Saturday, August 20, 2011

Woodrow Wilson's Living Constitution

Several early progressives are involved with the development of the "Living Constitution", but none spoke so clearly as Wilson did. In The New Freedom, is what he said: (pages 46-48){Note, this book is a collection of speeches}

The makers of our Federal Constitution read Montesquieu with true scientific enthusiasm. They were scientists in their way, - the best way of their age, - those fathers of the nation. Jefferson wrote of "the laws of Nature," - and then by way of afterthought, - "and of Nature's God." And they constructed a government as they would have constructed an orrery,—to display the laws of nature. Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of "checks and balances."

The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent upon their quick co-operation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. Government is not a body of blind forces; it is a body of men, with highly differentiated functions, no doubt, in our modern day, of specialization, with a common task and purpose. Their co-operation is indispensable, their warfare fatal. There can be no successful government without the intimate, instinctive co-ordination of the organs of life and action. This is not theory, but fact, and displays its force as fact, whatever theories may be thrown across its track. Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop.

All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when "development," "evolution," is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.

These words of Wilson's have been widely discussed, though no good blog which aims to dissect progressivism could ignore this, and when they are discussed far too often the source(book, page, etc) are not given so you can see for yourself and inquire further. Wilson is very clear. The founders were wrong. What he's doing is questioning the very fundamentals - for Wilson it's not an issue of seeing the constitution amended because one or two things are wrong, the whole thing is wrong and needs to be scrapped. Natural law is wrong. Unrestricted individual enterprise is wrong.

Wilson misses the point, though he may actually be correct in a way, in seeing government turned in upon itself. Government is supposed to be limited, that's how you secure the liberty of the people, by keeping it divided indefinitely. Constantly checking, balancing, and never advancing. That's really the only way. As government expands, liberty contracts. Woodrow Wilson is the very reason(among others, like Obama) that the founders set up the constitution the way they did. To protect us, the people, from them. The central planners.

Take a look around at america today. Government's not divided, they have us divided. Take a look at your family. Look at your children. Our liberty is not safe.

1 comment:

  1. Wilson mistakenly uses technology and education advances as an excuse to consider our constitution outmoded. No matter what era human nature is the same and the constitution is a brilliant conception clearly appropriate to any era, the product of a thorough study of history. By the way, the human body functions on the principle of checks and balances, a system of negative feedback.