The Purpose of a Constitution
umair haque

A constitution is just paper. This is heresy to you, I know.

Well, you evidently DON’T know. You are not off to a very good start.

You have here a rather incredible misunderstanding of American constitutionalism that could only be reached by an intentional avoidance of understanding the philosophical underpinnings of those views. If this is the philosophical basis of your tome, I don’t have high hopes for it. But let’s see where this goes.

In fact, one major reason Europe is now much more successful than the US…

Full stop. By what objective metric? You’re not going to find much of a basis for this statement in economic data, nor standard of living data which is properly normalized. One assumes you know that. So, what is the basis for this sweeping and unsubstantiated generalization?

“…like proportional representation. But I digress.”

Yes, you certainly do. If you’re going to take a shot at the underpinnings of the US system of segmented proportional representation, you might at least consider posting something which suggests you understand it.

The moral ends of constitutions often aren’t in constitutions.

Moral ends do in fact exist in the US constitution, in its Preamble, and in the Declaration of Independence, as you point out. Fortunately.

Generations of leaders have denied Americans real healthcare. Life is an end, an “inherent and inalienable right”, that isn’t recognized at all anymore as one.

Rubbish. Nobody has been “denied health care” for decades. For the uninsured portion of the population, ability to financially access the system is an enormous problem, which is why the US is going through the current exercise of determining how that access will be normalized. But it is not accurate to say that people are “denied health care”.

Happiness. What we know about happiness is very simple. To achieve the economists’ narrow happiness takes $70k, or about twice median income, a year.

Please provide the basket of goods you are basing your 70K on. Mr. Muhammad and I just went through this exercise due to our impending retirement, and concluded we could live with reasonable comfort on about 35–40K a year. Because of the blessings of God over our careers we will not have to do so, but 35K would provide us with ample food, utilities, cell phones, an an adequate place to live. At 70K, we’d be on three cruises a year and in restaurants twice a week. So, I would like to see your data before accepting such a sweeping assumption.

Real happiness is inner stillness, peace, love. We can visibly see that it’s lacking in America now.

Yes. Involvement in religious communities, which explicitly teach what you define as “real happiness”, is at a low ebb right now, compared to the 70’s and 80’s.

Just look at opioid overdose numbers. Happy people don’t have to resort to that, do they?

Good question. Opioid use is very high in Australia at the present moment as well. Since the general direction of your tome is to attempt to convince people that more government = happy people, that would seem to disrupt your narrative.

At any rate, the US opioid epidemic has been anecdotally connected to the loss of middle class jobs brought on by globalization and automation, in that the centers of opioid usage growth tend to be in those small town or small-urban centers that were formerly centered around large manufacturing operations. Populists from both parties (the Trump and Sanders supporters) have called this problem out and in this one area, have suggested very similar solutions.

America has a childlike and immature notion of freedom. As its political scientists say, without really thinking about it, “negative freedom”, or “freedom from”. Yet nowhere in the Constitution or Declaration does it that is what liberty is. Why not?

Fallacious reasoning:

…. and only partially right. The Preamble lists liberty as an “inalienable right”, so calling it a “foolish idea” as you say below is a nonstarter. At any rate, Jefferson did clarify in other writings:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

So, Jefferson defined liberty as the right to do what we will as long as it does not impede the rights of others, while specifically rejecting the law’s incontestable ability to limit that right.

Because it’s a foolish idea, one of the most foolish imaginable. I’ll prove it to you with a simple example. You’d agree that antiobiotics are one of the great discoveries in human history, wouldn’t you? They’ve probably saved your life, and definitely the life of a loved one, more than once. Now. How did they get discovered? Not in America. But in London. At St Mary’s Hospital. It’s unlikely that antibiotics could ever have been discovered in America. Why? America had “freedom from”. Things like public hospitals. Yet quite obviously a person with penicillin is freer than one without, aren’t they?

And that “reasoning”….. seems sane to you? :-) One could just as easily argue that a person “who does not pay taxes is freer than the one that must pay them”, eh? Wouldn’t you agree that the person with more disposable funds is freer than the person with less?

This tangentially reminds me of my relatives in Sweden. They were immigrants there when in their 30’s, back in the early 1980’s. They are not educated and had modest jobs. In retirement, they have free housing, free health care, other free stuff…… and such a small dole that they have to budget every penny. Travel in retirement? It takes them three years to save up enough to come over to the US just once.

A social democrat would claim that they are “free” because of all the free stuff they get. I’d argue otherwise.

The whole idea of opposing freedoms in this way crumbles at the slightest thought. It’s taken me just one paragraph to disprove it thoroughly.

Of course, because it was a straw man that you yourself set up. :-) Nobody would view “freedom from” and “freedom to” as anything but a false dichotomy. And no reasonable person would try to connect a medical advancement to a particular philosophy of governance, particularly in light of the fact that most tangible medical advancements over the decades have come from the US. Could the mapping of the human genome come from a public hospital?

And they certainly do not see the world around them laughing sadly at them fumbling in the dark.

Assuming that’s correct, of course; the way you have it phrased, it;s a logical fallacy:

In my own travels, which are on business and involve interaction with colleagues on such subjects, I generally find that the assumption that “everyone is laughing at us” to be a creation of media. Yes, certainly people across the globe have enormous criticisms of the US, which often track the same criticisms I have of my government, coming from a POV of relative global disengagement and free market economic interests. But the cynicism that you yourself have expressed is not universal in the least.

And that is why constitutions were written, isn’t it?

Uh…, not entirely. And perhaps it’s there where your intellectual house of cards comes tumbling down.

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