Gross Media Ignorance
Walter E. Williams
by Walter E. Williams: Ignorance,
Stupidity or Manipulation
that's intelligent or informed about Time magazine editor
Richard Stengel's article "One
Document, Under Siege" (June 23, 2011). It contains many grossly
ignorant statements about our Constitution. If I believed in conspiracies,
I'd say Stengel's article is part of a leftist agenda to undermine
respect for the founding values of our nation.
"The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave
us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic
freedoms – freedom of speech, assembly, religion – but they also
gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human
being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota
should have the same number of Senators as California, which is
kind of crazy. And I'm not even going to mention the Electoral College."
My column last
week addressed the compromise whereby each slave was counted as
three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining representation
in the House of Representatives and Electoral College. Had slaves
been counted as whole people, slaveholding states would have had
much greater political power. I agree the framers were not gods
and were not infallible, but they had far greater wisdom and principle
than today's politicians.
held democracy and majority rule in deep contempt. As a matter of
fact, the term democracy appears in none of our founding documents.
James Madison argued that "measures are too often decided, not according
to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by
the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." John
Adams said: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes,
exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that
did not commit suicide." Stengel's majoritarian vision sees it as
anti-democratic that South Dakota and California both have two senators,
but the framers wanted to reduce the chances that highly populated
states would run roughshod over thinly populated states. They established
the Electoral College to serve the same purpose in determining the
recognized that most human abuses were the result of government.
As Thomas Paine said, "government, even in its best state, is but
a necessary evil." Because of their distrust, the framers sought
to keep the federal government limited in its power. Their distrust
of Congress is seen in the language used throughout our Constitution.
The Bill of Rights says Congress shall not abridge, shall not infringe,
shall not deny and other shall-nots, such as disparage, violate
and deny. If the founders did not believe Congress would abuse our
God-given, or natural, rights, they would not have provided those
protections. I've always argued that if we depart this world and
see anything resembling the Bill of Rights at our next destination,
we'll know we're in hell. A bill of rights in heaven would be an
affront to God.
founder distrust for government is found in the Constitution's separation
of powers, checks and balances, and several anti-majoritarian provisions,
such as the Electoral College, two-thirds vote to override a veto
and the requirement that three-quarters of state legislatures ratify
changes to the Constitution.
"If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government,
it sure doesn't say so." That statement is beyond ignorance. The
10th Amendment reads: "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." Stengel apparently
has not read The Federalist No. 45, in which James Madison, the
acknowledged father of the Constitution, said: "The powers delegated
by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few
and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments
are numerous and indefinite."
is five pages online, and I've only commented on the first. There's
also little in the remaining pages that reflects understanding and
respect for our nation's most important document.
E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics
at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist.
To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other
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