Misunderstanding the Preamble

Written by Michael Boldin on September 5, 2009 – 10:25 am -

It seems to me that after years and years of government-run education, people in this country just can’t understand that everything – in some way – in the Constitution, was meant as a way to limit government power.   Not the other way around.

Take this common view of the preamble:

The entire history of the legal system supports the notion that the material in the preamble to the constitution lays out what the legitimate functions of the Federal government are.

I’d be interested in knowing what court rulings this blogger was referring to, because Constitutionally, that statement couldn’t be more wrong.

The preamble lays out the intentions or the reasons for the Constitution.  It does not grant one ounce of power to the federal government.

All the “legitimate functions” of the federal government – which, according to the Founders would fulfill the intentions of the preamble – are in the Constitution itself.

The short of it? While the Preamble does refer to the “general Welfare,” promoting it is limited to those powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution.

cross-posted on the Tenth Amendment Center blog


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Posted in constitution | 14 Comments »

14 Comments to “Misunderstanding the Preamble”

  1. RayNo Gravatar Says:

    To a liberal Democrat, a federal government with few and defined powers is unthinkable, a state which challenges the dictates of the the authoritarian federal government is treasonous, and an individual who protests the authority of the government that is trying to run their lives and loot them is a loon.
    All this is only true if the Democrats have hold of the presidency and congress.

    They have no use for the Constitution, so they have no reason to understand the meaning of the words. Winning elections is all that matters to them, which they view as a mandate from the people that enables their elected dictators to do whatever they damn well want in the name of “the general welfare”. And they hint that we are like Nazi’s?

  2. Jim OstrowskiNo Gravatar Says:

    When you’re right, you’re right.

    My problem is that the Constitution, infofar as it was designed to establish limited government, failed.

    To me, it’s like the protective order that so many women had in their hands when they got shot by the ex-boyfriend. Paper can’t stop bullets.

    Now, modify the metaphor by calling big government a giant steamroller. Again, paper cannot stop a steamroller.

    An earthquake could.

  3. RayNo Gravatar Says:

    You’re right about that Jim.
    Force has to be met by force. Laws to restrict government power as words on paper have no force without the force of people who understand what those words mean and demand those laws be obeyed. This country has gone too long timidly letting statists twist the words of the Constitution until the rule of law is turned into a grant of unlimited federal power.

    We’ve seen how the Tea Parties and other protests have been met with such indignation by big government progressives. What they fear most is a spontaneous force that wants to reclaim individual rights and ultimately ditch the progressive steamroller.

  4. Michael BoldinNo Gravatar Says:

    Jim – an important point. I don’t believe that the Constitution, in and of itself, could ever have made a limited government. All it is are the guidelines and the rules.

    Constitutions don’t enforce themselves, obviously, and Spooner’s quote on this failure was as right 100 years ago as it was today.

    For those who believe in the importance of the Constitution, I feel it’s essential to give them the proper understanding of it. It’s a small piece of the resistingDC puzzle, but it’s there, nonetheless.

  5. Jim OstrowskiNo Gravatar Says:

    Most effective when its language is clear, eg, 2nd Amendment.

  6. Michael RebmannNo Gravatar Says:

    Try telling a liberal the 2nd Amendment is clear, they claim it conveys the right to bear muskets.

  7. BuffalopunditNo Gravatar Says:

    No they don’t. They claim that it has to do with maintenance of a well-regulated militia.

  8. JimNo Gravatar Says:

    And so who/what is the ‘militia’ – according to the authors?

    What did the authors mean by ‘well-regulated’?

  9. Michael RebmannNo Gravatar Says:

    I’ll take a stab at that question. The militia is comprised of private, armed citizens. They are regulated, when necessary, by the States to provide for the common defense and protection of private property, including the encroachment of an over-bearing federal government.

  10. RayNo Gravatar Says:

    I thought liberals interpreted “well-regulated” as meaning the government can disarm them if they choose.

  11. JimNo Gravatar Says:

    I’ve gotten the same impression. And that the ‘militia’ only consists of National Guard units. Which didn’t exist then but hey why quibble. Maybe a liberal can chime in.

  12. Jim OstrowskiNo Gravatar Says:

    The amendment states that the “right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    The first clause has been analyzed to death as subordinate to the main clause.

  13. Jim OstrowskiNo Gravatar Says:

    The National Guard is a “select militia” and is much narrower than the term “militia” as used in the Amendment.

  14. Slaughtering the Constitution: That wacky Rep. Louise Slaughter | Political Class Dismissed Says:

    [...] explained the preamble very succinctly and correctly on September 5th right here on PCD in his post Misunderstanding the Preamble: “The preamble lays out the intentions or the reasons for the Constitution. It does not grant [...]

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