Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Constitution of No Authority

Speaking of Lysander Spooner, another great essay written by Spooner that blew me away when I first read it, and was instrumental in pushing me toward an interest in libertarianism and Austrian economics, is called "The Constitution of No Authority," which amazingly concludes that the U.S. Constitution does not bind anyone alive today to do what it says!

What the...?! How can that be?? This Spooner must be crazy!

At least that was my reaction, until I read the whole thing, and now I see that he was right. If the Constitution ever bound anybody, it would have been those that signed the document, and as far as I know, nobody who signed it is alive today.

Here is an analogy used by Spooner:

So when a man says he is planting a tree for himself and his posterity, he does not mean to be understood as saying that he has any thought of compelling them, nor is it to be inferred that he is such a simpleton as to imagine that he has any right or power to compel them, to eat the fruit. So far as they are concerned, he only means to say that his hopes and motives, in planting the tree, are that its fruit may be agreeable to them.

So it was with those who originally adopted the Constitution. Whatever may have been their personal intentions, the legal meaning of their language, so far as their "posterity" was concerned, simply was, that their hopes and motives, in entering into the agreement, were that it might prove useful and acceptable to their posterity; that it might promote their union, safety, tranquillity, and welfare; and that it might tend "to secure to them the blessings of liberty." The language does not assert nor at all imply, any right, power, or disposition, on the part of the original parties to the agreement, to compel their "posterity" to live under it. If they had intended to bind their posterity to live under it, they should have said that their objective was, not "to secure to them the blessings of liberty," but to make slaves of them; for if their "posterity" are bound to live under it, they are nothing less than the slaves of their foolish, tyrannical, and dead grandfathers.

And here is the concluding paragraph:

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

Pretty radical stuff, but can you argue with the logic?

Read "The Constitution of No Authority" and find out for yourself!

[UPDATE] Why, then, am I supporting a constitutionalist like Ron Paul? Read this article by Joe Sobran to find out.

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