VIEWSrnRestore the Constitution!rnFree Association and Public Moralityrnby Joseph SobranrnIn recent years, American politics has been preoccupied withrnmoral questions, or what are now called “social issues”: sexualrnimmorality, sodomy, abortion, pornography, and recreationalrndrugs. Some conservatives want the federal government tornplay a role in opposing these evils. Many libertarians, on thernother hand, want the government, state and federal alike, torntreat them as matters of indifference. Most liberals seem tornwant the government to promote them because they believernthat these activities are not evils but “rights.”rnLiberals have a habit of reading their agenda into the Constitution.rnAs Daniel Lazare observed in the October 1999 issue ofrnHarper’s, Americans tend to regard the Constitution as a “sacredrntext”—a secular Scripture—that contains the answer to everyrnproblem. Since liberals favor gun control, for example, theyrnassume that the Constitution must favor it as well.rnWhat about the Second Amendment? Most liberals arguernthat the Second Amendment only recognizes the right of statesrnto keep militias, not the right of individuals to own firearms.rnBut Lazare argues that recent scholarship is conclusive: “thernright of the people to keep and bear arms” was integral to thernFounding Fathers’ philosophy of republican government. Inrnthe Federalist, for example, Alexander Hamilton and JamesrnMadison envision various situations when the people mightrnhave to mount armed resistance to tyrannical government, staternor federal.rnLazare thinks this is a pity; he considers the Framers’ philosophyrnarchaic. But he is the rare liberal who admits that the Constitutionrnis not, after all, infinitely malleable, and that it is a stumblingrnblock to his own desires. His solution is to abandon it.rnI’he Framers’ philosophy is anything but archaic. It can bernargued with, but it deserves respect. In particular, the Framersrnagreed on one basic principle of liberty: the division and disperjosephrnSobran is the editor of Sobran’s, a monthly newsletter.rnsion of power. They defined t’ranny as the concentration ofrnpower in a few hands, or in a monarch or a single body of men.rnSo they delegated a few specific powers to the federal government,rnmost of which are listed in Article I, Section 8. Allrnother powers remained with the states and the people. Underrnthe Constitution, it would be theoretically possible for New-rnYork to adopt socialism, for California to adopt laissez-faire cap*rnitalism, and for Iowa to be a theocracy. The Constitution doesrnven,’ little to prevent tv’ranny at the state and local level.rnIn their own sphere, the states were sovereign. Wlien threernstates ratified the Constitution on the condition that they retainedrnthe right to secede, nobody objected. So the other tenrnstates, by accepting those ratification acts as valid, recognizedrnthe right of secession. Like gun ownership, secession was arnform of self-defense.rnAs Madison states in Federalist 45, the powers delegated tornthe federal government are “few and defined.” They includernthe powers to tax, to coin money, to punish counterfeiters, torngrant copyrights and patents, to raise an arm’ and a navy, andrnvery few others. The powers remaining with the states, as Madisonrnputs it, are “numerous and indefinite.”rnWhen the Philadelphia Convention assembled in 1787,rnHamilton and Madison both favored a strong central governmentrnwith the power to overrule state governments and vetornstate laws. Madison told George Washington that such a provisionrnwas “absolutely necessan,” to any new constitution. Thisrnwould have reduced the states to the level of ver’ large counties:rnmere subdivisions of a centralized monolith, totally subordinaternto a sovereign central government v’hich would not have beenrntruly “federal,” but, in the language of the time, “consolidated.”rnThe proposal was quickly shot down; the states refused to surrenderrntheir sovereignt}’. When Hamilton and Madison wroternthe Federalist to promote ratification, they had to accept this asrna fact of life, and thev dutifullv assured their New York readersrnOCTOBER 2000/13rnrnrn