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Recovering the Wisdom of the Constitution


Good morning, friends, and happy Friday!

Today we celebrate Constitution Day. Two hundred twenty-nine years ago tomorrow, the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed our nation’s invaluable guiding document.

I won’t bore you with my take on the value and merits of the Constitution. Instead, I offer you a brief, insightful passage from “Recovering the Wisdom of the Constitution,” Ramesh Ponnuru’s compelling chapter in the Conservative Reform Network’s Room To Grow. He writes,

Our constitutional order was worth adopting, and remains worth preserving, because it protects our liberty and promotes the general welfare. That’s what the Founders had to demonstrate, and what we must demonstrate anew. We have to show that our most vexing problems need not be entrusted to the care of a distant elite of micromanagers, but can instead be addressed (sometimes even solved) by free markets and self-government.

We have to show that we can have wider access to health care, an affordable safety net, opportunities to learn, and the like, without granting ever more power to government. Sometimes we will be able to make progress by ending ill-considered government policies, sometimes by replacing them with ones more respectful of human nature, economic incentives, federalism, and individual rights. A constitutionalist orientation is not enough to make this showing possible: A detailed understanding of particular policy controversies will also be necessary, and so will political judgment. That orientation should, however, be the starting point for political reflection and choice.

In America, what conservatism chiefly means is the conservation of our political inheritance from the Founders. That task is no simple or passive one. It entails protecting it from external attack and internal corrosion, interpreting it anew for each generation, and adapting it to meet ever-changing circumstances. The point is not to keep the Constitution in tune with the times; it is to keep the times in tune with the Constitution.

Read Ponnuru’s full chapter here.

Enjoy Constitution Day and your weekend.