I have often heard the United States Constitution, or the concept of limited government, attacked with the following quote by Lysander Spooner:
"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."
But is it the fault of *the Constitution* that it has not been better followed? The Constitution can't enforce itself; no contract or document can. It must rely on people to enforce it, and if they do not do so, in cases where the language and intent of the document seem straightforward and plain, is this primarily the fault of the document?
Certainly I will not argue that the Constitution is perfectly written. Unquestionably it could have been written better. But given that circumstances change over time, is it possible for any document to be "perfect" in perpetuity? The idea seems dubious.
Lysander's quote implies that there no middle ground between total authorization of an evil, and complete powerlessness to prevent an evil, and that since both these things are unacceptable, the instrument charged with preventing evil must be deemed worthless. But as noted above, the enforcement of any document ultimately lies in the hands of people, and so in a sense *the people* are really the instrument charged with preventing evil.
Yet applying Lysander's logic to the *people* of the United States, or of any country for that matter, produces a scary conclusion:
"Whether the people really be of one mind, or another, this much is certain -- that they have either authorized such abuses of power as exist in the world, or have been powerless to prevent them. In either case, they are unfit to exist."
Are people who fail to prevent tyranny unfit to exist? I saw no. An answer of "yes" would be perverse, like the apocryphal story of the military commander in Vietnam who said the village had to be destroyed in order to save it. After all, if people are "unfit to exist", then what does it matter if their rights are violated, if they are oppressed or killed? Thus we can see how the logic of Lysander Spooner's famous quote about the Constitution can actually be turned back on itself to justify the very kind of tyranny that he opposed. For this reason, I do not recommend the quote as a good one for advocates of freedom to use.
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))