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Constitution Revolution: Interpretation 101


Interpreting the Constitution can be a very intimidating task. How can you know if you’re on the right track?

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series that will cover the entire Constitution and many of the principles it was founded on. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Imagine that you want to buy a house from me, so you and I enter into a contract to transfer ownership of the property.

If you and I agree that the purpose of the contract is for you to purchase the house from me, what is one thing we can assume to be true about each individual part of the contract? We can assume that each of those parts was intended to help achieve the overall goal of you buying the house from me. To assume anything else would be foolish.

It makes to sense to believe that one individual part of our contract would have a meaning that would completely defeat the entire purpose the document was created for. What logical reason would you and I have for including a clause that did that? None.

[sharequote align="center"]Because of flawed interpretation, the Constitution no longer protects rights or preserves liberty.[/sharequote]

It’s no less ridiculous to argue that a given clause of the Constitution has a meaning that completely defeats the purpose that the document was created to serve. That is why, as I mentioned this weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, we need to keep the purpose of the Constitution as a whole in mind whenever we are interpreting it:

The founders of this country were brilliant people. They wrote a Constitution that was designed to limit the federal government and protect the liberty of the American people. It is common sense to assume that every clause that they included in our Constitution was intended to achieve those primary goals. It would be illogical to assume that these brilliant people would approve clauses that completely contradicted the entire reason they were writing a constitution in the first place.

In order to get to the proper interpretation of the Constitution - the one that will protect our rights and preserve our liberty - we have to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the purpose of the document as a whole. To help you with that, here are four things that we know to be true about the Constitution:

  1. It was designed to create a limited federal government. We should be very leery of any interpretation that would create an unlimited, or a nearly unlimited, federal government.
  2. It was designed to protect the liberty and individual rights of the American people. Anything that allows the federal government to violate our rights is almost certainly unconstitutional.
  3. The federal government does not have the power to do anything until that power is granted to it. If you can’t point to where a power is granted to the federal government in the Constitution, it doesn’t have that power.
  4. The States were intended to play a critical role in how our country functions. Any interpretation of the Constitution that would effectively make the states obsolete is incorrect. At the time that the Constitution was ratified, people were very loyal to their home states. It’s just not realistic to believe that they would have approved a Constitution that would have made those states irrelevant.

As we are reading the Constitution, we need to compare any interpretation we come up with against these four truths. Any interpretation that is inconsistent with even one of these statements, or would serve to make one of them false, is most likely incorrect. On the other hand, when you find an interpretation that is consistent with each of these four statements, that is good sign that you are on the right track.

The concept here couldn’t be any simpler: we should assume that every clause in the Constitution has a meaning that is consistent with the purpose of the overall document.

But because we have abandoned that idea, we now have a virtually unlimited federal government that has the power to violate our rights on a daily basis. The fact that the government we have today is the direct opposite of what the Founders were trying to create should be a pretty big red flag that we aren’t interpreting the Constitution correctly.

It should also tell us that because of this flawed interpretation, the Constitution is no longer able to protect our rights or preserve our liberty.

Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at

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