Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Quo Vadis?

It's become fashionable in some circles to deride those who would preserve and restore the Constitution, encompassing the Bill of Rights, as though that would ever work.

The earnest sophists regard those who suggest that as sort of governmental Amish, in a "Oh look, Martha, people living 200 years in the past and hard-working but too mentally simple to grasp modern conveniences and realities" sort of way. Those of meaner grasp stop at sheer diatribe and derision for the idiot bumpkins who foolishly think it ever worked, or ever will.

But when you get people of good will, decent faculties, and reasonable disagreement to discuss it, you will find that little has changed since the Federalists and anti-federalists went at each side rhetorically in 1787; the debates, the problems, and the solutions remain remarkably familiar to anyone who is a student of that struggle, and the discussions that were recorded amidst those days.

This is what makes the American experiment's  juice worth the squeeze, and animates actual debate between rational men of goodwill.

I bring this up because, after some good hiatus, for those who hadn't checked, CA re-opened comments this week over at WRSA, after a multi-month absence.

CA, the bloghost there, is an honest, and honorable man. It's a small club, even on our side. (But not as small as you think, even in your darkest fears.) We've met in real life, and literally broken bread together (and that's a very small club for me, I assure you). In fact, I owe him a dinner next time he's in town.
Whichever of us is right in this discussion, or more right, is for the reader to decide, and while either - or neither - of us may express it better, Truth itself is almost certainly an alloy of both our positions. The question may well be merely a matter of percentages and degree, far more than either/or.

In specific, the discussion has turned, yet again, to the (imaginary) failure of the Constitution to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent. As if any few sheets of parchment could contain and replicate God on earth.

There is no document for your government that will work until you have perfect people.
And at that point, you don't need a document.

That was apparent going back thousands of years.

And you're never going to have perfect people.

You do the best you can, with what you've got.
And live with what happens.

When a wheel breaks, you repair or replace it; you don't burn the wagon.
It matters not what ship you build, eventually, you have to pull it out of the water, and scrape the barnacles off the hull.

This is why Jefferson, whose thoughts I alluded to earlier elsewhere, suggested that "from time to time, the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
It's why President Adams observed that "our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to govern any other."
It's why, when questioned on the form of the new government, Ben Franklin sagely replied, "a republic, if you can keep it."

There ain't never going to be a perfect document, nor perfect people, on this earth. Any government, and any constitution, is ultimately doomed, given enough time. If you can improve on what we have, let's hear how that would work, given the material you have to work with. At best, you might manage a tweak or three. In fact, the tweaks plugged in after Day One are largely and demonstrably exactly the problem now, not the solution to it.

Communism, denying any spiritual nature to mankind, decided that they just need to kill everyone who doesn't "get it", thus perfecting the species until they achieve ultimate perfection. How that works out in real life is lying scattered across Russian steppes, dumped in trenches in Manchuria, rotting in Cuban prisons, and stacked up in skeletonous piles in Cambodia. It's eating cats and zoo animals in Caracas right this minute, and just about to kick off a new wave of slaughter. And its spiritual heirs all slobbering to kick off the ball on campuses and in newsrooms and cloakrooms here from Key West to Kiska.

The document you would replace has been debased with accretions that killed it, and crushed under the weight of a million corrupt douchebags, thieves, liars, and scoundrels, from presidents to dog catchers, aided and abetted by the most slovenly, dissolute, and disinterested electorate in history, and beaten down and choked to death by bookshelf yards of laws and code and legalese that would choke not a horse, but a herd of them, several times over.

People can be improved, assuredly, but never perfected.
At least, not by other people, and not in this lifetime.
Documents that rely on that raw material - as they all do - are therefore doomed to fail eventually, given enough time.

Look at cars: when they were slow, and clunky, a crash was about as serious as falling off a horse, or crashing two wagons; a few cross words, maybe some splintered lumber, and very rarely, an injured animal or occupant.

But we've perfected them vastly now, and even junkers will achieve speeds that would have won at Indianapolis Speedway a century and more ago. They're more perfect, faster, even safer. But the drivers are the same, if not worse, than formerly. So which way have the death tolls gone, and what sort of injuries have been suffered,  given that mean clay to work with behind the wheel?

And the newest idea is to make them driverless, and that genius plan has already racked up a body count, because the only thing more imperfect than humans is the software programmers devise, because they don't know what they don't know, nor admit that what goes on in three pounds of gelatinous human grey matter is a biochemical wonder light years beyond their grasp, and unapproachable with silicon and electrons, even with Moore's Law, billions of dollars, trillions of man hours, and pushing a century's head start. Its only virtue is to restrict human freedom, at the paltry expense of admitting tyranny into the equation "for your own good".

While you may make a slightly better governing document, you'll only ensure a bigger crash when it happens, you'll run over more people in the meantime, and do them greater injury, and you'll never "solve" the problem with the objects and operators of the system. Feel free to try, but I've yet to see anyone, anywhere, do a better job than what we have, except to strip away what never should have been welded onto the original boilerplate.

Trying to tweak the document is worthy, but I've seen nothing that would improve on what minds the equal or better of any since that original  assembly could come up with, and in fact prior attempts hastened the current collapse, far more than stayed it.

And trying to "fix" the objects of the exercise, or assuming them more perfectible than they are or will ever be, is a well-trodden path through a graveyard that stretches for hundreds of miles, over a journey of decades, with multi-story mausoleums of prior experiments stacked to the heavens.

So if we're going to add to that tally, or rather, be forced to do so, as appears more likely by the day, let's at least ensure that it waters the Tree of Liberty, rather than cutting it down, planting some new acorn, and hoping against all odds that it sprouts and outgrows the last one.


Pat H. said...

The Articles of Confederation were far superior to the current Constitution. The current constitution is working exactly as intended by the Federalists. Curses upon John Jay, Geo. Washington, and Alexander Hamilton.

Ref: "Hamilton's Curse".

Aesop said...

Unfortunately Pat, all the assembled representatives of every colony, the actual Congress, and the individual state legislatures of all thirteen states all disagree with that assertion.
There are entire books on the topic. Libraries, even.

So I can believe you, or my lying eyes, and a literal fuckton of contrary primary-source evidence.

I'm not a big fan of historical revisionism, regardless of the motives, mainly because of the company it keeps.

Anonymous said...

There is no keeper of the truth but God above. Even though the U.S. Constitution were completely abandoned, the human spirit and all it's manifestations would remain in full. The truth remains, even if none were to accept it.


Anonymous said...

I think we went seriously off the rails when we accepted that there could be such a thing as a career politician. Congressmen, Senators, even the President and Vice President, were intended to be offices held for a time by men who'd been successful BEFORE they went into politics, then after a couple terms they were supposed to leave public service and return to their careers. In effect, they put their careers on hold for a few years, performed a public service in exactly the same manner in which we serve on jury duty, then leave and go back to their old life.

Washington, Jefferson, Adams and company would be shocked that people today study Political Science in college, or that there are currently thirteen members of Congress who have been there since before I was old enough to vote (that would be people first elected to Congress over 37 years ago). Let alone that three men (thankfully all no longer in Congress) who've served in Congress longer than I've been alive so far.

Sure, they'll claim to be public servants. They serve the public in much the same manner as a bull serves a cow.

Mark D

Anonymous said...

+1 on Mark D's last statement...
I think many people today conflate knowledge with intelligence; viz, "We have more knowledge than our forebears, thus we are more intelligent and so should change what they built as it was clearly designed by inferior people."
Based on the nonsense being spouted by millennials today, I'd say it's quite the converse. People seem to be less intelligent AND more ignorant of anything beyond trivial or personal issues.

RandyGC said...

Any 2nd LT dependent on the good graces of their NCOIC quickly learns the truth that being newly "educated" doesn't mean you have any truly new ideas, or a clue as to how to "fix" things.

It's a lesson more painful for some than others. (fortunately I've usually been good at learning from witnessing the pain and stupidity of others).