Constitution Is A Social Contract
- 20 June 2010 by Author 0 Comments
Constitution Is A Social Contract
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 06/20/10
Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Constitution is in the context of a contractual relationship between the government and the governed. This is validated by the Preamble to the Constitution which states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We sometimes need to be reminded that the Constitution was not just an itemization of rights for citizens and limited governmental powers for that earliest generation of Americans, but that it was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” It was designed and intended to be no less of a contract between the people (collectively and individually) and our government today than any other contractual relationship. Strictly defined, and strictly applied, with assurances made to the contractual parties and recourse for violation of those terms.
When it is argued that the Constitution is a “living” document, implication is made that the precepts and principles of the Constitution are not applicable to today and provides an excuse for all types of scurrilous and specious assertions for expanded government largesse at the expense of our freedom and our money. To say that the Constitution is a “living document,” hence, not to be taken literally, is akin to asserting that the Ten Commandments are really just “Ten Suggestions.” It also affords proponents of the “living document” theory latitude to pick and choose cafeteria-style which rights established by the Constitution are legitimate or applicable today. They like freedom of speech, but not freedom to bear arms, for example.
Judicial precedent and daily judicial decisions are judged against the basic principles and rights specified by the Constitution and statute to provide applicability to today’s milieu. In that way alone is it a “living document.” Statute is how the fundamental principles of the Constitution are codified in a changing social structure, but the Constitution provides the baseline.
Provision for changing the text of that social contract was made through the amendment process, which has been done 27 times to date. To assert that the words of the Constitution are not binding is absurd, especially when itemized authority of federal governmental powers are assessed individually. The legitimacy of freedoms of speech or right to bear arms are no less legitimate than the clauses that state there are to be three branches of government.
The validity of the social contract theory is born out each time a suit or judicial decision upholds those rights assured under the constitution. Each time a citizen wins a case of free speech, it reestablishes and reaffirms the nature of that social contract between the government and the citizens, individually and collectively.
James Madison, regarded as the Father to the Constitution, said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” We have witnessed this over the generations since the founding of the country, and we see that process of “silent encroachment” of government on the freedom of the people accelerated over the past two years in a way never before witnessed. We see government dictating terms of property ownership, dictating terms of access to health care, dictating terms of energy use and private consumption, for starters.
Madison must have anticipated our current form of federal governance when he said, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.” It appears that the majority in Washington no longer considers the Constitution valid, as they are hell-bent on unlimited government authority over every aspect of our lives.
Historical context is no less crucial in historical methodology than it is in constitutional interpretation. Madison recognized this as well when he said, “Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”
The Constitution is not a “living” document. The Founders were specific in their language and did not mince words. They meant what they said. It was written precisely to prevent the incursion of government into our lives to the extent that we see it occurring today proving it is not an anachronism. It is a social contract to assure and guarantee fundamental freedom and liberty for all generations of Americans. We need to be intimately familiar with it and hold those accountable who seek to subvert the freedoms of those who are intended to have ultimate power in this republic: We the People!
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board.