by Bodwyn Wook
THE Role of the national constitution as evolved in the old Atlantic West is to constrain government and debar it from any activity harmful to the natural rights of the governed. It is to protect individuals as citizens from all that is inimical on the part of state in any form to their daily saltations & gambits as free men and women. The constitutional above all is to control the statistical fact of the halfwits who tend to surface in large-order state set-ups. They, and the bullying subset, are probably virtual constants in these same large-order populations.
TO Keep them, the moral midgets, low & thwarted as to possession of any public authority is the implicit task of the constitutional, and this is so in all cases.
TO Revert to earlier rounds, one is still revolving ones thoughts on the question of a desirable vagueness and uncertainty in constitutional provisions, when once the basic natural rights of the social creature are consented.
LAST Week an English libertarian, as a sop to us Yanks one must suppose, stipulated as a proviso — “amendment” they would say here — to any new written-down English constitution that things in it couldn’t be changed by later governments. One necessarily views this, too, with some dubiety of feeling. It is because even after the American Civil War, there is still no statement as such in the Constitution of the United States that a state or portion cannot — “may” not — leave the federal union. And of course, for sake of Liberty, that is a jolly good thing.
THE Story of our American “Bill of Rights” is perhaps instructive:
It was the distant captiousness of a class-ridden la-di-dah central government that, nonetheless, was trying intermittently to be reasonable that eventuated in the first written constitution of a sovereign electoral state. (How different affairs might have gone in negotiation had there been a faster mode of travel than by sail!) In any case, the American “bill of rights” was a sop also, to appease an essentially class-directed and alreadysectional haggle here as between Federalists and so-called Republicans of the time. It was an alarmed response in part to stave off, as some hoped, the fatal emergence of parties. Others felt as a philosophical matter that “rights” are as numerous as citizens, or indeed individuals. A specific summary of these as then popularly construed (there is no provision for privacy, you know!) was meant as a hedge against the greater federal power sought by such bravoes as Alexander Hamilton and other strivers after an illegitimate and stupid, piss-drinking, nationalism. Then, straightaway, President Madison backed his jeffersonian over-large backside into the buzz-saw need for strong federal government because of the emergency in supplies in the (not necessary) War of 1812….
Now, rather incidentally, people are calling in some quarters — rather ephemerally it does seem to me — for a ‘technological bill of rights’:
By extension, some in the Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom are saying these matters should be included as the LPUK draughts a written English constitution.
One is not at all certain of the analogy between this bill of goods, and electronic machinery and gizmoes; and so, it may be oddly enough, here one finds oneself backing in the direction once again of the more general: it is an excellent example of the meaning in it, when one says one must not be too “principled” in principle, in — constitution-making!
Why did not this all come up in the Age of Steam or something? After all, that technological phase put pressures of all sorts on Liberty in its day, too. It is probably all a bit overwrought, whereas an addition to the English (& US) constitution, on privacy as a right, might just do.
[Bodwyn Wook all rights reserved 19 May 2009]