NSA surveillance

How many times have people told us that we should put our faith in the Constitution, because it’s there to protect our rights? Originalists tell us that the document is sacred. Progressives say it’s a “living document,” whatever they think that means this week. They both claim the Constitution protects us.

But time after time, we’ve seen that the Constitution can’t do the job it’s supposed to do — that of limiting the politicians who claim power over us. The document was carefully constructed to grant very narrow power to the federal government. And if anybody missed the intent, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to make is clear that the government has no powers which aren’t specifically granted in it. Those amendments make it clear that the states and the people themselves retain any powers not given to the federal government.

How much more clear could that have been?

Has that stopped politicians from controlling both states and individuals? No. Congress invents whatever law it wants, justifying those laws in ways that would have confused and angered the men who wrote the document. The people of the executive branch routinely make up their own versions of laws, claiming vague power that Congress has theoretically given to them, but which violate the text and intent of the Constitution.

And the judges of the judicial branch routinely give us rulings that ignore the text and intent of the document — and which pander to the political need of the day.

The latest example of this is the ruling by a New York federal judge Friday that the NSA is perfectly free to collect pretty much any information that it wants to collect about Americans. Even though the NSA’s snooping is a clear violation of the intent of the Constitution, the judge says it’s fine because the government needs to fight terrorism. (A different judge issued an entirely different ruling earlier this month.)

Fighting terrorism seems to have become the all-purpose excuse for anything that any “authority” wants to do today. And even though it’s a clear violation of our natural rights and our alleged constitutional rights, it happens anyway. And where is this Constitution when we need it to protect us?

Toward the end of “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” Lysander Spooner wrote this in 1867: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

Spooner’s powerful arguments are even more true today. I suggest you read all of “No Treason.”

I’ve argued before that the Constitution is a dead document with no specific meaning anymore. It’s just a relic that politicians invoke when they want to justify anything they choose to do. I don’t see how anyone can continue to pretend it has the power to protect our rights — when the power to interpret it and carry it out rests with the men and women who want to take our rights and money away from us.

There is no social contract. No one else can bind me (or you) to obey something we haven’t agreed to. But even if there were such an obligation, it’s impossible to get the people on the other side to live up to their end of the agreement.

If you’re one of those who’s counting on the Constitution to protect your rights, isn’t it time to admit that reality shows that no document can stop politicians from doing whatever they want? Isn’t it time to look to another strategy for protecting any rights you believe you have?