A New Beginning for Old Ideas

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Spalding, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Throughout history, privilege belonged to the most powerful. Kings, barons and lords controlled property, keeping wealth in the hands of a few. Poverty was widespread and almost all were subjects to someone else. But 225 years ago this coming Monday, a group of political entrepreneurs charted a different course.

These revolutionaries proclaimed that all are fundamentally equal and equally endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They had the novel idea that government exists to secure God-given rights, and that it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.

During four months in 1787, they wrote a constitution for the United States. By design it limited the power of government under the rule of law, created a vigorous framework that expanded economic opportunity, protected national independence and secured liberty and justice for all.

Since Americans are equal, self-governing citizens and the United States government is limited, we have the liberty and opportunity to live our lives, control our fate, and pursue our happiness - and the American Dream.

For the past 100 years, though, liberals have been busy building a different dream: that a better society could be engineered by government. Today, the federal government has acquired an all but unquestioned dominance over virtually every area of American life. It acts without constitutional limits and increasingly regulates our most basic activities, from how much water is in our toilets to what kind of light bulbs we can buy.

So while we face many challenges, the most difficult task ahead - and the most important - is to restore constitutional limits on government.

The rise of unlimited government is most familiar and most prominent in the form of judicial activism. The Founders called the judiciary the least dangerous branch, but progressive judges have usurped the functions of the other two branches and transformed the courts into policymaking bodies with wide-ranging power. We need judges who take the Constitution seriously and follow it faithfully.

For its part, Congress has long legislated without regard to limits on its powers. …