"How often do people who dislike government get to build one?"


Sometimes you find the best insights in the comments on the best blogs. Found this comment on Samizdata, in response to this challenge from a British reader: "Is the US Constitution such a sacred cow that you lot in the US will be shocked at someone in the UK who questions its utility?"

It isn't that we mindlessly revere our constitution, or the utility of any written constitution. It's the particulars of our constitution that we treasure. Ours was basically written by a bunch of crabby, cynical, argumentative political junkies, dilettantes, cafe intellectuals, rabble-rousers and gentlemen farmers who disliked and distrusted government and people who seek power. There's some stupid stuff in there (it's been a while since we worried about having troops billetted in our homes), but it's held up remarkably well because it's not about particulars, it's about human nature. The checks and balances thing, for example, is a blueprint for pitting groups of vain ambitious men against each other in the hopes that none of them get much done.

How often do people who dislike government get to build one?

We began to disobey it before the ink was dry. So, as you point out, it's hardly an ironclad defense of liberty. But it helps. It's significant that when they want to break free of its restraints, our public figures are still compelled to pretend to see something in it that isn't there, and write heavily-footnoted rulings about how the thing that isn't there really is if you squint and turn your head on one side.

Posted by S. Weasel at June 2, 2004 11:37 PM

Spot on. "It's not about particulars, it's about human nature," is reminiscent of the conservative proverb, "Human nature has no history."

(That last bit about "the thing that isn't there really is if you squint" makes me think of conservative Presbyterian arguments for infant baptism, but, as with the judges and the Constitution, at least they feel obliged to pay their respects to the original authoritative document.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 5, 2004 11:55 PM.

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