Beyond Debate in a Post-Constitutional America?

I pose the title in the form of a question, but until I’m convinced otherwise, I think it is true, we are beyond debate in this post-Constitutional America.

I conclude this with a certain amount of sadness and frustration. Sadness because I think it does not bode well for our future. Frustration, because having recently taken to study classic Greek and Roman oratory and rhetoric, I’d like the opportunity to discuss differing views in a constructive way. Now, however, it seems that all too often regarding politics, the debate is over before it even has a chance to begin.

To discuss the dilemma I need to characterize the two opposing camps, but I’ll do so by avoiding the most common and inflammatory labels. As I see there are two primary values, and therefor two camps, around which people align – those being – freedom and equality. I concede this is a drastic simplification, but in the limit I think the debate distills down to these two values. Ideally, politics aside, we should strive to promote both. However, when it comes to our US Constitution, I do not think it is possible to insist on equal provision of both.

Based on my current understanding, our Constitution is so constructed to assure each person their individual freedom. I can not see a similar construct that institutionalizes a person’s assurance of equality. Again, in the limit it is not possible to provide equality without compromising individual freedom.

As introduced in our Declaration of Independence the notion of equality is important because is stated as the prerequisite condition for the discussion of rights. A person’s equality is the basis for endowment of the stated rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are ours, not to insure that we become equal, but they are ours because we are equal. The bulk of the remainder of the declaration itemizes complaints about the King’s restraint on freedoms and are cited as the reason for the declaration for freedom. I can not discern any similar grievance against the King regarding inequality – all speaks to freedom.

In a way the Declaration of Independence states what was being sought by separation from the King – the signatories were seeking freedom.

Consequently, our Constitution was formed to provide the structure as to how to govern ourselves in order to preserve, assure and maintain that freedom.

From the preamble to the Constitution its objectives are itemized; justice, domestic tranquillity, common defense, general welfare, and to “secure the blessings of liberty.” Personally, I think the “blessings of liberty” rise to a higher level of importance.

Freedom without justice, defense, welfare is still freedom. However justice or, defense, or welfare, without freedom, is unacceptable.

Many decisions today are seemingly promoted and made in the name of assuring or seeking equality. Obamacare, the executive order provision for the “Dreamers,” the general concept of redistribution of wealth (along with its specific implementation in tax policy or the Buffet rule) are but a few examples.

To me all of these legislative implementation choices for equality can only come at the expense of freedom. To that is what I object. However, that is not what people in general are willing to have a dialogue about.

Mention freedom as the basis for my position and the debate is over – I am left with someone from the equality camp telling me that I am wrong because the position they support is simply the “right thing to do.” Seemingly, doing the right thing, in the name of equality, trumps freedom.

I am not actively against any of these various causes, or even against doing “the right thing to do,” it is just that I’d prefer to support a solution that did not involve Government intervention.

Intervention on these matters only comes at the expense of freedom. I’ve never been able successfully engage in debate on the subject of freedom; that’s why I believe we have are beyond debate in a post-Constitutional America.

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