This post is the fifth in 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.
We are constantly having debates in this country about what is or is not Constitutional and how we should interpret the Constitution. But before we can accurately answer any of those questions, first we have to answer a much more fundamental question: What is the purpose of our Constitution?
As I explained this weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, the primary purpose of a constitution is to protect our rights from the people in government:
I know in a lot of ways this seems like a basic, Constitution 101-type of an idea. But it’s critically important. Stick with me and I’ll show you why.
Right now, there is a growing trend where we like to view the government in terms of what it can do for us.
It can give us “free” healthcare! It can give us “free” community college! It can impose a minimum wage!
But when we look at the government that way, we also have a tendency to look at a constitution as something that gives the government power.
It might feel good to have that mindset, but it’s dangerous because it gives us an incentive to look for “new” powers in the constitution. Sections of it suddenly get re-read and re-interpreted in new ways that give the government the authority to do all of the wonderful things we want it to do for us. Over time, that allows the government to grab more and more power until it has completely broken free of the boundaries that the Founders had originally intended to put on it. Then before you know it, any realistic limits on the power of government slowly disappear.
When that happens, you’ve created a group of people (the government) who have an enormous amount of power, almost unlimited resources, and virtually nothing to stop them from violating your rights. That’s why this idea is such a big deal.
[sharequote align="center"]The government is not some loving, benevolent teddy bear that always wants to do what’s best for us.[/sharequote]
We have to avoid the mistake of convincing ourselves that the government is some loving, benevolent teddy bear that always wants to do what’s best for us. It’s just a fact of life that government poses a very serious threat to our rights and our standard of living. We would be foolish not to protect ourselves from that threat.
The single best way we have to do that is to establish a written constitution that imposes clear and enforceable limits on government power.
So while it’s true that an effective constitution does grant power to the government, that is not its primary purpose. The primary purpose of an effective constitution is to protect our individual rights by putting limits on the power of government.
When we understand exactly why we have a Constitution, that helps to guide us in how we should interpret it. This knowledge shows us that constantly looking for ways to read new and expansive powers into the Constitution is a reckless approach that puts our rights in jeopardy. Instead we should always read the Constitution with a focus on making sure that the government is operating within the limits that have been created for it. That’s the only way to ensure that our rights are secure.
If you want an easy way to remember the last two lessons, just keep in mind that when you are trying to create an effective government everything comes back to that same primary purpose of protecting our rights. We create governments to protect our rights from the other people in society. We create constitutions to protect our rights from the people in government.
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 www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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