Is our constitution out dated and obsolete?

I have decided to take some time to cover the 28 principles outlined in W. Cleon Skousen’s book “The 5000 Year Leap”. The founders believed these principles to be necessary to establish and maintain the form of government that has made this country the greatest bastion of freedom in the world. In each post we will dissect one of the principles and apply it to problems faced by our country. I hope you will take the time to read “The 5000 Year Leap” and accompany me on this journey of exploration.

The thirteenth principle: A constitution should be structured to permanently protect the people from the human frailties of their rulers.

For it is a truth, which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are commonly most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those whom they entertain the least suspicion. – Alexander Hamilton.

We find ourselves at a point in our country’s history where we have elected a president that carries with him an unprecedented wave of popular support and trust. It is in times like this that we must most jealously guard our rights. The founders understood that when the people trust a leader completely, they are in the most danger.

George Washington admonished the people to be weary of government when he said:

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Thomas Jefferson likewise railed against placing complete trust in the frail hands of our human leaders when he wrote:

It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those who we are obliged to trust with power; that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go…

In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.

The founders understood that out rights would likely not be taken from us by an external force but by our own consent. The constitution was in fact designed to prevent our trust and confidence in our leaders from costing us our rights.

Our leaders are not divine and free from human fallings, they are not infallible. Even well meaning leaders can enact legislation with unforeseen consequences. James Madison understood the problem all to well and was concerned:

It may be a reflection on the human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?... If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

The founders understood that in framing the constitution they were trying to limit the power of government by taking human nature from the equation. The constitution has been attacked as archaic and obsolete for a myriad of reasons. These attacks illustrate a basic misunderstanding of the constitutions purpose.

Changes in social and economic conditions do not render the constitution obsolete as it was never intended to address these issues. The aspect of government it was meant to address/control has not changed and will likely never change; human nature.

We must jealously guard our rights and hold our trust in check to do so. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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