I’ve discussed before the trouble with relying on the Constitution when making arguments for this or that policy, particularly among libertarians. There is a great irony in seeing those that deride “statism” stand side-by-side with a document that created one of the largest, most overreaching states in the history of the world.
Before the Constitution, the “united” states were loosely affiliated under the Articles of Confederation, but there was no overriding federal authority until the Constitutional Convention formed the federal government in 1787. I see no need to delve into history further; if you so choose there are many avenues by which one can educate themselves on U.S. history.
During the recent standoff at the Bundy Ranch which I discussed earlier this week, many of his supporters were giving reverence to the Constitution in their defense of Bundy. Cliven Bundy himself has referenced the Constitution in his defense, stating to Fox News:
This is a lot bigger deal than just my cows…It’s a statement for freedom and liberty and the Constitution.
So what’s the problem? I’m all for freedom and liberty; heck, I’m all for encouraging the Federal Government to, at the very least, limit itself to the powers clearly defined in the Constitution. Powers which are far too broad, but I digress….
The problem is that the Constitution has ushered in many of the very issues which Cliven Bundy and his supporters are battling with right now. The Constitution not only created the federal government; it also allowed that very same federal government to own and acquire land for public use. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution allows the federal government to own land for a variety of uses (though of course, “protecting tortoises” was not one of them.) Additionally, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution essentially codifies the federal government’s right to use eminent domain to seize formerly private property for its own use. Most of the fifth amendment sounds just peachy until you get to the end (emphasis mine):
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.