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The Ron Paul Platform: The Constitution

Part of a continuing series of excerpts from "The Revolution: A Manifesto."

"....  According to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, all powers not delegated to the federal government by the states (in Article I, Section 8) and not prohibited to the states in the Constitution (in Article I, Section 10) are reserved to the states or to the people. It was a guarantee that the experience Americans endured under the British would not be repeated, and that political decisions made by their local legislatures rather than by a distant central government that would be much more difficult, if not impossible, for them to control....

The limitations the Constitution placed on the federal government had to be taken seriously if we expected to maintain a free society. There would always be a powerful temptation to allow the federal government to do something many people wanted, but that the Constitution did not authorize. Since the amendment process is time-consuming, there would be further temptation: just exercise the unauthorized power without amending the Constitution. But then what is the point of having a Constitution at all?

I sometimes hear the objection that certain phrases in the Constitution give the federal government more power than what is listed in Article I, Section 8. The "general welfare" clause is often cited.... I have already noted that common law held lists of powers such as the one in Article I, Section 8, to be exhaustive, a point that refutes the idea of qualifying phrases like "general welfare" could give an open-ended character to the powers themselves...

James Madison wrote... "With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the details of the powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs not contemplated by its creators."

Now, isn't our Constitution a "living" document that evolves with experience and changing times, as we are so often told? No -- a thousand times no. If we feel the need to change our Constitution, we are free to amend it.... But this is not what advocates of a so-called living Constitution have in mind. They favor a system in which the federal government, and in particular federal courts, are at liberty -- even in the absence of any amendment -- to interpret the Constitution altogether differently from how it was understood by those who drafted it and those who voted to ratify it....

A "living" Constitution is just the thing any government would be delighted to have, for whenever the people complain that their Constitution has been violated, the government can trot out its judges to inform the people they've simply misunderstood: the Constitution, you see, has merely evolved with the times. Thus, as in Orwell's Animal Farm, "no animal shall sleep in a bed" becomes "no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets," "no animal shall drink alcohol" becomes "no animal shall drink alcohol to excess," and "no animal shall kill any other animal" becomes "no animal shall kill any other animal without cause.

That's why on this issue I agree with historian Kevin Gutzman, who says that those who would give us a "living" Constitution are actually giving us a dead Constitution, since such a thing is completely unable to protect us against the encroachments of government power."

Tags: american tyranny, politics, ron paul
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