Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Constitution: Not Just Dead, but Fragrant

In the news: the U.S. Supreme Court, a creature of the central government, has decided -- surprise, surprise! -- that when the feds and individual states may happen to disagree about whether residents of those states might or might not be allowed to use marijuana, that those "sovereign" states can just enjoy a nice hot cup of Shut the Hell Up.

Yes, I know it's "medical" marijuana we're talking about. That's of little interest to me, and is also completely irrelevant to the political questions involved. And, to pre-empt a couple of other irrelevancies: I do not use, nor have I ever used, marijuana or any other proscribed substance; and I'm reasonably well convinced that such use is a bad idea.

So what?

Lots of things, from watching teevee to eating greasy double-bacon-cheeseburgers to buying state lottery tickets, are bad ideas. Some (fewer every year, but some) are still legal. As it happens, I also think that a network of militarized, corrupt police forces is a bad idea, too, as are the vast sums of stolen wealth that our various governments spend to finance what is alleged to be a "war on drugs," and seems instead to be one front in their war on our liberties. Yes, I'm pretty sure that drugs (meaning, primarily, the illegal ones, along with their legal "recreational" brothers, alcohol and tobacco) are a bad idea. But not every bad idea should be proscribed by law.

My purpose here, though, is not to discuss the pharmacology of synthetically simulated bliss. It is, instead, to point out one more example of the extremely dead condition of the U.S. constitution, and of the order of things that the constitution was supposed to preserve. The constitution does not empower the central government to regulate the laws of "the several states," except in a few enumerated matters, such as making treaties with foreign powers and coining money. The constitutional enumeration of these exceptions is quite explicit. The other, un-authorized regulations of the states by the feds, which are as numerous as the grains of sand on a miles-long beach, are what the founders called usurpations. The founders warned incessantly of the danger that we might tolerate the usurpation of power by the central government.

And tolerate those usurpations we have; indeed, sometimes we have demanded them, when frightened by real or imagined wars, or when greedy for doles in the thousands of forms that public doles can take, or when seduced by the itch to see our fellow citizens forced to behave in ways that we find congenial. U.S. history has repeatedly demonstrated two fatal weaknesses in the idea of constitutional government. First, a constitution is a document, which obviously cannot enforce itself; its enforcement relies on the integrity of the governors, and on the courage of the governed, both of which are in notoriously short supply. Second, a constitution is neutered when the government that is supposedly limited by that constitution takes unto itself the power of saying what the constitution's words mean. I honestly doubt that the founders intended that Americans should drift along for more than two centuries without overthrowing the government at least once. Jefferson's quote about the tree of liberty requiring periodic nourishment by the blood of patriots did not, I am sure, mean that Americans should perpetually be going halfway around the world to kill and die in the furtherance of the imperial ambitions of the supervisory class. I think he was talking about the proper relationship between free Americans and their would-be supervisors.

Those who favor the continuation of pot prohibition are doubtless cheered by the feds' discovery that their word trumps that of state legislators ... but they shouldn't be. The players' lineup in Washington changes slowly, but it does change. A few decades from now, the regime may suddenly affect to discover some penumbral emanations from the Fourth Amendment such that federal laws against dope-smoking might themselves become "unconstitutional," and (of course!) the corresponding state laws would then be unacceptable, too: a Roe v. Wade deal. That will be wrong, wrong, wrong -- but no wrong-er than what's being done now. We're all getting the tyranny we deserve.


LP Mike Sylvester said...

The Republican and Democratic Parties do NOT believe in The Constitution very much. I would have to say that I think The Republicans believe in the Constitution a little more then their Democratic brethren.

The Constitution was written to protect the authority of the fifty states. The powers of the fifty states have been severely curtailed by The Federal government.

Medical marijuana is a good example. I do not smoke marijuana, nor do I ever want to smoke marijuana. That being said, it should be up the the fifty states whether medical marijuana is legal within that state, NOT THE FEDERAL government.

Another good example of this is the use of Federal Highway funds to extort the fifty states. It seems like whenever the Federal government wants to blackmail or extort the fifty states, they just threaten to with-hold Federal highway money. I would like to see the governors stand up to The Federal government.

I suggest everyone read The
Constitution. You must read it, your politicians will not!

Bartleby said...

Why only "medical" marijuana? Is there some other form of marijuana, the use of which the Constitution empowers the central government to forbid or regulate?

Reading the Constitution is indeed a fine idea. It won't solve the problem, though ... unless it inspires us to overthrow our tyrants. Voting -- in the current context -- hasn't, won't, and can't get the job done.