If Progressives Were to Rewrite Our Constitution …

| July 8 2011
David Leeper

If the Progressives were to re-write our Constitution, what would it look like?  One need look no further than the European Union Constitution (aka Lisbon Treaty of 2007).

To be sure, Progressives still pay lip service to the US Constitution.  But through one wretched contrivance after another, Barack Obama and his entourage of faculty-lounge academics have repeatedly compromised the Constitution's precepts, while piling blunder upon blunder, lurching from one crisis to another, careening toward their self-righteous vision of Social Justice.

As Barack Obama described it in 2001, Progressives are steadfastly devoted to fixing the following "flaw" they see in the Constitution (my emphasis added):

… the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

The Constitution, of course, is founded upon the self-evident truths in our Declaration of Independence.  In a prior piece, as an Independence Day exercise, I took the liberty of trying to rewrite the Declaration's self-evident truths from a Progressive perspective.  I wondered how it might look.  I then toyed with the idea of re-writing the Constitution itself from a Progressive perspective.  Alas, I didn't get very far.  While I thought I was being fair and accurate, almost everything I wrote sounded like some sort of cynical parody of Progressivism.  So I set it aside.

Daniel Hannan is a British Member of European Parliament.  Yesterday, while reading Hannan's The New Road to Serfdom, A Letter of Warning to America, I smacked myself in the forehead.  I don't need to draft a Progressive Constitution — the European Union has already done it!

So how does that EU Constitution compare to our own?

At the beginning of his 3rd chapter in New Road, Hannan writes (my emphasis added):

The US Constitution, with all its amendments, is 7,200 words long.  The EU Constitution, now formally known as the Lisbon Treaty, is 76,000.

The US Constitution concerns itself with broad principles, such as the balance between state and federal authorities.  The EU Constitution busies itself with such details as space exploration, the rights of disabled people, and the status of asylum seekers.

The US Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, is mainly about the liberty of the individual.  The EU Constitution is mainly about the power of the state.

The US Declaration of Independence, which foreshadowed the constitutional settlement, promises "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  The EU's equivalent, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, guarantees its citizens the right to strike action, free health care, and affordable housing.

Wow. 

To Hannan's first point of comparison, I think the Europeans would have been much better off if they'd written their Constitution with a quill pen, as our Founding Fathers did.  It would have been much leaner and more usable than what they have now.  

To his second point, the EU Constitution evidently had too many committees and drafters.  They couldn't resist throwing in their own favored issues of the day, bloating the document and dooming it to disregard, fading relevance, and ultimate obsolescence.  The US Constitution, on the other hand, was written to be lean and timeless, and it has largely succeeded — it is still the supreme law of the land, in spite of the Progressives' efforts to marginalize it. 

To Hannan's third and fourth points, how envious American Progressives must be!  Imagine housing, healthcare, and strike action defined as human rights, in black and white, right there in the EU Constitution for all to see!  My goodness, those Europeans are way ahead of us, no?  (Although one wonders why they left out food and clothing.  Aren't they also "human rights"?)

Well …

The Europeans are indeed ahead of us, but not in a way that Progressives would care to acknowledge.  The EU countries that have tried hardest to honor EU Constitutional "human rights" have slowly but surely been bankrupting themselves.  And now that the time has come, as it always must, to scale back, riots erupt.  Greece, SpainFrance, and England may be only the beginning.  There's no telling where this will end, but this story has played out many times before in modern history, and it has led to tyranny and misery for all but the ruling class and their inner circle.

In America, lagging slightly behind Europe, we seem to be in the latter stages of an oft-repeating historical cycle of civilizations, known as the Fatal Sequence:

From Bondage to Faith;
From Faith to Courage;
From Courage to Liberty;
From Liberty to Abundance;
From Abundance to Complacency;
From Complacency to Apathy;
From Apathy to Dependency;
From Dependency back to Bondage

Daniel Hannan has been an outspoken witness to all of the EU's overspending and self-deception, especially that of Great Britain.  As he has put it in his warnings to America:  "I have seen your future, and it doesn't work."  We must not go there.

So how can we avoid Europe's fate? 

The most promising path is right there in our own Constitution.  We must recommit to limiting the federal government to its enumerated powers, especially those in Article 1, Section 8.   To acquiesce to still more Federal overreach is to invite dependency, misery, and ultimately some form of tyranny for America.


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  1. […] fact, entitlements have become so thoroughly embedded in EU cultures that they are now enshrined in the EU Constitution as human rights (something the Great American Left is working to emulate in our own […]

  2. […] fact, entitlements have become so thoroughly embedded in EU cultures that they are now enshrined in the EU Constitution as human rights (something the Great American Left is working to emulate in our own […]