The Corner

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Fear of the Constitution


Ian Millhauser discovers that many conservatives believe that the modern welfare state exceeds the constitutional powers of the government in Washington, D.C. He writes that “there is something fundamentally authoritarian about the tenther constitution.” (“Tenther” is his put-down for people who read the Tenth Amendment as a tighter limit on the power of the national government than he does.) “Social Security, Medicare, and health-care reform are all wildly popular, yet the tenther constitution would shackle our democracy and forbid Congress from enacting the same policies that the American people elected them to advance.” This is upside-down. You might as well say that the First Amendment is “authoritarian” because it keeps popular restrictions on free speech from being enacted. Any limit on governmental power is “fundamentally authoritarian” on this reading.

I came to this article via Alan Wolfe, who seems to think it makes conservatives look bad.