(American Conservative) -- The United States Constitution—praised as “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man” by Lord Gladstone—should be the battleground of American politics. If that does not happen, our Republic is doomed to self-ruination like all other Empires. They all collapsed, among other things, by exalting raw power over constitutionally safeguarded liberty, and the armored knight over the moral philosopher.
The Constitution’s summum bonum is individual liberty—the opportunity to develop faculties and pursue ambitions free from domestic predation or foreign aggression. The Declaration of Independence elaborates that every individual is endowed with a natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, i.e., wisdom and virtue. In contrast, governments, communities, or groups have no natural rights. Indeed, the government’s purpose is to secure the natural rights of individuals.
Under the Constitution, individual liberty is celebrated for its own sake, while government or community decrees or norms are presumptively suspect. Individual liberty is the locomotive and the community the caboose in our constitutional universe. Accordingly, government should stay its hand unless an exacting threshold of actual or imminent material injury to individuals would otherwise ensue, for example, murder, robbery, torture, or kidnapping.
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