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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Phrases That Have Cost America Its Freedom

In the context of the debate about Obama’s interventionist policies raging all over the US and beyond, I found an extremely pertinent and enlightening editorial by Edward Cline, titled ‘The Perilous Ambiguities in The Constitution’, published on the site ‘Family Security Matters’.

Cline explains how two specific ambiguities in the American constitution have been exploited by interventionist administrations throughout American history, giving them the opportunity to attack and destroy the individual rights that lie at the foundation of the United States. The two ambiguities are the two phrases, ‘general welfare’ and ‘regulate commerce.’ ‘General welfare’ figures in the pre-amble and at other places in the document, and ‘regulate commerce’ is part of the commerce clause (article 1, section 8).

Cline talks about the rationale behind the use of these phrases in the American constitution, and their hopeless vagueness, that has been used as a destructive weapon against freedom. He quotes the reasons and interpretations that were offered for these phrases by the founding fathers of the American constitution, and others after them. Unfortunately, no conclusive definition has ever emerged, and none is ever likely to, considering the virtually undefinable nature of these phrases. This is perhaps one of the most unfortunate instances “of how an ambiguity in crucial language can become perilous and destructive, even in the most well-intentioned and cogent statements.

It also serves as an example of why Ayn Rand always spoke about the need for language to be clear, precise and unambiguous. Vague, unexplained, or ill-defined terminology has always been a weapon of those who propagate systems of un-reason. In this tragic instance, the founding fathers of the greatest political document ever, in an attempt to preserve the basic, inalienable rights of rational human beings, handed their adversaries the means to destroy them.

Interestingly, Ayn Rand recognized that there were problems in the American constitution. Judge Narragansett, one of the heroes in Atlas Shrugged, is shown adding a fresh clause to the document, towards the end of the book: 'The Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade...'

One wonders, in reality, how long and difficult the battle for that kind of an amendment is going to be.

Click here to read the entire article, and here to browse through the other editorials Edward Cline has written on this site.

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