The Washington Times - August 5, 2010, 12:31PM

Guest Post by J.D. Thorpe


In a town hall on July 24, California Congressman Pete Stark gave us a revealing look into the mind of a liberal. He made the following statement regarding the Constitution, “I think that there are very few constitutional limits that would prevent the federal government from rules that could affect your private life.”  While his honesty is admirable, this view is deeply unsettling to Americans who believe in the rule of law. 

When liberals are asked about their interpretation of the Constitution, they generally are not as truthful as Congressman Stark. They tend to respond with ambiguous rhetoric about a “living Constitution.” The basic idea follows that the Constitution naturally adapts to changing conditions over time. This definition is their way of avoiding the fact that they do not believe in adhering to the Constitution as it is written or pursuing the correct steps for amending it.

The Liberal philosophy uses the “living Constitution” concept to legitimate any usurpation of power from the people.  When liberals want to pass a piece of legislation that is not permitted under the Constitution, they spuriously use the General Welfare Clause as their justification. Using this method, they claim that healthcare, a living wage, and even owning a home are constitutional “rights.” This thoroughly distorts the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

The Constitution was meant to be a limiting document.  The Founders were Classical Liberals who believed that the role of government should be limited to a few functions that individuals could not provide for themselves.  For example, it was acknowledged that the Articles of Confederation were incapable of creating a strong national defense and therefore, it was important that the states centralize this role in a stronger federal government.

Additionally, the new Constitution gave the federal government the authority to tax in order to pay for the limited services provided by the government. Liberals have subsequently misinterpreted this authority to subject the people to a form of economic servitude. Finally, there were also functions related to adjudicating private property disputes as well as a few other minor roles.  

The Founding Fathers were essentially government minimalists that advocated for a society where individuals were free to pursue their own interests. The role of the government was to foster their pursuits by protecting them from foreign invaders and internal threats to their private property. Over the past couple centuries the free society that was created has eroded at the hands of overzealous elites who want to control every aspect of an individual’s life.

Patrick Henry and the anti-federalists were not naïve in their view of human nature. Despite arguments claiming that the inclusion of a bill of rights was superfluous, Henry anticipated that men in power would be tempted to ignore constitutional limitations. This has been particularly true during times of crisis. During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of freedom of the press and habeas corpus. FDR enacted a plethora of New Deal legislation like the AAA, WPA, and NRA that had no constitutional grounds. And in the aftermath of the financial collapse, Bush and the Democrat led Congress picked winners in the market place through the bank bailout and institutionalized moral hazard. 

The current regime of liberals continues their assault on the Constitution with Obamacare, Cap and Trade, and the Financial Reform bill. They clearly reject the notion that the Constitution places any limits on the legislation they craft.  

Liberals have consistently expanded the powers of government through bypassing the amendment process.  Conservatives need to push back against this violation of the rule of law. The Constitution means what it says.  There are no implied meanings. If liberals do not agree with the document, then they are free to seek change through the amendment route.

It is readily apparent that Congressman Stark and many of his colleagues have no interest in reading the bills that they write. But perhaps he could read the Constitution since it is pertinent to his job. He might find it a bit more limiting than he initially thought. Perhaps, we should change our slogan from “Read the Bill” to “Read the Constitution.”

J.D. Thorpe is the Assistant Director of Programs, and ORL Regional Coordinator at the Patrick Henry Center