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.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been covering a variety of the principles that our Constitution was built on. The last stop on this journey before we can get into the actual text is to discuss how we should interpret the Constitution. No matter how brilliant our Constitution is, we have to interpret it properly or it will never be able to protect our freedom.
As I discussed on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, in legal and academic circles the most popular approach for interpreting the Constitution is the idea that it is a “living document”:
This theory is completely foolish unless your goal is to centralize more power in the federal government. It does absolutely nothing to protect the American people. There is certainly plenty of evidence to show that most of the Founders wouldn’t have supported the idea of a living document. But let’s look at this from a purely logical perspective.
When our politicians can change the meaning of the Constitution just by finding a new and creative way to interpret the text, there is no realistic limit on government power. If we allow them to do that, that means the federal government can change the Constitution without getting permission from the American people or the states - or going through any kind of process really. In that scenario, there is virtually nothing you can do to stop them. That leaves the government holding all the cards and puts you in a very vulnerable position.
Look at it this way: in my radio segment, I talked about the idea of a living mortgage. Would you feel comfortable signing up for a living mortgage? If not, why not?
Probably because you realize that if the bankers can make changes to that mortgage whenever they want, you would be living at their mercy. They would be able make profound changes to your financial situation without ever even notifying you. And you’re smart enough to realize that those bankers aren’t going to go out of their way to change it in ways that benefit you and make you happy. They are only going to change the mortgage when it benefits them.
Photo Courtesy of Author.
You’re also smart enough to realize there there’s at least a chance that the bankers would use this power to do some very bad things to you.
Now think about this: If we can’t trust bankers with a living mortgage, what reason do we have to trust our politicians with a living Constitution? After all, we would only be giving the bankers power over our house and our money. We’re giving the politicians power over something even more precious: our rights and our freedom.
It seems pretty obvious to most of us that you don’t want to give a banker more power over you than is absolutely necessary because we expect bankers to be greedy. We’re right to have those concerns because greed is a part of human nature.
But what reason do we have to trust politicians more than bankers? Are we supposed to believe that somehow politicians are the only people in society who aren’t greedy?
Greed brings us back to the most important reason why there is no need for our Constitution to be a living document. Those who advocate this method of interpretation argue that the world has changed a lot since the time of the Founding. Because of that the Constitution has to adapt if it’s going to stay relevant.
However, if you’ve followed this series as I’ve talked about the foundation of the Constitution, you probably noticed that I have spent a lot of time talking about human nature. On the other hand, I’ve spent basically no time talking about the political situation that faced our Founders.
[sharequote align="center"]They were trying to protect the American people from greedy, power-hungry politicians.[/sharequote]
That’s because our Constitution wasn’t designed to deal with one specific political situation. It was designed to deal with human nature. That is extremely significant because human nature does not change. Because of that, our Constitution is every bit as relevant today as it was the day it was signed.
The Founders weren’t trying to come up with solutions to specific political problems. They were trying to figure out how to protect the American people from greedy, power-hungry politicians in our government. Do we still have greedy and power-hungry politicians in Washington, D.C. today? Of course we do. None of that has changed.
But the idea that our Constitution is a living document allows the federal government to sidestep those protections whenever they become inconvenient for our public officials. Just like with the bankers, our politicians are never going to go out of their way to make changes that benefit you. They are only going to make the changes that benefit them.
And it shouldn’t be hard for you do see that there is at least a chance that our politicians could use this power to do some very bad things.
The living document approach does nothing to limit the government or protect the freedom of the American people. There is absolutely no reason to support it unless your goal is to centralize more power in the federal government.
To prove that, just look at Washington D.C. today. What was originally intended to be a limited federal government with a few enumerated powers is now involved in virtually every aspect of our lives. Heck, now it even wants to stick its nose into how you use your backyard grill and even your shower! That expansion of federal power is largely the result of letting our politicians and our judges come up with new and creative interpretations of the Constitution.
We are very fortunate to have a Constitution that was designed very carefully to protect us from the flaws in our unchanging human nature. But in order for us to get that protection, it must be a fixed document that means exactly what it says.
If we discover more effective methods of protecting ourselves from our government then it certainly makes sense for us to take advantage of the amendment process in the Constitutution and make some changes. But allowing the people in our federal government to haphazardly change the meaning of our Constitution to address modern political situations is a short-sighted approach that does nothing to protect our freedom in the long run.
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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