Perspectives: Why the Constitution remains relevant today

Image courtesy Pixabay, St. George News

OPINION — Thousands of county and state delegates throughout Utah will be keeping busy over the next two weekends as their respective nominating conventions take place.

There will be political speechifying and flags and banners aplenty as various candidates vie for the opportunity to be placed on the ballot for the upcoming primary and general elections. It’s also likely that there will be deep regard expressed for the U.S. Constitution and its blueprint for the American republic.

With this in mind, I’d like to remind these delegates, and anyone else so interested, what our Constitution is and why it remains relevant in our time.

The story of the U.S. Constitution begins with understanding why those who framed it chose to declare their independence from Great Britain and were willing to fight and die to secure their self-determination.

In the Declaration of Independence – the legal document that underlies the Constitution – we find the moral, philosophical and political basis for what would become the American system of government. It began with the assertion of “self evident truths” that our natural rights do not originate from government but are endowed upon “all men” by “their Creator.”

It also states that, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. …”

Did you catch that? The rights of the people come from God. The powers of the government come from the people.

This principle is key to understanding the Constitution that would follow.

At that time, the powers exercised by the king and by Parliament were only limited as far as they were willing to limit themselves.

As the Tenth Amendment Center points out:

In a nutshell, the 18th century British system the Americans went to war to free themselves from rested on a living, breathing constitution. The government itself defined and enforced whatever limits it might have. Essentially, it was unlimited in power and authority.

The American founding generation emphatically rejected this belief in government supremacy. They believed that justice, according to natural law or right, served to limit all political power.

Once the 13 states had secured their independence from Britain, they set about instituting a system that would define and limit the powers of government for the purpose of defending rather than threatening our freedoms. This means that liberty permitted government power to exist rather than power grudgingly allowing the exercise of liberty.

Even so, that power was to be strictly limited to protecting freedom with the voluntary consent of the governed.

The result of their efforts was the U.S. Constitution, which called into existence a federal government with clearly enumerated and limited powers delegated to it by the people. Those powers were deliberately separated and broken up to prevent the mischief that inevitably follows the consolidation of power in the hands of the few.

Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting the newly formed republic observed:

The attributes of the federal government were carefully defined [in the Constitution], and all that was not included among them was declared to remain to the governments of the individual states. Thus the government of the states remained the rule, and that of the federal government the exception.

The framers wisely refrained from handing the new federal government a blank check and then trusting it to do the right thing. They locked it down and spelled out the upper limits of its power.

They understood the temptations that accompany all power.

We see this in our day whenever something bad happens and politicians clamor to enact new legislation without regard as to whether it is moral, rational or actually within their legitimate scope of authority. The limits the Constitution imposes on government power weren’t meant to be observed only in good times.

They were to remind us of the foundational reasons why our government exists during those times when politicians are clamoring to centralize power out of fear, anger or desperation.

Rather than giving us a so-called “living, breathing” Constitution that bends and twists with every shifting political fad, the framers gave us a framework of principles to which we could turn whenever questions arose.

No president, Supreme Court justice or legislator is above the Constitution. It created them, not the other way around.

In this sense, the Constitution serves as a sort of political scripture to keep us on track when we’re being tempted to go astray.

There is a mechanism within the Constitution by which it can be amended, when necessary. Thankfully, the framers set the bar high enough that we wouldn’t be tempted to change it for every little issue that arose.

Although the focus for the near future will be on candidates and personalities, the battleground on which our attention should be focused is in understanding and upholding the principles of our Constitution.

Our freedoms cannot exist when we allow ourselves to become subservient to government. That is why government power must remain within its proper Constitutional boundaries.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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29 Comments

  • comments April 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Can’t say there’s really anything to disagree with here.

    Off topic a bit, just an interesting thing to think about, I’ll go ahead and admit it: I am a recovering leftist. The strange part is, leftists are not at all wrong about the republican party. They are absolute corrupted, greedy filth to their core, far far worse at the national level. The problem with leftism is it clouds people’s judgment of just how bad the dems are. There’s always this ‘us vs them’ narrative that the political elites just love to keep going. I think it’s a strategy they use to cling to power, textbook ‘divide and conquer’. The fact is, no part of gov’t can ever be trusted. And the constitution has been shown to be quite flimsy when it’s attacked; a good example is the ‘patriot act’ after 9/11. I’m starting to think (or may I’m already convinced) that the 2nd amendment is the most important part of the constitution. Citizenry will always be battling with it’s gov’t I think. It’s basically just an everlasting battle against the evils of human nature. Gov’t can never be trusted. Those in gov’t must always be viewed with suspicion, constantly monitored and kept in check (which is why we need a free press, but that has been mostly hijacked and corrupted by sinister power-hungry and money-driven agendas).

    • ladybugavenger April 9, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      Admission is the first part to recovery 😉

      You shouldn’t trust either side. Although, I’m so glad Hillary is not President 😁

      • PogoStik April 9, 2018 at 6:51 pm

        Ms Bug,
        I’m so glad Trump isn’t President. I don’t know what he is, but he does not behave like the other 44 presidents.

        • ladybugavenger April 9, 2018 at 6:59 pm

          And that’s why he’s in the White House, pogo. 🤣

          • PogoStik April 9, 2018 at 8:28 pm

            Ha! He’s in Mara Largo, silly. Occasionally he takes a day to visit the WH. :-/

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 5:34 am

            😁

          • homer498 April 10, 2018 at 10:42 am

            Oh that’s why he’s in the WH. And all this time I was thinking it was because he suckered a whole bunch of people by playing off their fears & hatred of anyone not looking the way they do; but, especially black Presidents, and women: And they bought it “hook, line & sinker” while the rest of America slept through what was a wonderful circus act by the best clown on the planet. Now, no matter what the state of the economy from the Trump times, the right, far right, and especially the religious right, will forever be remembered for their condoning everything that has come out of his pathetic mouth. If the dems act like Trump once they get back into office: America is done!

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 12:21 pm

            Yep, that’s why he’s President! Lol

        • Death Valley April 10, 2018 at 5:39 am

          Trump is 1% president and 99% classless buffoon.

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 12:24 pm

            If this is the first president you’ve called a baloon, then shame on you.
            Turn off your tv, you will see that you will be much happier. 😁

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 12:30 pm

            Or baffoon haha!

          • Death Valley April 10, 2018 at 2:31 pm

            It’s BUFFoon, sweetie. 🙂
            And, no, this isn’t the first president I’ve used that term for. Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush junior were buffoons too.
            I don’t watch television either. I cut the cord over three years ago. What else you got?

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 3:31 pm

            I’m glad you have called others baffoons. It goes to show, you are an equal opportunity buffoon caller, i can respect that. however you left out Obama. 😁

          • No Filter April 10, 2018 at 3:40 pm

            Your comment is unfair to buffoons across the world. He is so bad he needs his own category.

          • ladybugavenger April 10, 2018 at 6:07 pm

            I mean no disrespect, it’s BUFFoon 😉

          • Death Valley April 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm

            I left out Obama because he didn’t get us involved in stupid wars that we didn’t belong in. Nor was he unfaithful to his wife. I honestly didn’t “get” Obama and I’m a bit ambivalent towards him. He was, however, presidential and professional. Unlike Mr. Dotard.

    • homer498 April 10, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Yeah, comments, there is something to disagree with; because when you have to invoke “God” into your argument, there’s no longer any sense in critical thought or discussion. The conversation for all intents & purposes, is over; unless of course you want to argue about God. It’s exactly the kind of thing the founding fathers would be against; not withstanding the fact that the words God, and Creator do appear in many of our most important documents.

      • comments April 10, 2018 at 11:51 am

        point taken. i suppose i let the whole ‘god thing’ slide just because i’m so used to it. bryan hyde is a fully indoctrinated LDS mormon, after all. i really never side with atheists or the religious in these type of discussions, because i’m not sure either one is worse than the other. it usually proves pointless, from what i’ve seen.

  • John April 9, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    You are so right , LBA !

  • Lastdays April 9, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    The most important reason the Constitution is still relevant today is that a document of this magnitude and importance could not be written today. It just wouldn’t be possible.
    There is no way 50-100 people could gather today and discuss, debate and formulate anything close to our Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights and Amendments that followed.
    A group of critical thinking people like the founders could not be assembled in today’s volatile emotional battle for who is the most right regarding any subject or current event.
    The Constitution was divinely inspired to take place in this great nation at the necessary time it all came together.
    If it goes down, we all go down. There’s just not many people out there who understand that.

  • commonsense April 9, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    “Liberty permitted government to exist”. Those are words that have very little relevance to liberals who see government as the be all, end all. Libertarians believe that the government’s only valid functions are defending our borders and printing currency. The rest should lie in the hands of citizens and local municipalities.

  • bikeandfish April 9, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    There is clearly truth in much of what Hyde says pedantically. Most know the Constitution still matters, despite the vapid inference in the title. The reality is even our founders weren’t on the same page about the exact details about our government and Constitution. We have been fighting about its meaning and limitations since we declared independence. Hyde likes to gloss over that complicated story in his simplistic narrative.

    • Brian April 9, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      There is no “simple narrative” here. He’s discussing foundational principles. There isn’t meant to be detail in the discussion.

      You know a principle is true when you can inspect it from different angles and through the lenses of different circumstances and it still holds true. This article was an excellent overview of those principles.

      True, we (as a nation) have turned our backs on those principles, and both parties and almost all 535 of the elected officials in DC are complete traitors to them, but that doesn’t make them any less true or relevant.

      The founders disagreed, sure, and the product of that disagreement is the greatest governmental framework the world has ever known, by far. It was written based on thousands of years of history and learning about human nature.

      It isn’t perfect, but history has shown again and again that when we go against those principles there are serious negative consequences. Unfortunately today the rising generations have no understanding of the foundation they stand on, and no historical perspective to know just how thin the line is between where we are and where Venezuela is. They won’t understand those consequences until like the Venezuelans we can’t afford to eat, go to movies, buy our video games (or even the electricity to run them), buy the latest smart phone, etc.

      • bikeandfish April 10, 2018 at 12:20 am

        Couldn’t disagree with you more.

        First, the meme that younger generations understand the Constitution less than previous ones is often based on ridiculous anecdotes.

        Second, I think its fair and accurate to call Hyde’s writing a “simplistic narrative”. For example, he writes: “We see this in our day whenever something bad happens and politicians clamor to enact new legislation without regard as to whether it is moral, rational or actually within their legitimate scope of authority.” He constantly belittles various causes, activists and politicians who don’t happen to align with his narrow worldview. The quote is just one example of overly simplifying the truth as it makes selling his narrative easier. Glossing over the moral and rational underpinnings of disparate political views is just one of the tools he regularly uses to push his “simplistic narrative.”

        Our country has oscillated between libertarian influences and those pushing a stronger federal influence. Our history as “the greatest governmental framework” includes just about everything along that spectrum. Hyde wants us to believe the “founders” had a simple, unified view to solve the various conflicts inherent in our system, especially individual liberty vs government power and influence. They didn’t. Plenty of scholars and historians have shown plenty of proof that our “founders” passionately disagreed about the meaning of the Constitution and scope of government power.

        No one ideology or political view holds the singular claim to a moral and rational approach to government.

        • comments April 10, 2018 at 10:56 am

          “No one ideology or political view holds the singular claim to a moral and rational approach to government.”

          Probably. It’s always been about balancing (keeping in check) the selfish interests of the political elites (our rulers) with the interests of the masses of peasants. Hasn’t that always been the dynamic. I’ll also say again, the constitution has been proven to be quite flimsy when attacked in times of hysteria– again, post 9/11, Bush II’s war on “turr”, etc.

          • comments April 10, 2018 at 10:59 am

            But really, these teeny anti-gun parades or marches or whatever they are… sorry, but it’s simple-minded, emotion driven, partially hysterical idiocy. It’s for good reason we don’t let teenies decide policy.

  • No Filter April 10, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Nothing wrong with this opinion piece except the point you made about the rights of people come from God, they don’t. Thomas Jefferson and many other founding fathers kept God out of the Declaration of Independence for a reason, because they knew we needed to separate church and state. Jefferson was forced to come to a compromise in putting the word “creator”. He felt this allowed everyone to be happy without specifically honoring one specific god. Christians can’t help themselves in forcing their religious beliefs on everyone, especially here in Utah. It’s on our money, in the pledge of allegiance and star spangled banner. Your fairy tale is one of the biggest scams of all time. The country is infected with this disease of “in god we trust”. Many rich and powerful lobbyist use their money to push their religious agenda just as much as pharmaceutical company’s and bankers do. The majority of the country may say they are of a christian faith, but that does not mean we are a christian only country. We are a free country for all people to live and prosper, it doesn’t matter if they believe the christian fairy tale, that Scientology garbage or the one thing that humans can prove as fact, which is of course science. Other than your added fairy tale point of view, good article.

    • comments April 10, 2018 at 10:25 am

      lol, i partially agree. mainly because i’ve seen first hand how backwards some of the places in the ‘bible belt’ are. it really isn’t quite as simple as you frame it tho.

      • No Filter April 10, 2018 at 12:05 pm

        Agreed it is never that simple, this was simply my venting on the subject that many Christians seem to put their beliefs in a conversation that doesn’t require religion such as our government.

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