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Read the Constitution, it might surprise you

Published 2022-07-04

On America Day™ I encourage all my friends to read the Constitution. It won’t even take an hour!

You will notice a few things:

  1. IT IS SO THIN. You can read it one sitting. This is a boot record, not an operating system. It wasn’t even sufficient legal code to run a country in 1789…it was immediately amended (10 times!) and then Congress went on to enact in one year a body of law many times larger than it.

  2. CONGRESS HAS ALL THE POWER. Specifically: the House of Representatives. They control the purse strings and are intended to draft legislation (Art I Sec 7 & 8). My whole lifetime, Congress has shirked this power to the military (by way of the Commander in Chief), the administrative state (by dumping the hard work on the Executive), and the court system (by way of the SCOTUS). This has left us now with a government of accumulated case law administered by bureaucrats.

  3. The VERY FIRST power explicitly granted to anyone in the Constitution is the power to impeach (Art I sec 2), granted to the House. Impeach anyone. The President, diplomats, bureaucrats, SCOTUS justices, Senators, each other.

  4. It is legally easy to create new states (Art IV Sec 3)

To the extent that “a strict reading” of the Constitution can reveal the “Founder’s intent,” a few things are apparent:

  1. It can’t be read “strictly” — there isn’t enough here to run a PTA, let alone a country

  2. The House of Representatives (now the weakest arm of Fed. gmt) was intended to hold the reins of power. It is supposed to be a body of nonstop action, turning over every 2 years(!), growing continuously, pumping out all kinds of ideas. The Senate is where those actions were intended to “cool,” be debated, and passed along to the bureaucrats (i.e. the Executive.)

  3. The House’s greatest power is hiring & firing, all the way up to SCOTUS & the President. Its second-greatest power is in withholding funds from everyone else.

  4. We should have, like, 300 states by now

Meta commentary

There are two ways to read a foundational text. One way is to parse every word closely, with a keen eye for GOTCHAS that will confirm your priors. The other way is to skim it carefully but repeatedly and let the gist accumulate. For example, my baptismal bible is a handsome “red letter” King James, where all of Jesus’ words are printed in red. A skim-and-gist reading of the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus hated money, powerful people, and violence and He loved the poor and miserable people, with a strong emphasis on Love. That’s the “gist” of Christianity. But if you dig in word-by-word you can find evidence of the exact opposite (e.g. Mark 14:7)! Read the Constitution for the gist and it is really interesting!