Lack of Understanding and Appreciation of Nation’s Founding Documents

I couldn’t agree with Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek more regarding his letter to USA Today.

Sandra Day O’Connor and George Nethercutt are correct that too many Americans lack sufficient understanding and appreciation of U.S. history and of the meaning of this nation’s founding documents (“Celebrate America by learning about her,” July 3).  In no group of Americans does this ignorance run more deeply and malignantly than it does for those in Congress and in the White House.

Aimed at ensuring that there would be no misunderstanding, the Tenth amendment makes clear what James Madison wrote in Federalist #45 about the U.S. Constitution: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined.”  Those few powers are enumerated and defined in Article I, Section 8.  Read the 429 words of this part of the Constitution and you’ll find no authority there (or anywhere else in the Constitution) for Uncle Sam to enforce minimum wages; to command Americans to purchase health insurance; to dictate the hiring practices of private firms; to operate a universal ‘pension’ program; to oversee or fund education; to subsidize farmers – indeed, no authority to do so much of what Washington does today as a matter of routine.

Yet every elected official in America swears an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Clearly, these oaths are muttered insincerely or in inexcusable ignorance (or both).

Donald J. Boudreaux

One thing I look for in a politician is evidence that he or she first understands the rules that they are signing up uphold and second agrees that the rules say want they were intended to say.

Journalism is in a really sad state when it can’t even seem to ask this basic question of candidates seeking elected office.  Of course, along with the elected officials, most journalists only have a vague understanding of the Nation’s founding documents and they feel comfortable granting government whatever it needs “to get the job done”, whether or not that job actually falls within the defined role of government or not.

2 thoughts on “Lack of Understanding and Appreciation of Nation’s Founding Documents

  1. “Journalism is in a really sad state when it can’t even seem to ask this basic question of candidates seeking elected office.”

    I agree but the bigger problem is the people that take journalists as 100% true gospel. The real problem are the people that don’t realize that journalists are people too and will always bias their stories in favor of what ever position the journalists hold.

    • Good comment. I agree. I’ve had many conversations where the other parties thought I was being obtuse for questioning the objectivity of the reporting. They assume these folks went to school to become objective journalists, their work had to pass through editors and fact checkers and it must be right. That goes for government officials too. They’re so quick to point out the self-interested business man, but journalists and government officials (and intellectuals) are somehow above the fray.


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