Said the Spider to the Fly

When the Constitution first came out of the convention, the opposition to it (as it then was) was identified with the anti-Federalists, led by men like Patrick Henry. The support for it was called Federalist, led by men like James Madison. In the resulting clash between the two factions, the Federalists compromised enough to agree to a Bill of Rights, which was enough to secure passage. This means that it is not too much to call the Constitution a (moderate) anti-Federalist document. The steady encroachments of federal power since that time simply show us that the moderation should have been a little less moderate, and a little more suspicious.

Speaking of suspicion, there are two approaches to constitutional law, each having to do with where the default suspicions lie. One side is suspicious of citizen, who might be off in a corner, you know, making a profit or something. The other view is suspicious of the power of government, which always wants to play the game and be the ref at the same time.

In the founding era, the basic orientation was this: “How can we protect our rights from Congress?” Today, the assumption for many has become: “How can we have our rights protected by Congress?” Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.

This basic division of thought is shaking out again in our own time. A generation ago one party thought the government should solve our problems by doing x and the other party thought the government should solve our problems by doing y. Now things are quite different. Now one faction believes that the government should solve our problems by doing x and the other believes government is the problem.

 

And of course, a number of Republicans want to get the support and energy of this latter group . . . so they can get in office and do y.

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