I respect his Ph.D. and Larry P. Arnn’s post-graduate work at the London School of Economics and Oxford University as well as his experience being President of Hillsdale College. At the same time I would respectfully query a number of his opinions in “The Unity and Beauty of the Declaration and the Constitution.” The interview by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution was recently published in Imprimis(Dec. 2011.).*
Some important issues should be mentioned.
First, I was drawn to this article out of my ongoing desire to understand what true conservatives are and how they would mold our country in the future. The current primary race lacks depth on that score. Second, let me be clear that I have no desire to trash the work of our Founding Fathers. If not infallible, these documents are certainly precious. However, the Founding Fathers did have in mind the amendment of the Constitution, carefully and cautiously over time. Sooner or later, one has to deal with culture changed by Darwin, quantum physics, and the salience of relative over absolute thinking. I mean that what good is learning if we do not apply it. And none of this makes the existence of God impossible. In fact I read somewhere that the “God particle” does not preclude something akin to deism.
Arnn says that never forgetting the formidable risks and challenges of the American Revolution, we should not oversimplify the 18th Century in contrast to our own issues in the 21st. Nevertheless, the Founding Fathers knew nothing of the industrial revolution, two mechanized world wars and proliferation of nuclear arsenals. Arnn speaks of the health care bureaucracy that will inundate the dollar value of society itself. The Founders also knew nothing of the great potential of medical research and the practice of medicine. He speaks of rule-making bureaucracy that threatens to destroy freedom and liberty as though the costs and complexities of health care do not threaten to bankrupt the middle class.
The solution to our constitutional challenges for Arnn seem to be a return to prudence and principle in the neo-classical style of the Enlightenment which will triumph over tyrannical rules imposed by big government. He cites a 500-page volume of rules regulating education. Then he recommends the example of Hillsdale College based on an honor system and a few good principles. Would that every young American could have such an elite education! There is no mention of the huge challenges successfully met and being met still by land-grant institutions. huge bureaucracies, that advance the Jeffersonian ideal — all of it with huge tax subsidies.
While it was an interview of very specific questions, there seems to me to be some major constitutional issues that never came up. For one I mention the possibility that the professional lobbies holding our Congress in thrall comes down to a constitutional question. Have we not effectively a fourth, ad hoc branch of government, totally unanticipated by the Founding Fathers. The Norquist pledge especially is an extra-governmental power capable of abrogating the oath of office taken by constitutionally elected representatives of The People. If representatives want to vote no, they should vote no, but an oath to always close one’s mind is anti-intellectual, illogical and irresponsible. Representatives are accountable to themselves, voters at home and the Constitution. Oaths to God and country are one thing. An oath to a lobbyist is quite another. And we’re not talking about the Boy Scout Oath here.
I mention also, corporations that have the legal personhood of one, but that employ hundreds. I presume that political opinion comes from the Board of Directors and the stockholders. Fine. Companies may say that the individual opinions of employees come out in the wash of election day. However, the real issue is whether or not the unlimited billions of political donations now permitted by the Supreme Court gives the “people” of corporations unfair advantage — due solely to the power to buy and sell elected officials. Money talks. Corporate money talks louder than John Doe’s money. Corporations have much more vital, immediate leverage on politicians than any single voter. The further question is whether or not corporate lobbying, especially related to multi-nationals, impacts our constitutional democracy. Does the Constitution need to answer this matter? Does the Constitution need to strengthen the oath of office?
Finally, tyranny does not necessarily come from complexity and size. Our private health care system does not work in the free market due to its inelastic, limitless demand. Costs are totally out of control. More and more it falls into the hands of a few monopolistic corporations. These corporations are more than willing to make money on the Advantage plans for Medicare, so fears of socialism cease at the point of profit. I cannot see any other solution than the public option, if there is to be competition in the “free” market.
Further, in 1789 American citizens were totally fatalistic about longevity, especially healthy longevity. One lived a long life or she didn’t. He led a healthy life or a sickly one and fate played its hand. Millions fell dead in a furrow behind a plow. Not so today. Proper and early treatment can stave off fate for years. This blessing has become part of our “constitutional” makeup. Is it not clearly part of the pursuit of happiness — a mainstay of the common interest? (Why? Because these days longevity is possible.) If the answer is yes, then the matter is as constitutional as the right to education. Access to good health care should be no more wealth-based, than general education. It just didn’t happen to be an issue in 1789. It couldn’t possibly have been an issue. The promise of longevity for all was impossible.
By all means, let us have principles and prudence in all that we do. In the end leadership demands that we get our priorities right in a modern world in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with equal justice for all.
Steadfast and cautious,
*Please note that the following applies to my link to Imprimis.
“Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”
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