The Role of the Constitution in the Development of a Nation
W. Cleon Skousen. The Role of the Constitution in the Development of a Nation. This speech was given September 29, 1986 in Madrid, Spain.
There are three things every one of us wants for ourselves and our country.
Freedom, A Good Constitution, and Peace
The first is freedom. There are many developed nations which are free as nations, but the citizens within those nations are not free. They are terribly overtaxed, overregulated and in a sense oppressed. We want freedom for ourselves individually as well as for our country.
Second, a good constitution will provide the means for everybody who is willing to work to become prosperous. You can test any constitution by asking the following questions. Does it give us the freedom to invent and explore? Does it give us the freedom to buy the things we want? Does it give us the freedom to sell the things that we make on the competitive market? Does it give us the freedom to fail when we haven’t done our best?
Those who have been the great pioneers of freedom and the writing of constitutions have said that because we are all different we probably all want different kinds and degrees of prosperity. The French philosophers said we will not have social justice until we have an equal sharing of everything. Personally, I don’t want an equal sharing of everything. I have no desire to own half of my neighbor’s cows, and I doubt if he is interested in my book collection.
And, third, all of us want peace. What does peace mean? Security, law, order and justice internally, and protection from any predatory threat externally. Few nations enjoy that wonderful blessing at this time.
The degree that these wonderful goals of peace and freedom can be achieved by any nation or any people depends upon the way they are governed, which in turn depends upon the kind of constitution under which they have been structured.
It is as important to recognize a bad constitution as it is a good one. The hazards of a constitution under a monopoly of power, which we call Rulers’ Law, become very evident very early. It contains many dehumanizing characteristics. For example, in the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — whose very names are fraudulent since they are neither the people’s nor republics — people do not have inalienable rights.
Under Rulers’ Law all power is in the ruler. It is like a inverted pyramid; at the top is the elite government of the ruling party, entrenched, self-perpetuating and impossible to dislodge without great sacrifice of blood and material. Right underneath it are the provinces or the community, and finally, at the bottom, the little person who has to sustain himself at the individual citizen level.
Rulers’ Law allows serious exploitation of all its people. There is only one political party which cannot possibly avoid the temptation to exploit the people. The rulers constitute an elite class with special privileges and immunities. They get into power saying they will share and share alike, but in Russia, for example, there are 13,000 millionaires. In Nicaragua, a handful of families got the support of the people because they were going to help them have equality and justice at last. Now they live in the Somoza palaces and drive their cars and exploit the people much more than they were under Somoza.
The entire population in Communist countries is regulated and exploited like slaves. They are closely guarded so that none can escape their taskmasters. There is also an elaborate spy system. They tell me that in Nazi Germany there was one spy for every six citizens.
It is the same in the Soviet Union where there is an extensive propaganda machine to control the thinking of the people. There are numerous slave labor camps to isolate anyone who rebels against the system. There is a huge standing army, not to protect the nation from invasion or outside enemies, but to keep the people from rising up and securing their freedom and liberties once again.
Rulers’ Law dominated the human family for practically its entire history. It has only been in the last 200 years that the more developed nations have been experimenting with self-government. It is time that we pooled our knowledge and our experiences and took advantage of some of the lessons that we have learned, often with bitter experience.
As the American founding fathers said, the form of your constitution is not important, but the moral stability of your people is. If you don’t have moral stability no amount of careful structuring and mechanization of a political constitution will save you. It begins and ends in the quality of the people. The constitution is based on a social compact between the people themselves.
Peoples’ Law begins with all the people combining together in a sacred compact called a covenant society. It isn’t a compact between the people and their king. We aren’t looking around for some benevolent ruler to save us. We just all say that we will covenant with each other in the sight of God to perform certain duties and responsibilities and to avoid certain things that destroy a society.
Ruler’s Law People’s Law
Ruling party Region
A diagram of Peoples’ Law, in contrast to Rulers’ Law, looks like a pyramid right side up. At the bottom of the pyramid are the individual citizens who are going to covenant together. While Rulers’ Law is based on fear, Peoples’ Law is based on faith. We must learn to love and appreciate one another and to be able to trust one another. That will not happen if we do not carry a sense of moral responsibility in dealing with each other.
The Creator’s Code
Benjamin Franklin, one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution, said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, and if nations become corrupted and vicious they have more need of masters and the people themselves will insist upon it. Protect us from those who prey upon us by night and day, they will insist on masters and you’ll end up with martial law at the insistence of the people.”
In 1787, the very same year that the constitution launched what turned out to be the miracle of America from which we have since strayed, the Founding Fathers passed a law that said that in the schools they must teach religion. morality and knowledge. Immediately one asks today, whose religion is to be taught? The Founding Fathers said everyone’s religion. They hoped we would teach these five things to our children:
(1) There is a Creator who made all things.
(2) He has revealed a code for happy living in a moral code to distinguish right from wrong. He revealed it, we didn’t have to discover it.
(3) That Creator holds us individually responsible for the way we treat each other regardless of what church we belong to.
(4) Beyond this life is a future life.
(5) In the next life we will each be judged for what happened in this life.
It is important to realize that there is a God who has revealed a code for happy living; who holds us responsible for the way we treat each other; who testifies to us that we continue and are part of eternity. Friendships and enmities that we establish here will go on forever. They are not temporary associations. We will be judged in the next life, rewarded or held back, according to our deeds in this one. That is basic to a peoples’ constitution and if that is not fundamental in the culture of the people, no matter how they structure it, it will not survive.
Notice that in Peoples’ Law the citizen has the responsibility to do almost everything and what he can’t do himself the community helps him do, such as providing him with streets, police protection, fire protection, water and gas. Sometimes the whole state may participate in solving a regional problem. Last of all, the nation has some responsibility and I want you to notice how little. In a well-structured Peoples’ Law, the constitution of the federal government has little authority and responsibility numerically, but great power in the field where it operates to protect the whole nation to deal with foreign nations, such as in the area of trade.
Avoid Government Involvement With Welfare Regulations
Do not let the federal government become involved in welfare regulations. The American Founding Fathers warned us about it long ago. They told us that once those social welfare powers are in place, chains are put on each level of government which can’t be broken and which will cause the government to do more than they are supposed to do. They will try to build the pyramid upside down. They will try to seize power by usurpation.
In a democratic republic the people enjoy the universal right to elect a representative and presiding officers. Their government by elected representatives is a real republic whose political powers are separated in three departments. One group writes the law, another administers the law, and we have qualified judges to enforce and interpret the laws.
In closing, I would repeat that in choosing a government what you want is the balanced center where you have enough government for order, law and justice, but not enough government to abuse the people. If you can get your government of the people in that position, in the center of the spectrum, keep them there.