Amendments IX – X: In Which the Founders Explain the Conclusions of Government
So, the last two segments have been about the scope of government and the relationship it has to the people. Neither really addressed the broader, in some senses deeper notions of what government should be. While the Founders in general avoided discourses and indulgences in metaphysics, preferring by and large to live in a world of results rather than that of academics and theory, the final two amendments in the Bill of Rights reveal the core of their philosophy regarding the self-governance of popular sovereignty.
They conclude the Bill of Rights with the notions that the Constitution may not be interpreted to deny the rights of citizens, and that anything that has not been effectively spelled out within it is relegated to the individual states and local jurisdictions to decide for themselves.
Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The right to privacy is often considered protected under this particular amendment in addition to the Fourth. Likewise, as I mentioned in the first post, the entire Obamacare debacle—the government mandate on individuals to buy a product or service that they may never actually need—also falls under the prevue of things that would normally be covered under the Ninth.
Turns out, there is a great matter of debate as to both the meaning and the relevancy of the Ninth Amendment. Half of the judicial system seems not to know what it means, while the other half seems to think it really isn’t relevant. Maybe they’re right. Maybe for legal purposes it isn’t completely relevant. After all, it hardly spells out anything of specific note.
But that’s sort of the point. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution were written at a time when, despite colonial differences, the cultural basis of the fledgling country was more or less homogenous. Religious and ethnic differences existed, and the question of slavery remained as of yet then unresolved, but at its roots it remained thoroughly Western, and more specifically, thoroughly Anglo-Saxon. The social fabric of the nation was knit tightly enough that general common sense was respected and the sort of rights people had grown accustomed to having were guaranteed.
Today the very notion of such a social fabric guaranteed by common sense is so alien to the urban Left, which pushes no general cause for common ground save for the destruction of Western values and civilization, that this particular amendment and the reasons for its inclusion seem contradictory—or at the very least, silly and unnecessary. The nation today is divided over social topics like State-sanctioned (and with the Obamacare stuff, even the possibilities of State-funded) murder, a disagreement over what a family consists of, what marriage means, and whether boys are boys or if they’re actually girls despite their genitalia and vice-versa. Forget topics like how much taxes are fair to pay or the role that schooling and education should play in an individual’s development, the social fabric has frayed and split from dry-rot to such a degree that the urban and coastal cultures differ so wildly from ‘fly-over’ country that they’re almost separate geneses of societies altogether. When basic fundamental notions of reality are being questioned, notions like what rights are and who they’re guaranteed by and what the purpose of government should be become such monstrously complex issues that consensus becomes impossible.
Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Of all the amendments ratified under the Bill of Rights, this has probably been the one that has been most damaged and overwritten by the passage of time. Yes, John Adams was the first to try and maneuver around the First with the Alien and Sedition Acts, and yes the Second has been ever so frequently chipped away at since the nineteen thirties. But it is the consolidation of the State’s power, the gradual transference of local government powers from a Federalized relationship—one of independent bodies coordinating with one another in turn through the use of a central, Federal Government—to an altogether bureaucratized and, for lack of a more fitting term, totalitarian one. The centralization of power has led to the rise of a Big Government apparatus totalitarian in the sense that it is present in every community and especially every city in the country. Its programs are funded through taxes inescapable to the common man, or otherwise leveraged against the future in the form of the nation’s debt. And when it isn’t funding its own programs, it insidiously strong-arms state and local governments into complicity through withholding federal money for the programs that the states are required to comply with.
This future was predicted by Adams and Tocqueville, observed by Calhoun, and lamented by Goldwater, Buckley, and Kirk. The conservatives of today—Cruz, perhaps most notably—feign adherence to small government politics and a return to form of constitutionality, but the reality is that this centralized nation will not be capable of undoing its centralism and returning to a more Federalized system that was theorized and put forward by the Founders. The interstate highway system, welfare, government pensions, military and veteran services, and the federal funding of public schools all have ledgers drafted into the federal budget, to say nothing of the recent changes that have occurred under both Bush and Obama. A state decides that it doesn’t want to comply with some cockamamie scheme cooked up by Washington bureaucrats? Welp, that state can say goodbye to its infrastructure dollars. Sorry kids, but that leaky roof in your elementary school is just going to have to keep leaking.
The whole point of leaving most matters of governmental regulation up to the states was to allow local legislatures to operate according to the popular will. It was governance according to the subtle distinctions between cultures of the individual states and localities. Don’t like the way Boston regulates firearms? Move to Rhode Island or New York. Don’t like how those legislatures deal with marriage law? Move to Pennsylvania or Delaware. Or someplace else. There are fifty states now, surely you can find someplace to settle down.
Oh, but wait. The Statist bureaucrats in Washington want you to live the same way in Nashville as they do in D.C. The millionaires in Silicon Valley want people in Little Rock to have the same views on healthcare and gender as they do out in Southern California. The nation is just easier to manage when we can pretend it’s one huge homogenous block of ambiguous means and averages that equals “America”. But America is not a homogenous whole and it never was. It used to be held together as a patchwork of ideas and wills that all belonged to the same fundamental cultural fabric. But that’s been ripped apart. Now we’re told that we all have to be made of the same weave, same design, same fabric, because it’s too inconvenient to conceive of a nation as consisting of myriad persons and businesses and families and wants and goals. Supplant it all with the State, please. This quilt has room for only one square and it has to stretch from New York City to Los Angeles; everywhere in between might as well just get flattened under its weight.
So what exactly is still left to the states to decide? Well, technically, a lot. But as I mentioned above, all of that depends on how willing state governors are to play ball with Washington. In practice, the individual states still maintain quite a bit of power over certain realms of commerce law, in addition to things like housing, zoning, and development restrictions and permits—the latter being something of a specialty relegated even further down the chain to county and city jurisdictions, although depending on your area, significant regulations can exist coming down from both levels of government. Specifics regarding gun laws, from what’s allowed to be owned, to what’s allowed to be sold, to what’s allowed to be carried around, are handled generally by the states. So the general idea of the Tenth Amendment still exists. The problem is that spirit behind it—leave to the local guys everything that isn’t enumerated here—is dead and buried.
The troubling concept of the nanny state, the governorship protectorate of the citizenry, the effective imprisonment of human liberty within the totalitarian cell of bureaucratic regulations and social self-monitoring—all of it is the natural and logical outgrowth of humanity’s imperfect nature when it is let loose to pillage unbound by the constraints of reasonable moral doctrine. As individuals, none of us are perfectly rational, reasonable, pure-of-heart, or all-Good. But the Modern products of Enlightenment thought have disposed of these ideas. Instead, they proclaim, Man is capable of incalculable heights. Humanity itself progresses morally and psychologically through the ages at speeds comparable to its technological advances, they exclaim. And yet the wanton misery and death dispensed by such schools of thought, the eugenics programs that they endorse, the social engineering, the brainwashing, and the insistence upon moral relativity have continually and constantly revealed that the fruit they promise is rotten all the way to its seed.
So what is it about the Constitution that Leftists detest? Turns out, just about everything.
But, here is the problem. Is it the Left is to blame for all of this, or is it Modernity itself that we must fight against? Have Conservative principles failed against the onslaught of the visceral nihilism that remains ever-present and sucking like the void at the heart of Modernity’s rampant self-hatred? The answers to these questions remain elusive at least to me, but in part they have been answered already: the European continent is lost—there, the West does not remain. Britain is failing and has already given up its empire and given up its values in exchange for welfare and easy consciences. And now, America at last becomes honest in its desire to “choose” between one dictator and another, one brand of fascism for a different one, one cruel self-interested manipulator of ideologues for another. At last the world is held open to see for us to reflect upon our cultural bankruptcy. It’s in our faces and we can no longer pretend that our democracy means anything at all or that even what founding principles are left in this country stand up to be counted when every angle of the political rhetoric today lives to pretend these constitutions are but vague words on an outdated document.
And the greater question still remains unasked. Can Modernity even be fought? It’s been more than a hundred years since the term took to being vogue, but more than two hundred since the cycle began. The ideas trace back even further still, before the world wars, the starvations, the eugenics, the guillotines, and the revolutions. Modernity will eventually die because it must die, because it’s entire reason for existence is to die, because it functions and sustains itself on its self-effacing nihilism. But we are running out of steam and out of life, even as our life expectancies push ever further and our medical equipment gets ever more sophisticated. Our children thin, our promises expire, our culture hollows out and thins until we are glorifying the inane and vilifying the life-giving. Even now, the apolitical body of the American Midwest succumbs to the effusive lure of tyranny and mob, brought on by cable news networks, Hollywood, and a stacked public education and Federally-funded university systems. What hope is there left when the very people for whom the Constitution was written have decided at last that it’s outdated and irrelevant? What hope is there for their children? For mine? For yours?