Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What You Are Not Supposed to Know

Thomas E.Woods has an excellent book review on Kevin Gutzman's The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution. Here is an excerpt:

Now there will always be some libertarians who – missing the point – will insist that they do not care about the Constitution, and by extension about a groundbreaking book like this. All they care about is liberty, regardless of the words of any Constitution, which they do not consider binding anyway.

My purpose is not to disparage this point of view, which in large measure I myself share. I simply happen to find it significant that from the very beginning, politicians and judges, in order to justify their departure from the understanding of the Constitution that was peddled to the people at ratification time, employed arguments that were exactly the opposite of what they themselves had told Americans in order to get them to ratify the Constitution. This is obviously an important proselytizing point for libertarians, since it shows how governments and their "constitutions" really end up working. Gutzman’s book also provides a fascinating glimpse at how the state transforms institutional restraints on its growth into mandates for that growth. (Bertrand de Jouvenel did something similar for European history in his book On Power.) And it asks, if only implicitly, whether in the long run any piece of paper can really be a match for the state’s predatory instincts. I can hardly imagine a libertarian or a serious conservative who wouldn’t find these questions worth asking.


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