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L. Neil Smith's
Number 731, July 28, 2013

"One of the most unmistakable indications
that a civilization is in decline is when
it is no longer capable of telling
its heroes from its villains."

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Questions for Constitutionalists
by Paul Bonneau

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I earlier wrote an article explaining why anarchists ought to stop their Constitution-bashing and start talking with Constitutionalists. Now I want to hit it from the other end, asking what Constitutionalists are prepared to give.

See, "Restore the Constitution!" is a nice motto (some even call themselves "restorationists") but it still leaves out the question of which constitution they intend to restore. The current one, with all the amendments? That, and an additional amendment saying, "We really mean it!", or adding some other enforcement mechanism? The Constitution originally ratified, with no amendments? Or with just with the Bill of Rights? Are you going to dump the General Welfare clause? Are you going to narrow the Commerce clause? Are you going to modify the verbiage about taxation? Are you going to keep the 14th Amendment, which was clearly improperly ratified and conflicts with the 10th Amendment? Are you going to keep the bait-and-switch 16th Amendment, installed by Progressives and enabling the out-of-control growth of government? Are you going to recognize nullification or secession?

It's time to go beyond the mindless "Rah-rah Constitution!" and tell us what you are actually shooting for. Whenever an anarchist hears the statement, "Restore the Constitution!", the first question out of his mouth should be, "Which Constitution?"

Of course, restorationists have another problem: how to get there from here. The Constitution is clearly a mess; Hell, even John Adams and Thomas Jefferson violated it. It obviously needs some work, a lot of work. Yet when Constitutionalists think about a Constitutional Convention to get it fixed, they cringe. Is a modern-day convention going to toss the 2nd Amendment, for example? Are the bad parts going to be kept and the good parts discarded? It's not paranoia; recall the Founding Lawyers got together in convention to supposedly fix a few minor problems with the Articles of Confederation, and ended up tossing the whole thing in the trash. There is a reason the real Founders such as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and Patrick Henry did not attend.

If you want to restore something, why not restore the Articles of Confederation? Then the question never comes up, because there was only one Articles of Confederation. There is no question about which Articles to restore. What's more, the Articles— whatever flaws the Founding Lawyers claimed they had—worked better than the Constitution ever did.

Not only that, but it's also true in a way that the Constitution is the Articles, and the Articles are the Constitution. Why? Because the Founding Lawyers were tasked with fixing the Articles! The original Constitution was actually the Articles. So saying "Restore the Constitution" is at least arguably the same thing as saying "Restore the Articles of Confederation!"

You can't fix the Constitution in convention, you can't count on Congress to fix it (what a joke), and you can't leave it as it is either (otherwise, what is any rebellion for?). How can restoration of the Constitution—other than possibly restoring the Articles— work at all?

Perhaps someone can point me at an article describing a possible restoration process that will actually work. I'm interested to see it.

It seems to me that the Constitutionalists only really have one thing going for them, but it is a very, very big one: the oath.

Now, folks might snicker at the oath, taken by all in the military and all who ever were in the military (including myself). If those guys took the oath seriously, defending against domestic enemies of the Constitution, we wouldn't be in the pickle we are in, now. Hell, the soldiers who went with Washington to crush the Whiskey Rebellion, should have followed that oath (assuming they took it back then), and killed Washington or sent him packing. But, they didn't. Oh, well...

The oath-keepers... don't. Keep the oath, that is. They don't follow it any more than the Congress-slimes do. They don't follow it any more than the Presidents or the Courts do.

Still, as I mentioned in my previous article on this subject, in a way it almost doesn't matter that the oath is not really followed. It only matters that they took it. It is a thing that unifies people under a banner, so to speak. Yeah, I know that this whole idea is logically flawed, but guess what? Logic is not very important in human affairs. Finding common ground with others, when the shit hits the fan, is.

Anarchists need to know that they will be tolerated in whatever brave new world the Constitutionalists manage to cook up after the rebellion succeeds. By "tolerated" I mean left alone. No government "help", no government "services", no government taxes. Constitutionalists can tax and "help" their own kind all they want; it's none of our business. Whether anarchy "works" or not, is none of yours. But if you want our enthusiastic help during the rebellion, you have to promise to leave us alone when it's done.

I'm not naive. I understand promises are not worth any more than oaths are, and will be discarded at the first opportunity. But, there will be a cost. There is always a cost, and it will be a substantial cost, if one attempts to sell battle-hardened rebels down the river. Think about it. It's a Hell of a lot easier to find ways to tolerate us. Use some imagination...

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