constitution, itself, should remind us that “laws” do not exist in a vacuum, but are the products of human action which, in turn, is behavior driven by people pursuing their self-interests. With legislation created by a political system that enjoys a monopoly on the legal use of force, it is clear that laws are but the means by which some people pursue their ends at the expense of others.
From the very creation of the national government, to how its different branches would act, there has always been a fuzziness as to the meaning of words used in the Constitution. This is due to the fundamental nature of all words. Being abstractions, their application to real-world events inherently depends upon their interpretation. When the Supreme Court tells us that it will have such authority, it is telling us that the government thus created by this document will be the interpreter of its own supposed “limited powers.”
Some lament that “we should just get back to ” the system as originally established by the Constitution. I agree that would be preferable to the way things are now. However, it was that Constitution, that stronger central government model, that set in motion what we currently endure. It was a monster designed to grow and concur. And it did.
Spooner observed, long ago: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”
Sad but true. And, at this time, it’s all a moot point.