from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
September 3, 2000
On numerous past occasions, this page has editorialized about the importance of a fixed Constitution that does not "grow" or change on the basis of shifting political whim or the "personal predilections" (Supreme Court Justice Scalia's phrase) of nine justices of the Supreme Court. Many people in our society, however, like the idea of a "living" Constitution that, in essence, reflects nothing more than the political and cultural desires of any given popular majority at any given moment in time; a "living" Constitution that allows the federal government to identify a problem, and then take whatever steps are deemed necessary to "solve" it. Prescription drug benefits; environmental mandates; spending excess tax collections (the budget surplus) on popular social programs; government threats, intimidation, and lawsuits against unpopular private industries; the list of concerns that may be addressed by governmental activism, when unconstrained by any Constitutional limitations, is literally endless.
When Constitutional restrictions are ignored or circumvented in the name of some "greater good", the government is then motivated to act by what James Madison called the "tyranny of the majority". When it does so, it inevitably acts to the detriment of the rights of minorities — whether those be politically correct race, ethnic, or gender minorities; or politically incorrect minorities such as businesses, smokers, gun owners, or people with religious beliefs.
But after all, isn't it true that we are living in a democracy, and that in our society, the majority rules? Actually, no, that is not correct. The Founders of this nation did not create a democracy. They created a Constitutional Republic, and for very good reasons, enunciated by James Madison: "Place three individuals in a situation wherein the interest of each depends on the voice of the others; and give to two of them an interest opposed to the rights of the third. Will the latter be secure? The prudence of every man would shun the danger." But the Constitution also says that the federal government should "promote the general Welfare", so doesn't that allow it to act whenever someone suggests that the general welfare of the nation may be improved?
Again, no, as Madison explained: "With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." In other words, there are firm, fixed, and well defined limits beyond which the federal government may not go, regardless of any "greater good", or alleged "general welfare". Those limits were imposed for one purpose — to preserve individual liberty.
Governments are of two general varieties: those that have limits to their powers, and those with no limits to their powers. Our national government was created with severe limits to its powers, fixed and well defined restrictions on what it was permitted to do. Those restrictions are contained in our Constitution. Of the other variety — governments with no limits to their powers — communist China is presently the most visible example.
China, in the words of the U.S. State Department,
But many people in the U.S. — especially many of the leftists who consider themselves to be the cultural elite in this country — continue to praise communist China (among other totalitarian communist, socialist, and Marxist societies), and to proclaim sympathy with many of China's policies and practices, in particular, its population control policies.
On June 24, 1998, Jane Fonda accused the Christian Coalition of indifference to children who "don't look like them... [who aren't] white, middle-class Christians." Asked about China's forced-abortion policy, Fonda replied: "We've got to remember something. China has experienced a famine in which fifty million people died. We don't even know what that... feels like... It's a survival thing... Could they do their family planning better? Of course. Should we force them to by pulling down a curtain and punishing them? I don't think so. I mean, I've spent time in China."
It is in the population control policies of China that we see the true face of a government that acknowledges no limits to its power — as though, after all the totalitarian atrocities witnessed by the Twentieth Century, we need another example of the potential for abuse inherent in a government unconstrained by Constitutional limitations.
According to a fact sheet released by the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom, "Assessments are imposed on multi-birth families to enable society to bring up their children." [emphasis added] This represents both a restriction on having too many childbirths and an obligation of those responsible to pay a certain compensation to society." Clearly, China is a society manifesting the philosophy that It Takes A Village to raise a child. The Chinese Embassy fact sheet went on to assure readers that "Forced abortion and sterilization are strictly prohibited by the Chinese laws and offenders will be punished according to law."
The Chinese government through its UK Embassy fact sheet issued assurances that China's population control policies are not coercive. The U.S. State Department's 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in China, however, concluded otherwise:
Why should we care about strict adherence to the limitations imposed on our government by our Constitution? China provides the example of the pursuit of a politically correct and internationally popular "greater good", when accompanied by, in the words of the State Department, "…inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms." Our Constitution is the law that protects our basic freedoms. It was designed to limit the power of government so as to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". Increasingly, we have been ignoring those limits, usually in the name of some "greater good" or "general welfare". We do so at our great peril.
above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with
3 sep 2000