It’s Actually Time For A Constitutional Moment
Libertarians and conservatives must join hands to protect the Constitution, or lose it.
For America to flourish, it doesn’t need a “libertarian moment” or even a conservative moment, with the latter’s emphasis on “traditional morality.” It needs libertarians and conservatives to come together to defeat their common enemy—radical utopian statists and their centralized, ever-expanding welfare state. If our liberties are to be protected, conservatives and libertarians must stand united on the principles of limited government.
What America needs is a “constitutional moment.”
The Founders, particularly James Madison, understood above all else the complexity of human nature. Men are not angels, but neither are they demons. Men are physical creatures with material needs, but they are also spiritual with an eye and obligation to the transcendent. Men are rational, but prone to appetites. Men are individuals, but made to be social, to live in community. Men are free to do as they wish, but they are not free to violate others’ rights. Men are self-interested, but they sometimes choose evil (even contrary to their own self-interest)—and that evil increases with an expansion of power.
Madison and men like Thomas Jefferson, who were well steeped in John Locke’s philosophy of natural rights, sought to establish an ordered society out of these seemingly irreconcilable contradictions—contradictions that radical liberals are always futilely trying to “fix” in their ideological quest for utopia. But the Founders, with their minds informed by the Western Judeo-Christian heritage as well as the rationality of the Enlightenment (another apparent, though not actual, contradiction), were realists and accepted these contradictions. In doing so, they created a political system based on the true nature of man. The Founders learned, as Bacon said, to command nature by obeying her.
It is significant that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were themselves men of complexity. They were, as Walter Berns wrote in “The Need for Public Authority” (an essay inside “Freedom and Virtue”), private men, committed to their families, their churches, their civic organizations, but they were dedicated to public service. They had left the Old World for the New. They were informed by a civilized heritage and educated in the great traditions of the past, but were on the cusp of a new age of seemingly endless possibilities, economically, politically, and technologically. They were self-interested individuals who were deeply concerned about others.
These men, with all their complexities, came together to form a government unlike any the world had ever seen—but it was no easy task. Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In forming a government, which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Government Still Can’t Enforce Morality
The solution was to limit government. Men are not angels, so they need to be governed, but government is made up of imperfect men who are easily corrupted; therefore, their power must be limited. Hence, federalism was born.
Read more here: