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The war on the constitution

By Richard E. Ralston
web posted February 14, 2011

Challenges in court to the constitutionality of Obamacare have exposed the broader agenda of those who are committed to the permanent expansion of government power which that legislation represents. The specific legal issues are almost irrelevant because Obamacare is so clearly outside the scope of limited, constitutional government. This has made it necessary for the advocates of unrestrained government power to either attack the U.S. Constitution itself or the very concept of constitutional limits on the tyranny of the majority or of a ruthless minority elite. 

Some try to sidestep the attack on the Constitution by substituting a war on English. They claim to support the Constitution but deny that words have any objective meaning. Supposedly we do not know and cannot know what the writers of the Constitution, or even of recent amendments, intended to say. Everything is a matter of interpretation and the words mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. Of course, that is arbitrary, and unless we abandon reason and reality completely, the Constitution cannot mean thousands of mutually exclusive things. Therefore, in practice, the words mean whatever those in power decree that they mean, destroying any limits on their power.

Those who are less nihilistic attack the Constitution as evil or at least irrelevant. One way of doing this is to attack the intellect or character of those who wrote it. Their Constitution was just their opinion, so we should submit ourselves to the intellectual and moral giants in office today.

Another method is to take statements in the Constitution out of the context of the rest of the document. The most frequent example of this is the use of a goal in the preamble: to promote the general welfare. Politicians have used this to maintain that any idea which they claim promotes the general welfare is constitutional even if it exceeds the enumerated powers of the Constitution. Of course, even if the preamble did trump the entire Constitution, it still would be subject to the amendments, which began with the Bill of Rights.

But the Bill of Rights is dispensed with when someone claims to discover a new right which the Constitution does not mention. Thus an invented "right to health care" is used to destroy the right to free speech and press, because expressed opposition to such an absurdity or to any government policy is labeled "hate" speech or "terrorism" that should be banned.  And those who do not buy insurance face a penalty without trial, or a tax on nothing. 

The interstate commerce clause, which intended only to prevent trade barriers and taxes between states, is ignored when states forbid the purchase of insurance across state lines but used by the federal government to control non- economic activity and even non-activity.

Some claim technological change means we should ignore the Constitution. Because it did not anticipate television, computers and airplanes, we should throw it out. But change existed in the 18th century too, which is a reason the writers provided for a deliberate and considered amendment process.

Some say that parts of the Constitution are immoral, invalidating all of it. One example is that the writers needed to take into account the reality of slavery when the document was written. This ignores the fact that the document led to the creation of a society and economy in which slavery could not and did not long survive. Improvements to the Constitution resulted -- by the constitutional means the writers provided.

Thus we see why, if Obamacare stays, the U.S. Constitution must go. That is why those committed to maximum government wage war on it with such contempt. ESR

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, Newport Beach, California. Copyright © 2011 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.

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