by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - July 16, 2007) In Swans previous issue Gerard Donnelly Smith ("Defending The Constitution") and Martin Murie ("The Vote") took exception with my conclusion -- developed in my essay, "The Founding Fathers' Fraud" (June 18, 2007) -- that the Constitution should be scrapped. Both feel that corrections within the existing political framework can overcome current problems. Smith asserts that "...one cannot say the cause for that dysfunctional system was the Constitution." I for ONE respectfully differ and insist that the Constitution IS the cause and I believe that many agree with me.
Thomas Jefferson, the intellectual selected to compose the Declaration of Independence, would most assuredly agree. That document declares "...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..." Exercising that most important right of rebellion not only brought about independence but paved the way for the governments that followed. Jefferson subsequently wrote a letter that justified rebellions every 20 years and further stated, "...what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?..." In his film Sicko Michael Moore learns that the French health and welfare systems are far superior to those in the U.S. He asks why. The answer: the French government fears the people; US citizens fear the government!
The remedies that Smith and Murie rely on have been tried since the earliest days of the Republic and yet over all that time the elite have maintained control. How could that very wealthy group, outnumbered many times over, continuously occupy important positions in the government, elective or appointive, in the executive, legislative, judicial, or in the bureaucracy, and thereby retain their power and wealth? By their clever construction of a Constitution in which property rights were enshrined and federal police powers became available to enforce those rights and to restrain unruly actions.
Smith believes that building a viable competitive third party could effect the requisite change and he correctly points out that such an activity is permissible under the Constitution. But can it succeed in the practical world? In the almost 220 years since ratification many third parties have come and gone. Some parties during their brief existence made major contributions to the political situation and one, the dynamic Republican Party, replaced the faltering Whigs. None lasted. Why? Because on the federal level it was too difficult to buck the power elite's entrenched parties. The elite have always controlled the political machinery, i.e., the major parties. A new party that threatens their interests will be ineffective. And if it does not threaten them then who needs it?
The establishment opposes changes to the status quo. Therefore it sets up road blocks to discourage any attempts. Launching a party in each of the fifty states is extremely burdensome. If a viable party emerges the two parties will join forces to bar it from gaining a fair and equal political opportunity in the electoral process. Should the intruder against all odds overcome that handicap it will be co-opted by the special interests that will tempt it with offers too enticing to refuse.
Murie, if I understand him correctly, thinks there is a distinction between the meanings of the words and phrases of the Constitution and the inimical motivations of the founding fathers. Yes, distinctions do exist -- a few. And each was inserted over the objections of the elite. The Bill of Rights? They didn't want it. They promised amendments that objecting electors demanded to secure the votes for ratification. Most were grudgingly enacted but proposals to limit private power -- protections from corporations and employers -- were ignored. Many amendments and laws deemed to resolve a failure in the system have been enacted over the years. After long and arduous campaigns the rolls of eligible voters have expanded from the small fraction of eligibles at the time of ratification to almost universal suffrage today. The same wealthy elite STILL holds power.
When I was young I would hear complaints about the candidates chosen by the political bosses in the smoke filled rooms. "If only the voters were given the opportunity of selecting the candidates through primaries their quality and the political system as well would improve." The argument seemed to make sense. Well, today their hope has been satisfied. So who are the candidates who can enter a primary? A multi-billionaire or someone who has sold out to him. Has the quality of candidates been improved? Just another example of how the astute power elite are able to overcome potential obstacles because they have the supreme law of the land behind them.
The ever constant propaganda campaign on behalf of the Constitution has turned it into a sacrosanct text that is blindly revered by people who should know better. Documents that would show it up are rarely exposed. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one such document. It contains thirty articles of individual rights that truly put the Constitution to shame. All of the Bill of Rights are included, plus many more. Property rights, however, are in short supply. The word "property" appears only three times. 1) Property can not affect one's entitlement to rights and freedoms. 2) Everyone has the right to own it. 3) No one can be arbitrarily deprived of it.
Property rights permit an employer to lay off workers and move their jobs to Third World countries where the terms of employment are tantamount to economic slavery. This could not take place under a system where provisions similar Articles 23-25 of UDHR apply. Just take a gander at those terms:
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old-age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
That's all very good, but is there something like it in the real world?
In 1999, for the first time in its history, a very long, detailed, and comprehensive Constitution of Venezuela was drafted and approved by popular referendum. A goal of that constitution is to empower the citizenry by encouraging their active participation. Instead of a representative democracy where the citizens' influence is limited to periodically electing their representatives, Venezuelans enjoy participatory democracy -- they have a voice in developing policy. As a result they have eagerly embraced their new constitution. Small copies are carried around, referred to, and the import of its provisions is discussed frequently. A cornucopia of civil rights that guarantees all a free education, free quality health care, a clean environment, a comfortable home with essential services, minority rights of traditional cultures, religions, languages, etc. Economic rights to employment require an equal and a living wage for work of equal value, a safe working environment, restrictions on labor standards, i.e., dismissals, hours, wages. Social security covers maternity, sickness, unemployment, invalidity, old-age and survivors' benefits. Work in the home entitles women homemakers to social security. Many of these rights have not been entirely implemented but it is a goal that the government is striving to achieve.
Can the problems of housing, education, health care, unemployment, poverty, crime, privacy, and war ever be adequately considered and acted upon? Yes, by dethroning the elite and granting sovereignty to the vast majority of the people by constructing a constitution that truly grants them power by permitting them input to policy decisions!
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