Friday, May 1, 2009

Founding Principles

In this series on Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin, I'll save Mr. Levin's definition of liberalism for the next post. In his book, he introduces how he will use the term, then segues to a short discussion of various issues the Founding fathers needed to address within the framework of the government they were implementing.

The main issue Levin wants his readers to remember is that the Founders were very careful to protect the populace, the individual citizens and the separate states from an over-reaching national government. A main goal was to give the federal government just enough power to protect the citizenry and to ease some of the interstate difficulties encountered under the Articles of Confederation. These were mainly issues of currency, foreign policy, and trade policy.

The Founders also operated within a world view which presupposed both a set of moral principles and the tendency of human nature to seek power over others.

Through the compromises and protections that are included in the Constitution and the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) the Framers strove to balance governmental authority and individual liberty.

The government was to be divided into three separate branches providing the checks and balances we all hopefully learned about in grade school civics lessons. The Framers gave specific powers to the Federal Government. Outside of that each state made its own decisions and provided its own services. And the Bill of Rights was added to protect against specific evils the implementation of which might have been open to interpretation in the body of the Constitution itself. The Founders also made possible a path for future changes by way of amendments. But because they understood how fickle pure democracy can be, even referring to it as mob rule, they made ratification of these amendments challenging.

This basic nature of the constitution was understood and for the most part, operated within for over one hundred years. I am always amazed at how James Madison and the others foresaw so many potential difficulties and put together a document with the tensile strength to withstand each challenge that might arise. A document that still serves other countries as a basis for their own constitutional governments. .

But during the twentieth century the country somehow lost sight of these Founding Principles. There has been one assault after another on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A bloated Executive branch has created layers of regulation without the input of the Legislative branch. The Judiciary has become a forum to reinterpret both the constitution itself and older laws that one judge or another thought ought to mean something new. And the members of Legislative houses have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities in favor of whatever ploys will ensure their re-election.

There is a term from physics that goes along with tensile strength that suits well the current state of our nation. If I remember correctly, tensile strength is the measure of the elasticity of a material, how far it can be twisted, turned, stretched, compressed, or bent before breaking or rupturing. Further, yield strength is the point at which the material is permanently misshapen by the twisting, turning, stretching, compressing, or bending. Because of the constant abuses against our founding document, I fear we might be fast approaching its yield strength?

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