Thursday, June 18, 2009

Liberty & Constitutional Republicanism

At the outset, it would be fair to encapsulate my entire political philosophy in one word: liberty! I wholeheartedly believe that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, but further, that those powers are granted to government only as it necessary to preserve individual liberty.

Notice that, under the Constitution, the rights of the people are recognized (not granted), while governmental power is granted. That is to say, that individual rights pre-exist any government claim on, or exercise of, governmental power. This is clearly the claim that Jefferson made in the Declaration by reminding the King (and us) that rights are God-given and inseparable from us.

Thus, I believe there is a presumption of liberty underlying the Constitution, which favors the individual. This means that government has only the powers that are clearly and expressly spelled out in the Constitution, and the only way in which government can nobly differ from the Constitution is by restraining itself betimes from asserting even those powers which clearly are Constitutional. In short, just because government is granted power in the Constitution does not mean that it is always proper or beneficial to exercise it. But in no case is it proper for government to step over Constitutional bounds, even to effect popular or supposedly beneficial ends.

Essentially, I am a Constitutional Republican. By using the term "Constitutional" I intend to convey a) my respect for that great document's selective granting of limited power to government and otherwise unlimited guarantee of personal liberty (as per the Ninth Amendment), and b) my commitment to the rule of law - as has been said, we are nation of laws and not of men. And by "Republican", I am certainly not referring to the GOP, but rather I mean that I cherish our elected representative form of government, and mourn its degradation into Empire.

In recent years, I've become extremely uncomfortable wearing the name "Republican". When that party recklessly expanded entitlement programs, by which personal responsibilities (along with personal rights) are conceded to the government, the name "Republican" began to itch like the tag of a second-hand wool sweater on the back of my neck. But I totally had to find something else to wear when that party sought to ignore the Fourth Amendment by way of the misnamed Patriot Act, and disregard the separation of powers by acceding to the President the Congressional power to decide to go to war, and allowing the President to determine single-handedly that torture is acceptable, despite the fact that its "cruel and unusual" nature bars it as per the Eighth Amendment, and that, again, such a decision is not the President's prerogative, but clearly rests under Congress' perview (Article 1, Sec 8) to "make rules concerning captures on land and water". So even if irrepressible minds were to devise a form of torture that was not "cruel or unusual", the debate over using such a tactic must be had in the wide open chambers of Congress, not behind the closed doors of the White House.

So I can only comfortably refer to myself as a Constitutional Republican, and can only passionately pursue one political cause - liberty!

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