I have often used the Constitution as one way of justifying my opposition to “laws” passed or proposed by Congress and the President. After all, the US Constitution is touted by many people as the “supreme law of the land.”
But, very few people ever ask why it is the supreme law of the land, or why it even has any power at all, and almost no one asks if it is the supreme law of the land, or if it has any power at all.
In fact, it is the Constitution that calls itself the “supreme Law of the Land.” So if you ask someone why the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, they are likely to respond by telling you that it says so right there in the Constitution. If you were to then respond to that by asking what gives the Constitution the right to declare that it is the supreme law of the land, they are likely to respond by saying that it is the supreme law of the land (or something to that same effect). This is what philosophers call a tautological argument, and what everyone else calls a circular argument.
Is the Constitution the supreme law of the land?
Well, the Constitution was a contract. It was signed by 39 men at the Constitutional Convention (out of the 55 delatates). Following this, the States held their own votes on ratification in which 1071 men voted in favor of adopting the new Constitution. But, all this tells us is that 1,100 men agreed to the Constitutional Contract. What of the 16 delegates who refused to sign the Constitution? What of the hundreds of men who voted against the ratification of the Constitution in their State legislatures. And most importantly, what of the people who were not given the opportunity to vote for or against the Constitution?
Would it be right to assume that the people who explicitly refused to sign a contract should be forced to abide by it?
But, the vast majority of Americans were not allowed to vote at the time of the Constitution. This included children, slaves, women, indentured servants, and (in many States) those who did not own property. They had no say in their local or State governments, and thus no representation in the Constitutional Convention (which—by the way—was authorized by the Congress to amend the Articles of Confederation, not to replace it). The Revolutionary War, which ended less than 5 years before the Constitutional Convention, was fought over the issue of “taxation without representation.” We must ask ourselves if being governed without one’s consent is substantively different than being taxed without one’s consent/representation. And no, these arent just the musings of a lone libertarian. According to recent polling, only 23% of America voters believe that the United States government has the “consent of the governed,” while 62% say that it does not.
Imagine if Verizon offered to provide you with wireless service in exchange for a fee, but for whatever reason, you EXPLICITLY DECLINED to sign the contract (even though most of your neighbors agreed). Could anyone rightfully assume that Verizon would have the right to declare itself your provider? Of course not.
Lysander Spooner brilliantly pointed out that those who support the Constitution often use the right to vote as a method of justifying the legitimacy of the government. A simple examination of these arguments reveals that this argument falls into a severe tautological trap as well. For eaxmple:
- If I vote for the winning candidate, I have given my consent to his actions because I have sanctioned his platform. Furthermore, I have given sanction to the Constitution by participating in its institutions.
- If I vote against the winning candidate, I have still given my consent to the Constitution because the act of voting implies that I agree to the process outlined in the Constitution and that I would expect the losers of the vote to abide by the results of the vote had my candidate of choice won.
- If I choose not to vote, then I have no right to complain about the government because I have declined to participate in a “valid” process which could have yielded different results had I participated.
Thus, whether or not I vote, and whether or not I vote for the winner, I am giving sanction to the Constitution and to the actions of the government. We can easily see how this is a circular argument, akin to the expression “damned if you dont, damned if you do.” You dont have to be a trained philosopher to realize that this argument isnt a sound one.
Lysander Spooner argued that the Constitution actually bound no one. I agree with his logic, but have reached different conclusions. I will argue that the Constitution does not bind very many people, but it does bind those (and only those) who have expliticly agreed to the Contract.
The President, Vice President, and members of Congress all take an oath upon entering office. In doing so, they are explicitly giving their consent to the Constitution and agree to act in accordance to this Constitution.
Thus, the President, Vice President, and Congress are required by law to uphold the Constitution and its provisions, whether or not they like what it says. Failure to do so is a violation of their oath and a violation of the laws of the government that they have explicitly agreed to serve. The President’s oath reads
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Notice the final clause which demands that the President “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Thus, the President must use his veto power whenever Congress passes a law that violates the terms of the Constitutional Contract. Failure to do so would be an explicit violation of the President’s oath and grounds for removal from office.
Similarly, the oath of Congressmen reads:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
This oath differs in that it requires members of Congress to ” support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. [Emphasis added]” This is an important difference, as it not requires Congressmen to defend the Constitution against domestic enemies as well. Thus, every member of Congress has a duty to defend the Constitutional Contract from those who wish to undermine it. This must not only include other members of Congress who are bent on undermining the Constitution, but also must include protecting the Constitution against Presidents who rountiely violate the Constitution and their oath to the Constitution.
But if most members of Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, Cabinet, and most of the executive bureaucracy—the people who have taken an oath to the Constitution and who are thus bound by it—refuse to adhere to the Constitution or to their oath, then why should we, the American people have to abide by the Constitution?
Generations of Congresses and Presidents have routinely violated the Constitution and have trampled on the protections afforded in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 15th, and 21st amendments. Their actions have rendered many of the above amendments nothing more than “dead letters.” The trampling of the Constitution by the very people who have sworn to protect it is not limited to the Constitutional amendments themselves, but also includes the routine violation of many of the protections contained in the body of the Constitution itself.
I have pointed out that members of Congress and the President have taken oaths requiring adherence to the Constitution. We The People, on the other hand have not. This fact alone leads to the logical conclusion that the Constitution does not apply to those of us who have not declared allegiance to it. And yet, many of those who ahve taken official oaths to the Constitution routinely violate it. Thus, the question must again be asked: if most members of Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, Cabinet, and most of the executive bureaucracy—the people who have taken an oath to the Constitution and who are thus bound by it—refuse to adhere to the Constitution or to their oath, then why should we, the American people have to abide by the Constitution?
In addition to Presidents and the Congress, members of the military take oaths of loyalty to protect and defend the Constitution as well:
“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic [emphasis added]; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
The military oath not only requires that members of the armed services protect America against foreign invasion, but also requires that these members protect the Constitution from domestic enemies (those who have sworn allegiance to the Constitution but violate it) as well.
But, instead of taking their oaths seriously and defending the Constitution which they have sowrn to protect, Presidents, members of Congress, and members of the military have been much more willing to use their authority to force the American people to live under an unconstitutional (and nonconsensual) government.
I ask again: If the government refuses to abide by the Constitution, why should we?
The answer is that we shouldnt.
How long will we continue to allow Congress to rule over us using a “do as we say, not as we do” logic? The truth is that this has gone on long enough.
But, even if Congress, the President, and everyone else within the goverment followed their oaths perfectly, this would not be reason enough to follow their laws. The above statement stems fromt he simple fact that the vast majority of the American people have never sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. A simple example can be used to understand why we are not bound to the Constitution—even if it is perfectly followed. Imagine that someone declares himself to be the new owner of your car without your permission. This man has no legal or rightful claim to your car, but that doesnt stop him from claiming ownership. However, this man is “nice enough” to allow you to use the car whenever you want. Thus, his “ownership” of your car doesnt interefere with your right to use the car in any way. But, does this mean that you should allow him to get away with the crime of claiming false ownership over your car? Of course not. It is true that while he still “allowed” you to drive your car whenever and wherever you wanted you probably wouldnt rebel against him, but that surely wouldnt meant hat you have accepted his claim of ownership over your car.
The vast majority of the readers of this article have taken no oath of allegiance to the Constitution or the the US Government (which itself is guilty of repeatedly violating the Constitution). I have never read the words of the oath aloud, I have never signed an oath of loyalty to the United States or to the Constitution. How then can anyone argue that this document binds those of us who have not taken a loyalty oath?
The Constitution itself was nothing more than a well orchastrated coup, designed to centralize the powers of the government into the hands of an elite few. The vast majority of citizens (and all of the slaves held) never had a proper say in the approval of the Constitution. And, as Lysander Spooner pointed out, one cannot sign a contract that binds future generations (wouldnt that be the greatest form of taxation without representation that is possible?). Thus, even if the Constitution somehow did bind all those living under it upon its ratification, it binds no one today but those who have explicitly agreed to it.
The Constitution does not bind those of us who have made no such explicit agreement. Thus, we have no legal or moral obligation to follow the “laws” put forth by Congress, the regulations created by Congress or executive agencies, or the executive orders and decrees made by the president.
I am not advising you to break the law—just because the law doesnt bind us does not mean that the government will not employ the use of men with guns to force you to comply with its laws and regultations. Just as an unarmed person would probably be better off (ie, would have a much better chance of survival) turning his wallet over to an armed robber who demanded the wallet, most people will find it easier to comply with the “laws” of the United States government rather than risk their own death or imprisonment.
But, even as we continue to hand the robber our wallet, this does not mean that we should recognize the legitimacy of the robber who demands tribute and restricts the liberty of so many millions of people. It certainly does not mean that we should be happy to hand the robber our hard earned wealth.
Recognizing the illegitimacy of the Constitution and the United States government is a very important step. The more that people recognize this fact and speak about it, the more obvious it will become to the populace.
A critical mass of Americans is needed to recognize that we do not owe our allegiance to the Constitution. Furthermore, this critical mass needs to realize that the United States government is illegitimate and that it has no moral right to tax, rule, or restrict the liberty of anyone who has not consented to be ruled. Only when the people wake up and realize these facts will we be able to restore our lost liberties.
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