Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Constitutional Contradictions

I’m as much of a fan of the Founding Fathers as anyone but I certainly realize they weren't perfect.  I believe they came up with the best guiding document for government in the history of the world.  But, like the Founders themselves, this document was not meant to be perfect.  What happens when the Constitution disagrees with itself?  I’m going to point out some examples and then hopefully convince you that it is more important to follow principles instead of laws, because principles are always true, while constitutions and laws can, and often do, get it wrong.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”.  So basically people don’t have to testify against themselves.  That's good because it gets rid of some coercion!  But then in the Sixth Amendment it states that “the accused shall enjoy the right…to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”.  That means the court can force people to testify to defend the accused.  So, a witness can be forced to testify or else he will be guilty of contempt of court, which is a criminal offense.  Wait, when someone is accused of a crime, don’t they have the right to NOT testify?  This is a paradox and an appeal to the Constitution will not provide the answer. 

The Tenth Amendment reserves to the States or to the people, all powers that are not delegated to the federal government.  That effectively ensures the sovereignty of the States.  But then the Seventeenth Amendment abolished the practice of state legislatures electing US senators, completely removing the States from having a part in the federal government, an institution which was created by the States.  Now there is no recourse for the States when the federal government infringes on state sovereignty, except for federal courts, which are, of course, appointed by the federal government.  Additional confusion in this area comes from the Eleventh Amendment which bars individuals from suing States in which they do not reside, presumably because States are sovereign.  But isn't the Constitution the supreme law of the land?  More contradictions.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude”.  Involuntary servitude is when one person is coerced to work for the financial benefit of another.  But then the Sixteenth Amendment and other parts of the Constitution grant Congress the power to tax various forms of wealth creation.  Taxation forces individuals to hand over their property to the government, effectively putting them into a form of involuntary servitude.  This is yet another contradiction in the United States Constitution.

So, what are we to do when faced with these contradictions, whether they were created by the Founders or by later generations?  Should we just scrap the Constitution since it doesn't make sense?  No, not necessarily.  I encourage everyone to seek out the principles behind their beliefs, and when those principles have been identified, see if that is what you truly believe.  If so, let those principles guide you.  One of my guiding principles is the non-aggression principle.  That principle enables me to see what is right when the laws get it wrong.  No one has to study everything the Founders did to know what is right.  They weren't gods.  You just need to know correct principles and apply them consistently.  

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