Thoughts at a Hoosier Roadblock

September 16, 2009

Editors: Constitution Day is this Thursday, Sept. 17. The author, who has run for statewide and district offices as a both a Libertarian and as a Republican, is an expert on the Constitution and an advocate or restoring its role in restraining the powers of government in Indiana and the nation.

Like most people, I deny much of what’s happening today. As long as we don’t personally run afoul of the rapidly increasing militarization, authoritarianism and deceit, it might as well occur in far away North Korea or long ago Germany.
But it was a good thing my wife was driving when we were stopped at a “sobriety checkpoint” three weeks ago in Cloverdale, Indiana, The Land of The Free.

Roadblocks are hardly the worst of our constitutional worries. But in this case denial failed, and I got surprisingly angry. Had I personally faced the polite but intimidating force, flashlights and “your papers, please” gestalt, I might have reminded the officers of their oaths to both state and federal constitutions. I might have asked them to look up the “Oath Keepers,” a tiny minority of police and military personnel who take those oaths literally. I might have mentioned some key parts of the state and federal constitutions. I might have gotten tasered and cuffed in front of my children.

Who can deny that our government is ungoverned? Former President George W. Bush called the U.S. Constitution “just a [expletive deleted] piece of paper.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t idolize either the Constitution or our nation’s founders. The “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” was good enough to push off Britain, the global superpower of the day, and to create a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that politicians should be on a leash.

Yet Thomas Jefferson wrote, “. . . experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government], those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

In 1787, state delegates were authorized only to amend the Articles of Confederation. But in secret, many contrived to erect a more powerful, federal government. So the Constitutional Convention was no high-minded meeting of visionaries; it was America’s first power grab.

Jefferson’s prescience notwithstanding, after 11 score years of incremental perversions, the constitutions’ written restraints remain largely intact. Here is the U.S. Constitution’s Amendment X which is still the Law of the Land:

The 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.”

Similarly, the Indiana Constitution still limits state authority with Article I, Section 25: “No law shall be passed, the taking effect of which shall be made to depend upon any authority, except as provided in this Constitution.”

Laws cannot not create authority; they depend upon authority granted solely by constitutions. If authority isn’t specifically granted in a constitution, it’s specifically denied.

No judges or executives were ever granted any power over the constitutions. Only legislators, by a deliberately difficult process, can amend or abolish the constitutions, and they’ve rarely done it.

So there is no legal authority to lay speed or sobriety traps for citizens, or tax them for the benefit of bankers. Since the repeal of the 18th amendment, there is no federal authority to regulate the sale or consumption of anything. In fact most of what all levels of governments do is not only unconstitutional it is literally, according to the constitutions themselves, criminal if not treasonous.

But these lawbreakers aren’t the problem. Voters have approved every problem with a 98 percent reelection rate. Few of us have read the U.S. Constitution, though it’d take only a lunch hour to do so. Even fewer have read their state’s constitution, which should take only the span of a movie.

Read your constitutions. Ignorance won’t be bliss for much longer, and the truth just might set you free.

Andy Horning, an adjunct scholar of the foundation, wrote this at the request of the foundation in observance of Constitution Day, Sept. 17.


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