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Anachronism????

I picked up the following little titbit from an email newsletter of We The People. For those of you who don’t remember, that is Bob Schultz’s tax protest organization.

It seems that Congressman Henry Hyde thinks the Constitution he swore to uphold and protect is just a bit, well… passe:

“Congressman Ron Paul reminded the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations that the Constitution required a congressional Declaration of War before the armed forces of the United States could be applied in hostilities overseas, not H.J.R 114, a congressional Resolution authorizing the President to decide if and when to apply that force.

However, Chairman Henry Hyde is quoted, for the record, “There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society.Why declare war if you don’t have to? We are saying to the President, use your judgment. So, to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death. You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore…”

The 50-member Committee then went on to vote against the substitute amendment offered by Rep. Paul, which read simply (after the resolving clause), “That pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, a state of war is declared to exist between the United States and the Government of Iraq and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the United States Armed Forces to carry on war against the Government of Iraq and to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion.”

The Committee then went on to approve H.J. Resolution 114, which was eventually approved by Congress.”

Ron Paul is the nearest thing to a libertarian we have in public office. Although he is registered Republican… he is a libertarian. Some of you may remember his 1988 Presidential campaign with Andre Marrou as his Vice Presidential running mate. I was a Russell Means delegate at the nominating convention in Seattle that year, but that’s how it is in politics. Once the streamers and confetti have been swept off the convention floor everyone gets behind “the horse what won”. I wrote the Space Policy statements for them and thus had the chance to work with Ron and his campaign team on a number of occasions.

Ron’s congressional statements were not grandstanding. They were principled statements of his belief in the Constitution and in Liberty. That is just the sort of man he is.

For those space activists among us: Ron Paul is also the only Presidential candidate to ever appear at an International Space Development Conference: the 7th ISDC, held in Denver in May 1988. Some of the local Colorado LP were working his Denver visit and one of them was also on the ISDC conference committee (I had chaired the year before in Pittsburgh). He knew me in both my LP hat and my L5 hat… so I acted as liaison and briefer before Ron’s talk. We even had a heckler from Martin-Marietta to keep it interesting: Bob Zubrin!

32 comments to Anachronism????

  • Walter E. Wallis

    When the United States has been attacked, a declaration of war is just a whimsy – we are at war the instant we are attacked. Remember, Roosevelt did not ask for a declaration of war, he asked that congress confirm that war had existed since the attack. Fools who insist on some SimonSays interpretation of the constitution must believe that the only think necessary to protect this country from war is to refuse to acknowledge an attack.

  • Walter E. Wallis: I am indifferent on the issue of declaring war as the US Constitution is of very little interest to me.

    we are at war the instant we are attacked. Remember, Roosevelt did not ask for a declaration of war, he asked that congress confirm that war had existed since the attack.

    However, whilst I would love to see Iraq cleansed of all Ba’athists and am well known for being ‘pro-war’, I was not aware that the Iraqi government was behind the September 11th attacks nor have I heard anyone seriously say they were. Roosevelt was in no doubt who attacked Pearl Harbour. Also, going to war with Japan was not therefore seen as carte blanche to invade any non-Axis nation (even though the western allies did indeed do so preemptively during WW2 on a few occasions).

  • Robert

    ARTICLE 1 – Section 8: US Constitution
    Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.

    The above is a copy of the pertinent clause delegating authority to congress. It does not specify a format or template necessary to consider an act of congress as a declaration of war (or letter of marque or rule of capture). This is left to the discretion of congress and if a joint resolution is the form congress chooses it has that authority. In fact, opponents to the resolution in the Senate used just that argument; i.e.: this resolution is a de facto declaration of war. The resolution passed overwhelmingly. Henry Hyde’s argument was made in the House and prevailed in committee but was not a deciding factor in the Senate.

    As an aside, if you take Rep. Paul’s statement to it’s logical conclusion, even actions to retaliate to an attack would be thought of as unconstitutional. During the Cold War, this very argument was used to delegate to the President as Commander in Chief the authority to order a counter-strike sans Congressional approval.

  • Geo

    I think Perry hits the nail on the head with the distinction here.

    It is so frustrating when our representatives (and our Republicans, at that) willingly choose to undermine or ignore the authority of the Constitution which exists primarily to preserve the rights of their constituencies.

    However, Chairman Henry Hyde is quoted, for the record, “There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to a modern society. Why declare war if you don’t have to? We are saying to the President, use your judgment. So, to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death. You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore…”

    I mean…aaaugh! It isn’t done any more, yes. But that is because of loopholeism and slipping standards which allows the Executive branch to do an end-run around the Constitution. NOT because the original requirement for a congressional declaration of war is somehow now inappropriate.

    Good grief, Henry, instead of throwing up your hands in defeat and jumping on the executive fiat bandwagon just because this time it happens to be a President of your own party, how about actually DOING YOUR JOB and working to safeguard Constitutional integrity by championing the need for a war declaration!?

    As an agonizingly lovestruck wooer of the U.S. Constitution, when I hear this kind of thing I want to smack someone in the face with my glove and demand satisfaction for the besmirching of my beloved.

    The concept that the Constitution is a “living document,” whose interpretation should be altered as society changes its perceptions is egregious in the extreme. It neglects that one primary characteristic which gives the document its meaning: that is, it is meant to be a fixed point of reference among the storm-tossed seas of changing social mores, “a guiding star to ev’ry wandering bark,” like true love.

    When Hyde, or others, suggest that its charms are those of an older age and therefore somehow no longer purely relevant to us today, it is an insidiously ungallant swipe at the great lady that has so richly showered him with her affections.

    In the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia:

    “As it is, however, the Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead—or, as I prefer to put it, enduring. It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.

    This lady I love is indeed enduring, as is my love for her. Yes, there is a time for Constitutional amendment when specific rights have not been made explicit in the Constitution, and should be. But Hyde’s disparagement of so explicitly-devised a provision of that document wilfully abdicates his responsibility to act as a member of the Legislative branch to provide appropriate checks and balances on the Executive. Which is reason enough in my book to fire him for gross negligence, if not downright blackguardliness.

    /rant

    (Egad – I’ll try to rein in the length of future posts.)

  • Geo

    Robert posted before mine got out there. I think he’s right. Hyde’s statement “We are saying to the President, use your judgment,” probably does meet the Constitutional requirement of a war declaration.

    However, I disagree strongly with Hyde’s methods and rhetoric. For he seems to have approached this with the attitude that the need for congressional declaration of war is inappropriate and therefore they forfeited the right to choose war back to the Executive branch. A very politic thing to do to avoid having to face up to a war vote in congress, but which seems clearly to undermine Constitutional checks and balances.

    So congress has given its declaration while undermining their authority to do so, now and in the future. Not what I would consider wise stewardship of their Constitutional responsibility.

  • The disrespect for the Constitution of the United States by our elected officials is incomprehensible. Our founding fathers foresaw the need to change the Constitution and created a means to do such. It is called amending the Constitution. This process is too much trouble for most politicians so they just ignore the document that they swore to ‘support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ Sad sad sad.

  • cydonia

    Ron Paul’s website has a collection of pithily written articles by him at

    http://www.house.gov/paul/tst/welcome.htm

    Pure libertarianism and wonderfully refreshing.

    ps Samizdata Gods, sorry for not following the “adding links” instructions but I couldn’t understand them :-)

  • Robert is right. So is Hyde but that’s like as not a coincidence.

  • Jacob

    I want to comment on Ron Paul, not the constitution.
    Ron Paul voted against the H.J.R 114, not because of constitutional considerations, but because he opposes the war on Iraq. He also made a speech in the House, justifying his position.
    I respected and admired Ron Paul as a libertarian until I read that speech; I no longer do. His arguments agains the war were identical to what the usual idiotarians of the left say.
    Dale, I urge you to go read that speech, and re-asses you opinion of Ron Paul.

  • Always remember, ladies & gentlemen: if it can be written down, it can also be erased.

    The constitution is not, and never has been, a guarantor of anything.

    It is foolish in the extreme to refer to the constitution rather than authentic principles.

  • Ryan Waxx

    I mean…aaaugh! It isn’t done any more, yes. But that is because of loopholeism and slipping standards which allows the Executive branch to do an end-run around the Constitution.

    No, absolutely not. You would need to come to the conclusion that any conflict we engaged in without a formal declaration of war was therefore illegal and without the support of the Congress.

    If Congress really, truly did not support a war they could pull the plug financially. Now, obviously this isn’t the preferred or consitionally recommended method, but it does indicate that maybe, just maybe there was more support for these ‘unconstitutional’ wars than you are willing to admit.

    Also, going to war with Japan was not therefore seen as carte blanche to invade any non-Axis nation (even though the western allies did indeed do so preemptively during WW2 on a few occasions).

    You notice that Congress never delclared war on Vichy France, but you twist, twist away from the implications.

    Not every tactic nor sub-war that takes place in a larger conflict needs to be authorized seperately.

    As an agonizingly lovestruck wooer of the U.S. Constitution, when I hear this kind of thing I want to smack someone in the face with my glove and demand satisfaction for the besmirching of my beloved.

    First, I think its obvious that a jilted lover isn’t the model of rational thinking. Second, its possible to respect the constitution and therefore make sure it stays current. Respect the spirit of the law, update the letter if absolutely necessary.

    The build national consensus, then make the case to congress, then wait while they dicker, then recieve an authorization for war, then start moving the troops pattern is inappropriate in any act of war requiring secrecy or speed.

    In the consitution’s time, this process was acceptably fast because war itself was slow. Even if an enemy had a spy in the Congress, it takes time to field and provison, transport and maneuvar revolutionary-era troops.

    Nowadays, authorization from congress can take longer than the war itself, and the enemy needs hours of forewarning, not months. That is why the war powers act came into being.

    I do not love the consitution less than you, but it is clear that under some circumstances the letter of it is obselete. Rather, we abide by the SPIRIT of it… Where did Bush go before the U.N.? That’s right, he went to congress, and got an authorization for the use of force. Which MEANS war.

    And that is enough to satisfy the framers, I suspect.

    Both Hyde and Paul are extremists in this case: The president MUST consult with congress for major wars, and he does NOT need to get a piece of paper that has the title ‘Declaration of War’ for every use of force.

    The war powers act is a decent compromise, which respects Congress’s authority to wage war.

    P.S.: It is foolish in the extreme to refer to the constitution rather than authentic principles

    Horsecrap. “Authentic principles” can mean whatever those in power wish it to mean… and it is precisely against idiocy like THAT that the constitution defends us.

  • Ryan, Den Beste agreed with many of your points, going over them (of course) in great detail.

    And yes, a “declaration of war” document does not need to have a title at the top labeled “A Declaration Of War On …” to be one – in fact, does not always have to be a document/bill at all. The key is maintaining the primacy of the war-making powers of Congress – the President must get Congressional agreement to fight a major/sustained war and should/would be wise to consult with congressional leaders before smaller actions (unless he wants the rug pulled out from undereath him).

    Of course, those who are against the upcoming Iraq war seem to willing to clutch any possible straw to stop or condemm it – and some have been pretty thin.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Thanks for the link. I’m not sure if I would go quite as far as SDB, such as regarding all hostile acts as a solid continuum of war, but he certainly makes a powerful case.

    And as for the rest of your comment, its a very good summary of what I believe is at work here, and how warmaking power SHOULD work in modern constitutional context.

  • cydonia

    Jacob, I have just read Ron Paul’s speech to the House on the use of force against Iraq (http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2002/cr100802.htm).

    I happen to agree with him. You do not. Fine. Reasonable people can disagree. I don’t see anything there to justify labelling him an idiotarian. He has no sympathy with the Iraqi regime. He doesn’t express anti-western sentiment or self-hatred. He just makes a number of sober points as to why a war with Iraq may not be justified either on strategic grounds or on principle.

    Certainly from a libertarian perspective there are any number of good reasons for the U.S. to avoid getting mixed up in expensive overseas wars in unpredictable and volatile parts of the world. To say this hardly makes a libertarian into an idiotarian any more than to support the war doesn’t make a libertarian into a war-mongering Statist.

    Anyway, even if RP is wrong about the war, he is sound on almost everything else and so surely deserves support?

  • Geo: There are things in the Constitution which have been overtaken by the march of time. Hyde is completely correct about that.

    That particular clause of Article I not only gives Congress the power to declare war, it also grants it the power to issue letters of Marque and Reprisal. You might not know what that is.

    A “Letter of Marque” was an authorization granted by a government to the captain of a sailing ship which essentially made him a legal pirate, giving him legal cover to attack and capture ships belonging to a certain enemy nation.

    They were banned by an international treaty in the 19th Century, and the US government has, in fact, never once issued a letter of Marque.

    The rest of it, about “rules governing capture” refers to the fact that Congress would be able to tell this legal pirate where he should sail the prizes he takes under legal cover of his letter of Marque, and how big a cut Congress would get of the loot.

    Can I presume you’d agree that this is not something which is particularly applicable to the 21st century?

  • Geo

    First, I think its obvious that a jilted lover isn’t the model of rational thinking.

    Hey, who said anything about jilted? *SMACK* I DEMAND SATISFACTION!

    Serously, though, Ryan, you’re right. The “Constitution as Lady” metaphor was a dramatic flair and not intended to be mistaken as the foundation of my logical argument. I see now that it nevertheless obfuscated my point.

    The basis of which was:

    1. The Constitution says it is Congress’ job to declare War. The reason for this is to ensure a check and balance on the Executive Branch’s ability to wage war without the approval of the represented citizenry.

    2. Congress (Hyde, et al.) is saying that Congressional declaration of war (by whatever means) is now “inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore…” The result of this is to allow the Executive branch to wage war without formal war declaration (in whatever form) from the representatives of the people.

    I maintain, all thespian dramatis aside, there is an inherent inconsistency in these two positions that does the represented citizenry a disservice by undermining the checks-and-balances intent of the separation of powers, as stipulated in the Constitution.

  • Frank Sensenbrenner

    Surely this isn’t the same Henry Hyde who led the impeachment efforts grounded in the Constitution? If you look at Ron Paul’s website now, it appears that he’s in favour of war with Iraq, but opposes the necessity of UN invervention. Legislative procedures exist as safeguards lest power be abused. Hence, Mr Paul is right in insisting on a declaration of war against Iraq. Besides, look at it practically.. who would oppose it, besides Barbara Lee?

  • Steven den Beste: Can I presume you’d agree that this is not something which is particularly applicable to the 21st century?

    No. I think privatizing many aspects of military affairs is a splendid idea. Just as mercinary groups such as Executive Outcomes have a very stabilizing effect in Africa, the idea behind Letters of Marque is uniquely suitable to an era of asymetric warfare as I have argued before in Viva la morte, viva la guerre, viva sacre mercenaire.

  • I said: “It is foolish in the extreme to refer to the constitution rather than authentic principles.”

    And Ryan Waxx disagreed:

    “Horsecrap. ‘Authentic principles’ can mean whatever those in power wish it to mean… and it is precisely against idiocy like THAT that the constitution defends us.”

    Rubbish. For only two examples, the constitution not only failed to “defend” anyone from Prohibition of alcohol for an entire decade, it actually positively endorsed it, and it has utterly failed to “defend” whole generations from the predation of income tax, something that “those in power” have manifestly considered quite proper.

    What I wrote is fact, and a sensible person will admit it.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Well, you might not agree, but I wager a great deal of people would not find privitizing actual troops (as opposed to bomb-building) a good idea.

    The point was that portions of the constitution are outdated unless actively evaulated to keep them current: For example… does the 4th amendment (searches and seizures) cover things like the dexterbase and/or infared searches of houses?

    Now, I know why you would be suspicious of this argument… too many people have used the ‘outdated’ argument to try and justify scrapping part of the constitution simply because they don’t like that part. Fair enough.

    But just because vile people have used the argument in the past doesn’t mean that its untrue.

    Again, look at what Bush did. He went right to the congress for a resolution.

    1. The Constitution says it is Congress’ job to declare War.

    True. We agree on this.

    The reason for this is to ensure a check and balance on the Executive Branch’s ability to wage war without the approval of the represented citizenry.

    Also true. But remember, there are times that pre-approval will destroy the mission before it starts.

    2. Congress (Hyde, et al.) is saying that Congressional declaration of war (by whatever means) is now “inappropriate, anachronistic, it isn’t done anymore…” The result of this is to allow the Executive branch to wage war without formal war declaration (in whatever form) from the representatives of the people.

    First, Hyde manifestly is not congress, and the article in no way indicates that his position is widespread.

    Second, formal war declaration is inappropriate in ‘small’ acts of war requiring stealth or secrecy. BUT, in wars like the one in Iraq the president MUST go to congress first. Which he has done.

    Third, if congress has almost never issued a piece of paper entitled ‘declaration of war’, then congress has cut ITSELF out of the loop by refusing to pick up the powers granted it. Over and over and over.

    In much the same way, Bush threatened the U.N. with the fate of the League of Nations… he told them that they must enforce their own resolutions or be considered irrevelant.

    So, perversly, the war powers act was NOT about limiting the executive branch as much as it was to get congress BACK in the loop where it belonged.

    Since congress is manifestly incapable of declaring war even when the country’s survival is at stake (Cuban Missle crisis, Cold War, others), then the executive has to make the judgement call to begin hostilities or move troops, knowing that Congress can leave him high and dry after 90 days if he goes rogue.

    If you think we need to put the war powers act into a amendment, that’s a fine academic view but Congress doesn’t seem inclined to try, and the Judiciary isn’t inclined to declare it unconstitutional.

    The War Powers act is a partial surrendur of congresses’ power to wage war, signed and sealed by the Congress itself. Yet congress retains the power to say yea or nay.

    Over Iraq, they said Yea. Get over it.

  • Ryan Waxx: Well, you might not agree, but I wager a great deal of people would not find privitizing actual troops (as opposed to bomb-building) a good idea

    No doubt some might not like it but so what? We are in a changing world and already private military forces are quite active. It just seems like the perfect logical next step… the so called ‘War against Terrorism’ is an open ended civil liberties nightmare in the making. You can win a war against Japan or a war against Iraq, but how can anyone ever actually win a war against ‘terrorism’? Who is this ‘terrorism’? Where is it?

    The solution is not to keep whole nations on a perpetual war footing but rather to take a different approach: bounties, letters of marque, overtly issued contracts-to-assassinate… at a stroke, small scale military adventures are decoupled from the ‘flag-drapped-coffin’ syndrome and are dispersed to a myriad of ‘for profit’ military ventures that do not rely on tax theft to support them. Such companies already exist today regardless of what ‘a great deal of people’ think of them.

  • Dale Amon

    It muddles the issue to include either self-defense against an attack in progress or minor special force operations under the Declaration of War. It also muddles the issue to discuss whether Ron Paul is for or against.

    When the President must initiate a major force build up, then it stands to reason there is more than enough time in advance to make a formal Declaration. In the case of Iraq, we could still perform the niceties with only a slight variation on the old procedure. Congress could have approved that an unsigned Declaration of War Against the Nation of Iraq be handed to President Bush, to be signed and implimented at his discretion if required within a period of X months; and that said document should be delivered to the Iraqi Embassy a few minutes before the opening of hostilities.

    The same would have worked for the Gulf War. and the Afghanistan War.

    In the case of defense against attack in progress… well WWII was rather in progress when Congress met and Roosevelt declared “A State of War now exists…”

    It is totally possible to follow the pro forma. It only requires a desire to honour the Constitution rather than to piss on it.

    And I do agree with Perry. I think we should be issuing Letters of Mark and Reprisal… and in effect we have done so. Remember the Bounty offered in Afghanistan for bin Laden and co? I don’t think anyone much cared whether what was delivered was alive or whole. I suspect a head would have been sufficient to claim the bounty. It may not have worked there, (or at least the DOD aren’t talking) but it’s not a bad idea.

    Since bin Laden has a fleet of tramp steamers, I would suggest them as an ideal target for attack. I can think of a few things he might use them for that I don’t much wish to discuss, so I’d be just as happy to see Hagbard Selene start U-Boats Inc “Ships Sunk, Damsels Rescued, While-U-Wait” and send them all to the bottom with all hands.

    Perry is absolutely correct. In assymetric war, every citizen is a combatent. Letters of Marque and Reprisal are just a bit more formal way to give them legal protection and help from the US Navy.

  • Larry

    Evidence that the Founders vision encompassed even today’s circumstances:

    Article I, Section 8 – Powers of Congress
    Clause 10:
    Congress shall have the power to punish
    Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas and
    Offences against the Law of Nations.

    Al Qeda’s attacks qualify easily, more easily than the Clause 11 “war powers” describing actions against other nations.

    Note that this does not specify or limit what actions we take against such parties. As an indication, remember that pirates were generally hung after capture.

    Legal opinion has held that the authority under this clause implies a broad grant to act extrateritorially.

    Also, that the Clause 11 references to Letters of Marque and Reprisal are not outmoded! Authority of war powers to private actors has existed in the past AND MIGHT AGAIN exist in the future. Do not assume that today’s circumstances are perminant, and references to different political orders should be excised from the Consititution.

    It’s not a room decor, from which any unfashionable furnishings must be scrapped.

  • Ryan Waxx

    It muddles the issue to include either self-defense against an attack in progress or minor special force operations under the Declaration of War.

    It muddles the issue why? Because SF operations are not acts of war? They clearly are.

    I.E. you would rather not discuss them because they illustrate the problems that made the current setup necessary.

    As for following pro forma… following the war powers act is quite pro forma. Unless you are going to argue that Congress passed an unconsitutional law. And even THEN, you cannot knock the administration if they follow a law that later proves unconsitutional.

    In which case the proper venue is the Supreme Court, thank you very much.

  • T. J. Madison

    >>And I do agree with Perry. I think we should be issuing Letters of Mark and Reprisal… and in effect we have done so. Remember the Bounty offered in Afghanistan for bin Laden and co? I don’t think anyone much cared whether what was delivered was alive or whole. I suspect a head would have been sufficient to claim the bounty. It may not have worked there, (or at least the DOD aren’t talking) but it’s not a bad idea.

    I thought the bounty on OBL was issued by the executive branch, not Congress. If we consider the bounties to be equivalent to letters of reprisal, then the constitution has been violated here too.

    These “procedural issues” are important. The devil is not in the details. The devil IS the details.

    As for the timing issues of modern war, how long does it take to convene a secret session of congress? If the U.S. is taken by a surprise attack, then perhaps Article I, section 10 might apply:

    No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Rubbish. For only two examples, the constitution not only failed to “defend” anyone from Prohibition of alcohol for an entire decade, it actually positively endorsed it,

    A bad amendment got voted into the constitution, and we later removed it… So what?

    And if you recall, ‘principles’ is exactly what the prohibitionists appealed to to get the amendment in the first place. They wanted to force their principles on OTHERS, and that is what made it wrong.

    So, anotherwords, your example proves that ‘authentic principles’ rhetoric can be just as easily twisted as the letter of the constitution can be changed. In fact the ‘principles’ were MORE easily twisted, since they had to win a 2/3 majority before they could corrupt the consitution.

    Anotherwords, your example proves notthing that you wish it to, and in fact serves as an illustration that an appeal to ‘principles’ is THE GATEWAY to constitutional abuse.

    and it has utterly failed to “defend” whole generations from the predation of income tax, something that “those in power” have manifestly considered quite proper.

    Trotting out unpopular later amendments isn’t going to prove your case.

    What I wrote is fact, and a sensible person will admit it.

    Ah… so for example any ‘sensible’ person will call for the immediate repeal of the income tax, to use your example?

    You are living in a fantasy world if you believe that. Reasonable people can disagree with you, and as such it is not a proper test of being sensible.

    The major function of the constitution is a check on power. The 2 amendments you name did exactly the opposite… they expanded government’s influence rather than constrained it.

    As such, it is quite easily arguable that they are atypical of the consitution as a whole, and therefore invalid examples for any argument involving deposing the whole thing in favor of some vague ‘authentic principles’ concept, which will be ten times as easy to get around and a hundred times more corruptable by those in power.

    We’ve done quite well in resisting the schemes of the power-hungry, compared to other countries… and the consitution is directly responsible.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Oh, and I’d like you to name a country that uses its ‘authentic principles’ to ban income tax.

    Just as a reality check, of course :)

  • Waxx: “And if you recall, ‘principles’ is exactly what the prohibitionists appealed to to get the amendment in the first place.”

    Help me get this straight: is it that you argue against princples, per se?

    I’m just checking your reality, of course.

  • Ryan Waxx

    In case you’ve been plugging your ears and singing ‘La, La, La I can’t heeeeear you!’, here is exactly what I am saying:

    ‘authentic principles’ rhetoric can be just as easily twisted as the letter of the constitution can be changed.

    Considering that this fragment occured only 2 sentences removed from the text you quoted, you shouldn’t have had to look very hard for it.

    That is, if you were actually looking for an answer rather than a cheap characterization.

  • Kindly keep comments civil or they will be edited or completely deleted.

    Cheers

  • Ryan Waxx

    Fine, but being obtuse as a debating tactic isn’t exactly civil either, non?

  • Carol

    I believe that the Constitution is a wonderful document — so wonderful, I am sometimes amazed that it ever got written. It is nearly perfection in the checks and balances to governing power. Therefore, one should consider carefully what protections are inherent in giving Congress the ability to declare war. The Congress is much more accountable to the people and hopefully much more in touch with the populace (although this is waning in modern times). I am very disturbed by Congress’ seeming abdication of its responsibility to be the governing body to declare war. I think the arguments that Congress cannot act swiftly enough or with enough national security in declaring war are wrong. I disagree that “authentic principles” should be the deciding factor instead of the Constitution, and agree that the examples posted in support of that argument in fact disprove it. I am amazed by the statement by Walter E. Wallis that “A declaration of war is just a whimsy”! A declaration of war by Congress de facto means that the representatives of the people are willing to commit to a course of action that they will be accountable for to their citizens. Therefore, they should believe it is approved by the majority of their constituency or feel it is morally imperative and risk losing re-election if their belief does not coincide with that of the populace. That is why it is so important for Congress to have this right — to be the voice of the populace. If the resolution passed is the same as declaring war (as some posts posit) and it is just a matter of semantics — why didn’t Congress just declare war? I think because the majority are spineless and what to have “wiggle room” to avoid accountability in the future if necessary.