June 6, 2010


When the US Constitution was written, it was simply a framework of offices and institutions, duties and powers. It immediately became apparent that it lacked protection for the people and the states from oppressive use of these powers. So the first 10 amendments were added to limit the power of the Federal Government over the States and the people, and the power of the States over the people. The amendments were quite specific and unambiguous.

The Constitution had its checks and balances to permit each branch of the government to limit the excesses of the other branches. The Supreme Court was the final judge of the constitutionality of any action of the other branches. But the members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the President and Congress.

The only basis for selecting the Justices of the Supreme Court should be their honesty and wisdom; interpreting the constitution should be the basis of all their decisions. However, they were selected from the start on their political positions on the difficult decisions of the time; how did they feel about slavery or abolition, States’ rights or Federal power.

So the decisions of the Supreme Court were always political, rather than technical. When they disagreed with the Constitution, they would use a “liberal” interpretation of the Constitution; it said just what they wanted it to say. They were only human. The Constitution was soon in tatters and ineffectual.

When a President decided to go to war, (Not his prerogative), He would simply send the army off to war, and Congress would dutifully declare war after the fact. States’ rights quickly went down the drain.

The Constitution was a noble effort to avoid the pitfalls that had ended earlier experiments of democracies and republics. It proved helpless against the thirst for power of politicians. There was always a struggle between the branches of government for dominance. Each branch increased its own power but in the end the presidency became dominant and we now have the Imperial Presidency.

Is there any alternative? In my opinion a written constitution is powerless, the enacted laws of congress are disastrous, and the imperial presidency is stripping away even the freedom we had before the American Revolution. Anarchy could hardly be worse. The unwritten common law serves up better justice than the written laws of Congress. The problem is not bad men or policies of any political party. It is the weakness of a legal document against the very human craving for power. Power is the root of all evil.


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