Thursday, April 7, 2011

End of Winter 2010/11, List & Book VIII

I. James Madison by Jack N. Rakove

II. The Law by Frederic Bastiat

III. Present at the Creation by Dean Acheson

IV. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

V. The Math Book by Clifford A. Pickover

VI. Before the Dawn by Shimazaki Toson and translated by W.E. Naff.

VII. The Calvin Coolidge Autobiography

VIII. The Citizen's Constitution, An Anotated Guide by Seth Lipsky

For some time I have been wanting to bring this text to the attention of C-133 crewmembers, as the Constitution was meant to be read and discussed for its meaning, context, and intent by all. But, the time for its inclusion onto our reading list just hasn’t seemed right until recently. Now, with the populist advent of the Tea Party and with the insidious encroachment of government upon the lives of the people, the Constitution seems to have once again risen as the proper defender for individual rights. I write this the day after Judge Vinson declared Obamacare unconstitutional with his opening statement a citation from Federalist No.51 written by Madison in 1788, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary… and in the next place oblige it (the government) to control itself.”

In the early years after the Constitution was introduced to the people it was on their lips during their evening meals, their social gatherings, their political meetings, and their religious services. Critical examination was everywhere as noted by de Tocqueville in what possibly is the most powerful and influential work ever written about early America, his Democracy in America (click on title for March, 2010 Review).

Sophisticated discussion of the rights given by the Constitution to each individual was extended into the frontier of our country. The simplistic but powerful words created a message not for an enlightened elite, but for the people as a whole. Citizens were deeply involved with the philosophical arguments about how the Constitution enhanced their personal values of self-reliance and the pursuit of their happiness.

Without a centralized authority one could dream to be all that he could be. The intent of the words were clear to each individual, and for the first time in history a nation was conceived for the people and by the people to ensure their personal and economic freedom. It became a new day for all mankind and a brighter day for the world.

But, political commitment to the “original intent” of the Constitution began to change with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century. In understanding where in the American political tradition the idea of unlimited, redistributive notions as fairness were created one needs to look no further than Roosevelt as the original big government liberal. In 1910, T.R. proffered a general right of the community to regulate the earning of income and use of private property to whatever degree the public welfare may require it. In other words, redistribution of an individual’s wealth by the government at its finest.

All who believe in this sort of redistributive governance know the Constitution is their enemy in implementation as it bypasses the preference aspect that established the protection of equal natural rights as the permanent task of the government. The national government, in T.R.’s view, was not one of enumerated powers but of general powers, and the purpose of the Constitution was merely to state the narrow exceptions to that rule. Progressives reject the assumption that the power of the people is the general rule and that the power of the government is the exception.

Historians point to the demise and rejection of this most basic, historic understanding of our Founding Fathers originally outlined by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers as the time that government quit talking about the Constitution as our country’s guiding general principle. Progressivism, then and today, is a sophistic argument that erodes respect for individual personal and economic freedoms that are our bedrock beliefs and subordinates them to the demands of the State.

Sadly, during the 20th Century, members of both political parties and much of the judiciary have embraced this departure from original intent; and, that has led us to an unparalleled place in our nation’s history, the specter of fiscal default regarding our national debt that now exceeds $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The political victories by Progressives of the past 100 years may cost us our country, as their Faustian model of debt, dependency, and default is failing here and throughout through out the world.

However, many Constitutional scholars are now hopeful that Judge Vinson’s decision overturning Obamacare may return the political branches to the government of limited and enumerated powers that the framers envisioned, and de Tocqueville spoke so glowingly about.

So, no matter your political affiliation, if you believe that the Constitution is our guiding light for real people to grapple with real issues, then The Citizen’s Constitution is the ultimate user’s manual. It takes you through the nation’s founding document, phrase by phrase such that one can understand how we got here; and, thusly one can decide independently if we are continuing on the founder’s path to creating a country following those ideals first presented in our Constitution.

Lastly, this is the final review for the Winter List and I will now turn my attention to a Summer List. It has been fun and I hope that it has helped you through this winter of historic cold and snowy weather that we first experienced as young adults during our missions to Dow AFB, or the sub-freezing temperatures of Sondestrom AB, to the unheard of wind chills experienced only in Thule, and finally the short days with little sun in Alaska; except, of course, for those of us spending the winter in Key West. Key West was the site of my first mission during the Cuban Missile Crisis those many long years ago. Enjoy!

P.S. I would like to thank Dick Hanson, our web master, who spends much time and effort keeping the site afloat. Without him, we would not have it. If you get a chance, you might want to thank him as well.

Richard Spencer

39th ATS, DAFB 1962-1965

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