May 7, 2012
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz of Stanford’s Hoover Institution has written a bracing reminder of the importance of The Federalist Papers and also how the reading of this essential document is being slighted in American higher education. The following quotes are particular gems:
… according to the progressive conceit, understanding America’s founding and the framing of the Constitution are as useful to dealing with contemporary challenges of government as understanding the horse-and-buggy is to dealing with contemporary challenges of transportation. Instead, meeting today’s needs requires recognizing that ours is a living constitution that grows and develops with society’s evolving norms and exigencies.… thus many of our leading opinion formers and policy makers seem to come unhinged when they encounter constitutional arguments apparently foreign to them but well-rooted in constitutional text, structure and history.
The Left, whether in our universities or our federal government, cannot abide a Constitution with a fixed meaning because this implies limitations on federal authority, which inherently would constrict the fundamental and ironic project of American liberalism: the radical autonomy of the individual enshrined in law, and the supervening capacity of the state to make it so. In other words, moral libertinism can only be ensured by a virtually totalitarian government. And since the Constitution has a defined meaning (why would it provide for its own amendment if its words and phrases could be re-interpreted per the desires of the political moment?), applying it as its signers intended is offensive, even primitive.
Read Berkowitz’s piece. More importantly, read The Federalist Papers and the Constitution they so eloquently and clearly explain. A good thing to be reminded why you’re a conservative, now and then.