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Who cares about the framers of the Constitution?

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Dateline: Krakow, Poland Krakow is quite a charming city, although it has one fatal flaw in my mind: it’s a bit too American. Now, many Polish people might find that a compliment. They’re used to the multiple McDonald’s that dot the area surrounding the historical city center. However, I for one prefer enjoying intriguing European architecture without the scent of a Big Mac wafting through the air. Across the pond in The Land of the Free, saying something is “too American” is almost an insult. While I rarely agree with the socialist views of Bill Maher, I happened to hear part of one of his comedy routines recently. In the routine, he suggests that groups like the Tea Party take umbrage anytime one suggests that the United States isn’t perfect. While the Tea Party and I may agree on free markets, we don’t always agree when it comes to worship of the framers of the Constitution, or the idea that the US Constitution is the only way to “save America”. Heck, we don’t agree on the idea of “saving America” (also known as “restoring America”, “fighting for America”, etc.) Nevertheless, the Constitution is referenced as gospel in an array of situations. For someone reason I’ll never forget Wendie Malick in an episode of Just Shoot Me (yes, it’s a good thing I’m away from American television these days) claiming a co-worker refusing a raise amounted to “drop[ping] trou and winky-tink on the American Constitution”. And how often do you hear “the founding fathers are rolling in their graves“? In a rare moment of brilliance, Bill Maher suggests what he calls a “pragmatic” approach to viewing the United States. I for one agree. Putting on the “#1” foam finger and shouting rah-rah for a specific patch of dirt just because you were born there instead of across some other manmade line seems silly to me. Saying that the framers of the Constitution weren’t perfect isn’t blasphemy or treason. We’ve seen, throughout history, how extreme nationalism has caused governments to create great atrocities, with the citizens not knowing any better or perhaps just not caring. Some of those same sentiments are firmly in place in parts of central and eastern Europe, and they have not only hurt the economy but stifled personal liberties, as well. I, for one, am tired of hearing about the framers of the Constitution. Because the US Constitution has not protected against the draconian loss of liberties going on in the United States right now. Overall, the American people know little about the founding fathers. As the Paris Hilton of countries, the United States can float along, blissfully unaware of its history, all the while still enjoying the indulgences of the last drops of prosperity before the dollar collapse. Today, a few Americans are waking up and questioning how the Constitution protects them at all if, in fact, politicians are able to violate it so often. Yet most remain complacent, repeating pro-American soundbites created by the media and government propaganda machine. More on that in a moment. First…

A history of the framers of the Constitution

It is interesting to take note of the committee assembled to draft the US Constitution. This committee was chosen both of delegates to the Constitutional Convention, as well as delegates who were respected thought leaders. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, for example, was one of the pamphlets used to help draft the Constitution. If Thomas Paine were alive today, conservative talk show hosts like Mark Levin would attack him mercilessly. A corset maker by trade, Paine was hardly the elite intellectual Tea Partiers would like to think. As a guy who stooped so low as to invest in a swimming pool business, I’m not offended that a framer of the Constitution would work in women’s undergarments. But seeing that modern American cheerleaders decry liberal politicians with such backgrounds, it leads me to wonder how much even they – the alleged gurus of politics and American history – know about the founding fathers. Similarly, it should be noted that several of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not actually attend the final drafting of the document. Instead, contributors like Thomas Jefferson spent most of their time in Europe, allowing their writings to be their voice. As someone who got attacked by Tea Partiers for spending a few July 4ths outside of the United States years ago, you’d think they would want to hog-tie the framers for not being in God Bless America for the entire Constitutional process. Of course, the framers of the Constitution had several issues they could not settle. One was slavery. Jefferson and Madison, both of whom owned slaves, believed that the Constitution was their only chance to effectively deal with the issue before it got out of hand. Of course, others disagreed with Jefferson’s “all men are created equal” piece from the Declaration of Independence, and slavery was not addressed. The final version of the Constitution does not mention slaves, despite being drafted barely one dozen years after the Declaration of Independence which proclaimed equality among mankind. Jefferson, for one, defended this as saying that the Convention wouldn’t have passed a Constitution that banned slavery, and if he would have chosen to voluntarily give up his slaves, he and other like him would have been at a comparative disadvantage in the marketplace. Even before the ink on the Constitution was dry, crony capitalism was alive and well on American soil. While I don’t mean to undermine the significance and simplicity of the Constitution, it’s important to understand that its signers were not perfect deities who should be invoked as “rolling in their graves” centuries later. As with anything, the framers of the Constitution had their flaws. However, the real issue with the Constitution is that, almost since its inception, it has been rather powerless to stop tyrannical governments from violating it. What good is a document that can be circumvented by the very people it was put in place to prevent from doing so? For example, conservatives today frequently complain about the need for term limits to stop “career politicians”. If you believe that the republic system of government is a good one, then term limits are effectively built right in. After all, the electorate is free to vote anyone out of office anytime they please. If the electorate wants to continue to re-elect someone, why should some Big Government law stop them from doing so? However, career politicians aren’t just an issue of modern times. They were an issue as early as the first presidency, with Cabinet members debating new taxes and affronts to personal liberty… that violated the Constitution. Even after the ink had just dried, those in government wanted to tear the thing up and throw it away. While the taxes of the day were nothing compared to things like Obamacare, they were quite divisive in a day when people understood true liberty. The idea that we should all bow down in unexamined reverence to the framers of the Constitution is a maddening notion that does nothing but stifle free thinking. Even Thomas Jefferson knew that the best form of government would eventually descend into tyranny. And here we are. Jefferson understood that governments that immediately suppress liberties don’t last long. The key is to slowly deprive people of their money and liberties. That’s exactly what has happened in the United States. One hundred years ago, Big Government decided to impose a tax on income earned by its citizens. It wouldn’t last forever, they promised, and it’s only a few percentage points. Today, millions of Americans fork over more than half of their income to any number of draconian agencies that threaten them with jail time if they don’t comply with the world’s most byzantine tax code. Since then, Big Government has forced Americans to fight in overseas wars, forced them to hold worthless government paper money, confiscated their precious metals, required them to purchase health insurance or pay a “fine”, and spied on their every phone call and email. What has the Constitution done to prevent any of this? The answer: nothing. All around the world, countries have constitutions. Brunei has a constitution, for instance. It works very simply; whenever the Sultan of Brunei doesn’t like it, he tramples on it and gets his lackeys to change it. And whenever you see some new country seeking to breakaway and declare its own independent, there is always talk of drafting a Constitution. To me, that is the legacy of the framers of the Constitution in the United States: the impact it has had on other societies. However, these other countries are far from perfect either, and their politicians get around to trampling their constitution eventually, too. No country in history has ever stopped this trend toward tyranny. The best any one country can claim to have done is slow it down. Jefferson was right in this regard; the United States has outlasted many other countries that trampled their rule of law faster. But the United States still has an expiration date. That date is rapidly looming as the rest of the world is now on to the charade. For me, the real lesson to take from the framers of the Constitution is that they were immigrants or recent descendants of immigrants themselves. They saw firsthand the power of voting with their feet. There were countless English versions of Sean Hannity sitting in London calling those that left for a new world “traitors” and “cowards”. That doesn’t mean those that left in search of more freedom were wrong. The idea that some government is good but other government is bad mystifies me. If you don’t trust Big Government to handle entitlement programs, how can you trust them to protect your privacy or to keep their hands off your hard-earned money? The idea of fighting to “restore” a republic that had cracks to begin with is not worth your time. Thomas Jefferson couldn’t even get his fellow patriots to prohibit slavery. Do you think you will stop a government thousands of times more draconian and better equipped from taking your guns? Rather, why not take a page from the framers of the Constitution and simply go where you’re treated best? Today, as then, you have a choice.


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