September 01, 2009
Kevin Gutzman is hard at work crafting a response to Austin’s recent essay on how the American Constitution, contrary to the wishes of its greatest defenders, is hardly a safeguard against government expansion and centralization. In the mean time, I direct your attention to Lew Rockwell’s latest column, an homage to the great Hans Herman Hoppe. Lew takes up the Constitution Question and lends support to Austin’s side:
Often times when you first hear a point [Hoppe] makes, you resist it. I recall when he spoke at a conference we held on American history, and gave a paper on the U.S. Constitution. You might not think that a German economist could add anything to our knowledge on this topic. He argued that it represented a vast increase in government power and that this was its true purpose. It created a powerful central government, with the cover of liberty as an excuse. He used it as a case in point, and went further to argue that all constitutions are of the same type. In the name of limiting government—which they purportedly do—they invariably appear in periods of history when the elites are regrouping to emerge from what they consider to be near anarchy. The Constitution, then, represents the assertion of power.
When he finished, you could hear a pin drop. I?m not sure that anyone was instantly persuaded. He had challenged everything we thought we knew about ourselves. The applause was polite, but not enthusiastic. Yet his points stuck. Over time, I think all of us there travelled some intellectual distance. The Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, which Rothbard had described as near anarchist in effect. Who were these guys who cobbled together this Constitution? They were the leftovers from the war: military leaders, financiers, and other mucky mucks—a very different crew from the people who signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was out of the country when the Constitution was passed.
And what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite, just as Hoppe said. It created a new and more powerful government that not only failed to restrain itself (what government has ever done that?), but grew and grew into the monstrosity we have today. It required a wholesale rethinking of the history, but what Hoppe had said that shocked everyone turns out to be precisely right—and this is only one example among many.
Daily updates with TM’s latest