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I debated with myself whether to continue this conversation because I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. However, I find some of the points you both are making to be remarkable and so I will remark on them.
First, the Declaration as a model for government. Agreed, it does not define the mechanics of how government should be instituted. Instead it tells us what good government is in order to explain that we did not have one. It tells us that good government is:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence…”
In that, it does define good government and that is the published model that I am referring to and which is not the model that the Constitution followed. Which is a good segue into…
Ref the Articles, those are not the people, those are the states. The implied “sovereign people” are not sovereign if their Rights are given to them by a state or the ‘State’. This is an important point that the Declaration made that was not included in the Constitution as it does not acknowledge our unalienable Rights. Instead it grants them to us via Amendments, which are by definition, State granted and State controlled. Per our current government, we are a people that are privileged by government with certain Rights. The key word being ‘privileged’ and the transitory nature that implies.
In contrast, my opinion, a government that was based on the ideas in the Declaration would have started with our unalienable Rights and our Powers and defined itself based on protecting those Rights by acting as our Proxy using our lent Powers. If we were to discuss a Constitution 2.0 that is where I would want to start.
Lastly, ref what I think is a dismissal of the Declaration as something, well, to be dismissed, I would disagree. Ask an average American if any of the following phrases are familiar: Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness; Unalienable Rights; Consent of the Governed; These Truths to be Self-Evident… Then ask them if these are part of being American, part of our Country, and part of our Government. I find that almost everyone I have asked says yes or, sarcastically, not anymore. The Declaration was not intended to be a vision statement but its ideals are part of the American cultural fabric. The irony that effectively none of those ideals are in the legal description of our government is poignant. The fact that our Rights can be removed, singly or in bulk, by the next Amendment is scary. The historical perspective on the Declaration notwithstanding, it has introduced expectations that were never intended to be met by the Constitution. Regardless of the historical reasons for that it is what we have today.
I didn’t know what a “Straussian position” was so I googled it. The first two hits said that Straussians are political philosophers who argue that Socratic method is still possible and the second defended them as not being fascists but being liberal democrats instead…I don’t know if I’ve ever been identified as that yet so thanks for the new experience.
I understand that the Declaration was not intended to be a vision statement, the FF at that time didn’t know that they needed one. However, it becomes one by default when one tries to understand what we all agreed on at the founding of this country. It simply defines what we told the world about us, our principles, our objectives, and our reasons. I don’t understand how a public description of what we considered good government in 1776 would not be relevant to any government we formed, esp one that is formed only a decade or so later. If I were good King George at the time I might have been amused at what we say and then what we do.
That said, I don’t think that your answer was an answer to the question(s) I posed. It lumped the discussion into a category of things that are not useful to discuss. I only know that argument as a debating tactic so I am not sure if it is meant to inform me of something or just to make me stop asking questions. I make a poor groupie so if it is the latter reason then so long and thanks for all the fish. If it is the former reason, however, then please inform me better. I don’t understand if you think you have answered the questions I asked, if you are citing doctrine, or if there is an additional meaning to what you said.
I was considering it as an exercise, not necessarily in futility, but in understanding what happened to the Constitution.
We started off with a pretty good vision statement, the Declaration of Independence, where it laid out the foundation for government that would serve us well and yet we ended up with the Constitution. Being more of a project minded person, I have to ask, what happened? Our deliverables are not at all what our vision statement was leading us towards. The proper body of the Constitution is all about government, the Amendments are nice addons but don’t really do what they were supposed to, and there is no mention of any need to protect our Rights. I am looking for parallels in the Constitution to these points from the Declaration of Independence:
1. It is a self-evident truth that we are all created equal from our Creator (and hence treated such by the State)
2. We have unalienable Rights. Both the word ‘unalienable’ and the capitalization are important as the first defines them to not be a gift from government and the latter makes them proper nouns, along with other elevated things like God and Country.
3. The purpose of government is to secure and protect our Rights.
4. Government powers come from the governed.
5. How to deal with a government that has become insufferable.
Like I said, I am project minded and I sometimes also think a little bit like a lawyer. I am missing a lot of things in the Constitution that seem to have been requirements before. I see a mention of ‘establishing Justice’ which might mean something about equality but in a weaselword way I have to note that establishing something means it only has to happen once and doesn’t mean that you need to continue it. Any good lawyer should have noted that before ink hit the page.
Our ‘rights’ in the Amendments are legislative rights, given by the Constitution and implicitly taken away just as easily with the stroke of a pen. They are not unalienable and they are common and not treated as special in any way. As I suppose they were intended to be.
The purpose of government is to… make a more perfect Union (they capitalized that…), Justice, Tranquillity, defence, general welfare, Blessings of Liberty… nothing there about securing and protecting our Rights. Of course, the Constitution didn’t have any Rights to protect, that was the Amendments, so maybe there is some symmetry. But the Amendments don’t have that either. Where does it say that the purpose of government is to secure and protect our Rights? Nowhere.
There is a reference to the People, “We, the People…”, but that is about all that is said. What happened? That is the only reference to powers coming from the People? That is how my wife says I say thank you. There is no causal link from the powers that the People have to the powers that the Constitution names. I understand why, the Constitution wants to have those extraordinary powers that the people don’t have, e.g. regulating interstate trade, but without that linkage there is no throttle on what may be conceived. It is not a matter of what powers we give to our proxy now, it is a matter of what can be invented and legislated in. Bad. Very bad idea, FF.
And lastly, if the Constitution was still being written and I had read up to the next to last page, I could have predicted that there would be no out clause. It is every lawyers coup de grace that they write a contract that is so in their favour and that there is no way to get out of it. I think they learned from the guys before them who said in perpetuity but which actually lasted about 10 years. Make it so it is even harder to do to the new guys what was done to the old guys.
If my SOW (Statement of Work) was the Declaration of Independence, if it really was just the vision statement my customer had agreed upon for our project, and I delivered the Constitution, I would have major issues. There are too many deviations from the original points, or no mention of them at all. Did someone forget to do a Gap analysis? So, what happened here? Why are we so far off base on this? And, more important, how do we fix this mess? People died based on the ideals in the Declaration, why are they ignored now?
(Sorry for the length of this post but I didn’t have time to write a shorter one)