Sunday, May 11, 2014

Federalist? Anti-Federalist? How About "Virtuous Constitutionalist"?

A thought-provoking essay which asks the Tea Party folks to join the Constitutionalist movement, and then do the really hard work of doing something other than worshiping Mammon.

The author recites arguments from both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties, then moves to his proposed resolution:

...The modern conservative movement has a unique opportunity to address these unresolved issues in a manner that strengthens both adherence to the Constitution and the spirit of liberty on which it is based. To exploit this opportunity, however, conservatives will have to focus on requiring all three branches of the federal government to adhere to the actual provisions of the Constitution.

Of course, there's a Big Problem with that:

...In particular, it will require them to push the Congress to exercise its powers under Article I in a responsible and effective manner.

May as well ask water to run uphill.

Congress has allowed its constitutional powers to make laws and declare war to atrophy by a de facto unconstitutional delegation to the executive branch. Instead of passing clear and comprehensible laws that reflect well-crafted political compromises, Congress has fallen into the habit of writing unclear and overly complex laws that require the unconstitutional delegation of policy making authority to executive agencies for their implementation.

There's a reason for that:   Congress-critters seek re-election.  Actually passing definitive laws will put their double-talking, slime-sliding, gobbledygook-pushing little selves out of business.

Let's face it:  it's much easier to raise campaign cash by subtly playing "judicial appointments" and "regulatory change" flapdoodle to the right audiences, whether Lefty or Righty.

Don't believe that?  Well, then, which "small Gummint" House members de-funded ObozoCare when the chance came?


Buy more ammo.

But there's more.

...conservatives will first have to embrace the concept of citizen responsibility that is so central in the writings of great conservatives such as Adam Smith and Edmund Burke, and their classical forbears, particularly Aristotle. The darker passions of human nature threaten both individual well-being and social harmony. They must be checked from within or without. If they are not checked by cultivated moral sentiments from within, they will be checked by state power from without, however misguided the exercise of that power may be.

True dat.

....Unfortunately the modern conservative movement has operated under the false premise that economic self-interest will provide the necessary internal check. In an effort to counter so-called “liberalism,” postwar conservatives such as William F. Buckley substituted religion for the classical ideas of republican virtue and civic responsibility that are the foundation of earlier 19th and 20th century conservatism. By fusing a diffuse and undefined concept of religion with extreme libertarianism and its worship of free markets, postwar conservatives created a political philosophy that supports market competition as a good unto itself without any moral constraints based on a concept of the “common good” that transcends tribal preferences based on religion, culture, or race.

This philosophy is inconsistent with the Constitution in word and in spirit.

At this point, the author wanders into fuzziness himself.

...In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle defines happiness as acts in pursuit of the highest virtue, carried out in the context of a complete life. Steeped in classical ideas, and particularly Stoic conceptions of virtue (Washington had his soldiers perform Addison’s Cato at Valley Forge), our founders would have understood, appreciated and internalized Aristotle’s definition.

They would not have understood or appreciated the economic partisanship and social atomism that is all to prevalent among self-described conservatives, including some Tea Party activists, many of whom are prepared to defend benefits of the welfare state that go to themselves and their families, but are willing to deny them to people who are less fortunate than themselves. There are valid reasons for criticizing Obamacare, but some conservatives appear to oppose it primarily because it appears to threaten their privileged access to benefits and make them pay for extending those benefits to other “less-deserving” citizens.

Well.  "Some," "many," "appears," and the comparatives which pepper those grafs tell us that the author is in trouble--so he equivocates.  Why not just agree with Deneen, (no mean thinker, by the way) and include in 'civic virtue' the mandate of personal charity combined with a strong defense of 'intermediary institutions' which could effectively distribute that charity?

So yah.  Constitutionalism is the right path, exercised in lockstep with the Law of Subsidiarity and the virtue of charity.  The other required virtue:  self-restraint in pursuit of the common good.

It's a very tall order, but a miracle might happen.

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