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By HAROLD PEASE
While on vacation in a neighboring state helping my son-in-law build a second bathroom for his expanding family, I noticed more fully what I have always known: If your base is wrong, so is everything else. Nothing was square, plumb or level. Things fit, and almost fall into place as if by design, when the base is right.
In construction, as in all areas of endeavor, there are tools to get us back to proven constants such as T squares, chalk lines and levels. In other fields it may be a ruler, compass or a Bible. Ancient mariners used the North Star as a constant. Math, algebra and geometry are based upon constants. In chemistry, water is always, and forever will be, H2O and freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In government, the constant should be the Constitution. My point: What are your constants? What do you use to decide if something is true?
Are there constants in all fields of study -- even in political science? When I find another out of harmony with myself, I want to know his constants. What does he read or watch? What is his base? I am unimpressed when I hear the labels "Republican," "Democrat," "liberal" or "conservative," as these change, thus are not constants. John F. Kennedy, a liberal and a Democrat, would make George W. Bush, a conservative and a Republican, look very liberal. These terms are not trustworthy over time.
I am far more impressed when opinion is based upon factors resistant to change, such as natural law and human nature. Because the Constitution is based upon these constants, it will deal with every crisis now or another 200-plus years from now. The Preamble identifies the purposes of government. For more than 20 years, I have asked my students in every political science class what they would add or remove. What is outdated or no longer relevant? No additions or deletions have been suggested.
So, what are some of those time-tested constants? Let's identify two big ones.
First, all governments tend to grow. They view everything in a way to extend their power. Either the government comes to control the people or the people control the government. That is why, historically, countries that are truly free are rare and why we are losing our freedom today. Second, the more apathetic and indifferent the people become, the greater their tendency to shove decision-making power upward to the seat of government.
To prevent the growth of government, all power not listed in Article I, Section 8, or identified in a subsequent amendment, was left with the states and the people (10th Amendment). The little power remaining was then specifically identified and separated into a branch to make all law (Article I, Section 1), another to execute the law (Article II), and yet another to adjudicate the law (Article III), each with a list of powers in its respective area. The Bill of Rights was 10 areas specifically identified as off limits to the federal government -- again to keep it from totally controlling the people.
The constants of the Constitution will keep the government from dominating or controlling everything. It will even checkmate apathy for a time until a majority of the people fall into this category. These constants must be taught in our homes and schools so that we are not "tossed about by every wind of doctrine," and that we have a dependable base to reference. It is our level, chalk line and T square in government, and if not used, nothing is right and nothing fits.
Just as a child eventually learns that he must understand, and be in obedience to, the law of gravity to survive, we as a nation must return to constitutional constants to survive as a free nation. Will you make the Constitution your constant and only vote for those who do likewise?
Harold Pease, Ph.D., has taught history and political science for more than 25 years at Taft College. Find him at www.LibertyUnderFire.org.