Consent of the Governed

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In the battle between conservatives and statists, a fundamental difference seems to lie in the meaning of a concept found in the Declaration of Independence:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed[.]

The dispute is how men convey consensual powers to their government.

Conservatives believe that governmental power is conveyed exclusively through the Constitution; statists believe power is conveyed through elections. In this dispute, statists are simply wrong, provably wrong, and wholly unwilling to engage in a proper debate because they know they’re wrong.

Does the Constitution Have Meaning?

For the statists to be right in claiming that elections, not the Constitution, determine our government’s just powers, then they must provide a rational explanation for the Constitution. Just as the atheist cannot explain joy or subatomic particles that preceded the Big Bang, the statist cannot explain the Constitution were just powers derived from elections. Instead of a Constitution with means for amendment, the founders might well have adjourned after penning the first 4 sections of Article I. Unfortunately for the statist view, they continued.

In fact, the Constitution and its Amendments make clear that the Constitution itself is the only conveyance of just powers from the people to the government. Article I Section 9 limits the authority of Congress, and the Bill of Rights limit the power of the government as a whole. The 10th Amendment prohibits the federal government from doing anything that is not explicitly authorized by the Constitution.

Were the intent to simply authorize elections by which Congress may do whatever it please, why did the founders waste so much time and treasure in crafting these details? Why doesn’t the 10th Amendment, and all other paragraphs that limit government power, end with words to the effect: “Or whatever the government feels like doing.” Instead, the founders specified that government is limited to specific powers. As Jacob Hornberger writes:

The argument [that elected officials would trample rights of citizens without Constitutional positive statements of rights] partially failed and partially succeeded. It failed to stop the passage of the first eight amendments, but it ensured the passage of the Ninth Amendment: β€œThe enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and the Tenth Amendment: β€œThe 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.”

If elections alone determine the limits of government power, then the Constitution has no meaning oustide of its first four sections on the holding of elections. But the Constitution does have meaning, and no statist would argue otherwise.

Consequences of Constitutional Meaning

If, on the other hand, the Constitution has meaning, then its meaning must be uniform and final. No article or paragraph is more important than any other. The means by which Representatives and Senators are elected is no more important than the 9th Amendment or Article V.

If the Constitution is the vessel through which power, derived from our Creator, is transmitted, in part, to the government, then any act of government that is not directly authorized by the Constitution is illegal and anti-Constitutional, just as sin is anti-God.

If the Constitution has meaning, then those who willingly advocate for anti-Constitutional government activity–Cap and Trade, the Department of Education, etc.–are anti-Constitutionalists. They seek to destroy all limits on government power. They advance a government capable of anything, up to and including genocide. To the statists, the Constitution is an evil burden that must be isolated, ridiculed, and destroyed.

And they are winning.


I will personally debate any statist to defend “Resolved: The results of an election neither increase nor decrease the just powers of the US Government.”

–Bill Hennessy