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June 18, 2007

Ron Paul Introduces Unprecedented Anti-Terrorism Bill

...against the economic terrorism of the US Federal Reserve, which he intends to abolish.

A true Jacksonian. After all, Jackson said he'd kill the National Bank or it would kill him.

This is the sort of crank conservativism I don't like. There is originalism as a legal doctrine -- good! -- and then there is originalism as a political doctrine -- crank!

The Constitution is mostly a document establishing procedure for governance. It makes relatively few substantive policy declarations that the US should be run this way or that way. Most of that substance is contained in the Bill of Rights, of course, and some amount is sprinkled throughout the main text.

But, overall, it's a charter for establishing a framework of government, by which the actual substantive policy decisions will be made by that government. The Constitution mostly tells you how we will make political decisions; not what those political decisions should actually be. Some policies are clearly forbidden -- infringing the right to bear arms. Establishing a state religion. Quartering troops in citizens' homes. (Ummm...) Most are neither forbidden nor encouraged.

Should the US have a national powerball lottery to goose revenues? I'm afraid there's as little in the Constitution to guide us on that point as there is on, say, abortion policy.

Crank Conservatives are deluded by the belief that the Constitution and the Framers were writing out not just how to promulgate laws, but what those laws should actually be. Way back in 1789, you see, they could see far into the future, and, given their reluctance to enter into "entangling alliances," they were warning us that we should not extend a security promise to Taiwan. Because the Framers did not establish a central income tax or actually any other strong compulsory form of funding, relying almost exclusively on tarriffs and barriers for revenue, that -- by gum! -- that ought to be good enough for us now. Ron Paul observes, sagely, that there was no central banking system when the Constitution was signed (although such banks kept springing up from time to time, including very shortly after the Constitution was inked), so, ergo, we ought not to have one now.

I'm always bothered by the line offered by some politicians that they keep a copy of the Constituion in their pockets to guide them in their decisions. Yes, there's a few decisions the Constitution sheds some small amount of light on. It doesn't say very much about, say, bankruptcy reform, and the suggestion that it somehow does is either 1) rank pandering by someone taking his constituents for stooges or 2) the deeply believed delusion of a cretin, as seems to be the case with Ron Paul.

There's actually a dirty name for this belief -- "substantive due process." This was the name given to the idea that the Constitution, amidst its numerous purely procedural guidelines, also suggested or actually demanded susbtantive outcomes on various policy questions. Note the oxymoronic nature of the phrase -- substantive due process. In other words, parts of the Constitution which by their plain text only established procedural frameworks somehow also managed to sneak in substantive guidance through "penumbras and emanations." And it gave rise to an even sillier coinage for constitutional doctrine about actual procedure -- "procedural due process."

No, I'm not making that up. Liberal jurists went so whole-hog inventing "substantive" elements of due process that it became necessary to indicate when one was actually speaking of true process by coining the redundancy "procedural due process."

I consider Ron Paul and his fellow cranks to be scarcely different than William Brennan and the rest of the substantive due processers -- actually, they're a little worse, because Brennan at least believed his doctrine of a "living constitution" which became more and more liberal as it evolved was limited to the sphere of judicial doctrine. Whereas Ron Paul thinks that his own originalist version of substantive due process applies not merely to judges but to his own votes and proposals as a legislator.

It's completely crank. We have no idea what the Founders would have thought of the War in Iraq, or the current income tax system, or the federal reserve. And even were they quickly paced through 200+ years of history as America rose from backwater farming colony to global colossus so that they could understand how the country and the world has changed since their deaths, their input still wouldn't be controlling -- because the most important part of the Constituion is that We, The People get to make all these decisions ourselves, working under the framework and according to the explicit substantive demands of the Constitution. Men who lived in an entirely different century, and an entirely different world, don't get to make these decisions. The Dead Man's Hand isn't permitted in wills and it's not much more prudent in government.

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posted by Ace at 07:36 PM

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