Harry Browne writes:

You see, today is supposed to be “Constitution Day”.
And no one really cares about the “Constitution”

The Constitution was supposed to spell out what
government can do and what it can’t do. The
government’s few legal functions are listed in
Article 1, Section 8. It was a revolutionary
document, in that no government in history had
ever had its duties and restrictions so
carefully defined.

Despite frequent violations of the Constitution
by the government, the document did its job
reasonably well for the first hundred years —
making America the freest country in history.

As late as 1887, when Congress passed a bill
providing federal relief to drought-stricken
Texas farmers, Grover Cleveland vetoed it,
saying, “I can find no warrant for such an
appropriation in the Constitution.”

But that was about the last gasp for limited,
Constitutional government. Because the
Constitution wasn’t self-enforcing, it depended
on the good intentions of politicians —
something Thomas Jefferson specifically warned
against in 1798 when he said, “In questions of
power, then, let no more be heard of confidence
in man, but bind him down from mischief by the
chains of the Constitution.”

Michael Cloud put it more succinctly in recent
years: “The problem isn’t the abuse of power,
it’s the power to abuse.” So long as the
politicians have the power, they’ll abuse it.
And the Constitution was intended to prevent
letting the politicians have the power to

The Transformation

But by the end of the 1800s, too many Americans
had lost their fear of government and
politicians. The introduction of government
schools had made it almost certain that most
children would never learn the importance of
binding down government with the chains of the

And so government was transformed in the public
mind from a necessary-but-dangerous evil into
“the great fiction, through which everybody
endeavors to live at the expense of everybody
else,” as Frederic Bastiat described it.

More and more, the Constitution became a
political toy, to be tossed about, invoked,
ignored, or misrepresented — whatever suited a
given politician’s agenda at any given moment.

The income tax amendment in 1913 hammered the
final nail into the coffin of limited,
constitutional government. Now the politicians
had not only the authority, but also the
unlimited revenue, to do whatever they wanted.
It seems very, very unlikely, for example, that
Americans would have been dragged into World
War I if the government hadn’t had the
unlimited revenue to finance it.

Even the Bill of Rights — which eliminates all
ambiguity by spelling out specific things the
government may _not_ do — was relegated to
second place behind the needs of politicians.
By the first World War, the Supreme Court had
decided that the words “Congress shall make no
law . . . ” don’t really mean that “Congress
shall make no law . . . ” They mean only that
the government must have a “compelling
interest” in doing something. Not surprisingly,
the government employees on the Court almost
always decide that the government does have a
compelling interest.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Those conservatives who still care about the
Constitution say that it should be taught in
the schools. As though government employees
will emphasize the original purpose of the
Constitution in restraining government.
Instead, they’ll give snap quizes on such
weighty questions as “How many years in a
Senator’s term?” or “Who appoints the Supreme
Court justices?”

If the American people are to learn the
importance of limited, Constitutional
government, we have to teach them ourselves.

But people aren’t interested in academic
lectures on constitutional government. They’re
far more interested in their own lives — and
rightly so.

That’s why repealing the federal income tax is
our best tool. We can offer them the reward of
never paying income tax again in exchange for
giving up any unconstitutional federal

The next time you want someone to understand
the importance of the Constitution, try
approaching him this way . . .

“If we repeal the federal income tax and yours
is an average American family, you’ll have at
least $10,000 a year more to spend or invest.
What will you do with that money?

“Will you put your children in a private
school, where they can get whatever kind of
education you want for them?

“Will you help your favorite cause or charity
in a way you’ve never been able to do before?

“Will you start that business you’ve always
wanted, plan a better retirement, send your
children to college?

“All you have to do in return is to restrict
the government to the Constitution — giving up
whatever pittance unconstitutional government
provides to you personally.”

If you try this, you may be surprised to find
that the Constitution isn’t such a hard sell
after all.

And maybe someday “Constitution Day” will mean
something again.

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