Daily RFT Reader on U.S. Constitution: Don't Forget the States!

Categories: Politics

​Our post yesterday questioning whether the U.S. Constitution is perhaps too old for its own good -- based on a new Wash U. study showing that foreign countries no longer emulate it the way they once did in the past -- prompted a call from attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri, who suggested that the story as we conveyed it did not present the full constitutional-law picture.

The Freedom Center of Missouri is a relatively new non-profit libertarian organization that promotes limited government. One of its most recent claims to fame is representing the Hazelwood girl scout who was admonished by her local government for selling cookies in her driveway. (They lost their court battle.)

Roland, the Missouri center's director of litigation, who is pictured above and has a very pleasant demeanor, phoned us in response to the lead of our blog post -- namely, that the U.S. Constitution does not protect women's rights, the right to work, the right to education, the presumption of innocence and the right to unionize or strike.

Americans should not be alarmed that those protections are not written into our original legal document, says Roland; the U.S. Constitution is designed to work in conjunction with the states' constitutions, which do protect those rights, he says.

"If you look at our own Missouri Constitution, that's where we get the right to educate, the right to bargain collectively with representatives of our own choosing," says Roland. "There are women's rights built into the Missouri Constitution, as well as other state constitutional provisions. One of the reasons the U.S. Constitution is as limited as it is is because of the expectation that the states would fill in those gaps."

Pressed as to whether he completely rejected the idea that the Constitution is a breathing document that could benefit from a little fresh oxygen, Roland says he is open to it -- particularly in regard to things his organization believes in, like a balanced-budget provision.

"I think it would be worthwhile to renew the contract with the people," he says, noting that the Constitution should mesh with the desires of what he considers our "center-right" country.

"The Founders were always open to changes," he continues. "I think we should be constantly having a conversation as to whether the Constitution meets our needs. One of founding principles of the United States is that the governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and we don't want to lose the consent of the people."

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I'm really glad the Dave commented on the story and I think it helps show others libertarians are not the crazies the media makes them out to be.  It is possible to deeply respect the constitution and its principles while acknowledging the need to change it.  However it should be acknowledged that in all authority based societies a tie-breaking mechanism must exist and that checks-and-balances must be themselves be checked by overrides. I understand Dave's point about State's rights.  The problem is that system resulted in a Civil War and our current federalized system that never quite reformed the State's rights issue 150 years ago.  Despite the State's authority our government’s charter still needs updating to guarantee additional protections, one’s that states cannot arbitrarily give or remove.

Daniel L.
Daniel L.

There are plenty of other federal countries that have many more basic provisions written out in their constitutions. States should get to decide certain things, but I don't want to be part of a union where Oklahoma has the option of stripping women of their rights if they choose. The other problem with our constitution is was written by people who think fundamentally differently, so the language can no longer be interpreted in terms of our language and contemporary legal culture. Almost every country in the world has a constitution that is less than 100 years old. Ours is more than double this. 

Tom Mansfield
Tom Mansfield

 The States' rights issue is spelled out pretty plainly in the Tenth Amendment.  The rights not specifically given to the federal government are reserved to the States and the People respectively.

The problem lies with the multitude of "interpretations" based on speculations that the Signers intent was deeper or different than what was written, perhaps even searching for different meanings in order to fulfill a particular agenda.  I don't see how those rights could be interpreted as anything different that what is written.

Take ObamaCare, for instance.  Where in the Constitution does it specifically state that the US Government has the right or obligation to:

A. Socialize healthcare?B. Force the People to purchase anything, including health insurance?C. Provide healthcare to anyone?

It does not.  Now someone who has a way with words and views the Constitution as a document that was written in riddles can twist it and spin it that way, and they do.  They do it so much, that two sides can spin the wording of a single amendment to mean two completely opposite things.   But that document was written so plainly, there really isn't room for interpretation.  And based on the way it was written, it's plain to me that the Authors said what they meant, and meant what they said.

You can rewrite it all you wan, but no matter how you word it, some liberal jackass will come along and spin it into something different.

If the federal government just the Constitution literally, so much money could be saved, so many lives would find balance, and once again, we could all once again enjoy Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

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