Seidman and his wards, wish to invent a new world, based upon their own vacuous view that all prior humans human lacked their airy sophistication
Professor Seidman Wants to Disassemble the Constitution?
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Professor Seidman of Georgetown University has stirred a healthy debate with his New York Times charge that the Constitution is the heart of our problems – fiscal and, supposedly, otherwise. He writes: “But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”
Seidman points out several of history’s myriad conflicts in Constitutional “interpretation.” He is correct in pointing out, for instance, how the 13th Amendment was not legitimately ratified. But he evaluates the results ineptly. He argues that “it is hard to take seriously the claim by the Constitution’s defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text.” But that is a “straw man” argument.
No one with any familiarity suggests that, if we abandoned the Constitution, we would succumb to Seidman’s straw man status of a “Hobbesian state of nature.” The Constitution did not take us out of a Hobbesian state of nature; but out of the chaos that followed a monarchial tyranny. And, if the popular passions that Seidman seems to favor over Constitutional restraint (and that Madison cautioned against in the Federalist) are allowed to take over, then we will find ourselves in a popular tyranny. The results differ little from a monarchial tyranny, as Madison pointed out in his condemnations of democracies throughout history. (Federalist #10) And, with our erosion of the Constitution, we are already nearing the feeding frenzy of redistribution of wealth that would be the modern manifestation of that tragic human predilection, once again unrestrained in the absence of the Constitution.
Professor Seidman also describes the Constitutional convention as a “violation of their mandate, they abandoned the Articles, wrote a new Constitution and provided that it would take effect after ratification by only nine states, and by conventions in those states rather than the state legislatures.” They did indeed stray from the job as it had been assigned to them; but this was not an illegal act any more than writing a song would have been. They agreed among themselves that the Articles were hopeless, and that, to accomplish even a whit of their objective of improving on it, they had to start from scratch. They did not dictate that their proposed plan was to be imposed on anyone. They offered it to be considered, and let each body of citizens in the several states decide for themselves. They offered the terms that, if nine agreed, those nine could go and start a new nation on their own, without the other four. The writers did not dictate this, they offered it to the states’ citizens. And they suggested in their draft that the citizens, being the “governed” from whom the only valid “consent” could be obtained, should be the source of authority for the new plan, rather than the various state legislatures. Seidman seems to forget that the states received their authority to govern from the consent of their citizens. So no state had any authority to surrender to a new central government any of the authority given them by their people. Only the people themselves had that authority.
Seidman has been so long studying individual cases - which is the process in law schools - that these “trees” have obscured his view of the forest. Law school itself is a major part of the problem, in my opinion. If we look at the Constitution directly, and studies what it says and why, we are on the first degree of familiarity with it. If, as courts have done for decades, they look at what their predecessors have said about the Constitution and the laws it controls, they are on the second degree of familiarity with it. Law schools study cases - primarily Supreme Court cases - not the Constitution itself. Consequently, as Seidman, his students, and all the students in law schools across the nation pursue their studies, they look at what these courts say about what previous courts have said – they are indoctrinating themselves at the third degree of separation from the Constitution. So law schools don’t really teach the Constitution. They teach the courts – and Seidman is correct in condemning the inconsistencies in the courts. But that is not the Constitution itself.
In our times, the fashion in Constitutional criticism is to dwell on how the founders did not abolish slavery. Well, the Wright brothers didn’t start off with a Boeing 747, either. The founders invented a new way to organize human society. Where the world had been organized in master-servant relations at all levels, the men who founded the United States brought into reality the beginnings of a society where each man was his own master, restrained against harming his fellows by the minimum governmental intrusions. Slavery troubled them, but they were in a country where that was a critical element of their economy, and that economy was teetering on collapse even without starting a whole new system. They arranged for the slave trade to be abolished after twenty years, and debated how to make it go away after that. Unable to see that far into their perilous future, they left that for those who would follow. Is that evil? Should all the good things they invented be scrapped as a result of that failure to bring Liberty into full blossom, by merely waving a wand to pull a perfect Constitution out of their hats?
Perhaps Seidman’s most inane argument goes as follows: “Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?”
This is a genuinely stupid argument. Let’s compare it to this:
“Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that we can save a bunch of money if we go to the moon simply by jumping upward from the highest building available. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a lone white propertied man who has been dead for three centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, and thought it was fine to serve a king might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?”
Of course, the lone white man to whom I refer is Sir Isaac Newton, who produced his Law of Universal Gravitation in 1686, a hundred and two years before the now-dead guys wrote the Constitution. According to Newton, if you try that jump, you will be drawn inexorably to the surface of the earth. Where your poor stupid body will crush itself with a jarring “splat!”
Now, according to Seidman, the critical element in our decision is whether the principles guiding it were conceived by guys who lived long ago and are now dead. Our professor has lost his way, and cannot provide his students, whose minds full of mush are subjected to his dangerous power of “educating” them (and brags in his article that he has been doing so for 40 years.) The universal blindness of youth is that they are the first to experience any particular phenomenon in their life, that prior generations lived in a world absent of the kind of thing these mush-brains are discovering. And Seidman is unable to disabuse them of this self-delusion.
What Seidman ignores is whether the principles developed by our founders – or Sir Isaac Newton, or the Wright Brothers, or Edison, or anyone who developed stunning advances but is now dead – have value as a timeless fundamental truth. And the plain answer to that is – Hell Yes! The still-unebbing flow of immigrants, the still strong (even though undermined by progressivist intrusions) economy and social structure, and the world leadership that inevitably involves us in every modern human crisis, all reinforce the proof that the founders created a system and codified values that no human before or since has been able to equal. The unerring proof is further proven by the smashing failure of each of the progressive programs that have been substituted for the principles that our founders conceived.
Seidman and his wards, oblivious to things that our founders knew from study, experience, and an obviously higher level of intellect, wish to invent a new world, based upon their own vacuous view that all prior humans human lacked their airy sophistication.
They need to study the Constitution.