United States Constitution with quill, glasses and candle holder
United States Constitution with quill, glasses and candle holder

Constitution Day—September 17—Reminds Us that People’s Potential Is Unleashed by Limited Government

Originally published at Townhall

Americans are divided and confused about more issues than ever before, a condition that is surely celebrated by enemies of the United States. Suicide rates in America have reached record highs in the last two years, the corollary of which is that the state of demoralization of American society is well advanced—a condition communists cite as necessary before they instigate destabilization and crisis and bring on the final takedown. 

When society is driven by what is good, fair, and just, people flourish. In contrast, when evil is dominant with unfairness and injustice becoming the norm, people feel unsettled and demoralized and the future becomes dark. 

This struggle between good and evil is also clearly seen in the fight between truth and falsehood. Truth is good, not only because it is an intrinsic virtue, but also because truth is essential for sound decision-making. Deceit, dishonesty and lies are bad for obvious reasons. When society no longer understands what is true and what is false, there is confusion and chronic uncertainty, and sound decision-making becomes all but impossible. 

In human relations this dichotomy between good and evil can also be seen in how people treat one another. We recognize goodness when people love and care for others and we sense evil and darkness when people hate and have no concern or feeling for others. 

None of this is hard to grasp. It’s common sense. 

It is also vitally important to apply and extend this understanding to government and the public square, especially now with the United States being so divided. Since the U.S. government has become rife with corruption and is failing at its primary role to protect and take care of its people, many are cynical about politics and its possibilities. But if we can get correctives at the root of the problems all things become possible.      

Americans are increasingly dismayed and wonder why literally everything seems to be going wrong: the U.S. has been invaded by over seven million foreign migrants over the last two years; lawlessness and crime have reached new heights; people’s freedoms and rights are being continuously threatened and eroded; the traditional family is under attack by a militant LGBTQ movement; uncontrolled government spending has unleashed inflation and eroded the credit worthiness of the dollar; public schools compensate for their failure by lowering their standards; U.S. generals and admirals have gone woke with DEI policies that undermine the morale and readiness of all branches of U.S. military to fight and win wars; and the Democrat Party has brought disgrace to the United States by criminalizing speech and politics, attempting to imprison the former U.S. president and leading opposition candidate—the country’s most popular leader. 

All this may have been allowed to happen to bring such pain to the American people that many wake up to the need for deep and fundamental change as in a spiritual awakening. A true spiritual revival brings moral clarity, conviction and courage that provides what is needed to solve the aforementioned problems and turn America around. It’s a painful process but necessary for society to heal. Recovering people’s tolerance and caring disposition toward others is often the first benefit from spiritual revival. 

If such an awakening could touch those serving in government, there would be a natural prioritization to protect and care for the people. It would become unthinkable for the elected government in America to carry on in the corrupt and callous ways of the past few years. At the same time, citizens would rediscover the imperative of electing trustworthy candidates and then holding them accountable.

A spiritual revival is quietly proceeding in America.  With Constitution Day coming up on September 17th, it’s the right time to get reacquainted with the Judeo-Christian foundation and structural basics of the Constitution that were intended for the sole purpose of good governance. 

When the founders cast the vision for America in the Declaration of Independence and then set about structuring a constitution that could deliver on that vision for all American people, they had no illusions about human nature. In fact, in order to create an idealistic and virtuous system that would provide freedom to empower people to be creative and productive, the founders were also realists and recognized the imperative to mitigate government corruption and forestall the abuse of power through checks and balances, and impeachment penalties for government officials engaged in bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. 

The founders knew the vast majority of people would likely not be well informed on all the issues of public policy, but they were confident in the citizens’ common sense that would compel them to vote legislators out of office when they failed to represent their interests and when the country was clearly going in the wrong direction. This is one of the reasons the Constitution requires members of the House of Representatives to face the voters every two years. 

In a spiritually enlightened Constitutional America, government would be a good steward of taxpayer resources and avoid debt burdens on future generations. Unelected government agencies would all be downsized and be stripped of their ability to make regulatory law, which is the sole responsibility of the legislature. Agencies that could not be reformed and deliver for the American people—like the Department of Education and public schools—would be replaced by institutions under state and local control and funding. The military would be recast into armed services with ‘esprit de coeur’ and unmatched excellence and training to fight and win wars. In a Constitutional America, there would be absolute protection of the people’s rights and there would be equal justice under the law. The First Amendment would be protected and strengthened, which would result in a vibrant competition of ideas, creating a public square in which political narratives and propaganda would be exposed and unable to survive. 

After the drafting of the Constitution was completed and signed off by the Constitutional Convention delegates on September 17, 1787, the eldest delegate Ben Franklin was asked by a citizen observer what kind of government had been created. He answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  

Today, 236 years later, Franklin’s warning is more relevant than ever because America’s contemporary enemies foreign and domestic have the Constitution in the crosshairs for destruction. Should we fail to win this battle and save the Constitution with its Bill of Rights and checks and balances, America’s already compromised freedom and independence would be entirely lost. And so would go the rest of the world. 

Scott S. Powell

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Scott Powell has enjoyed a career split between theory and practice with over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and rainmaker in several industries. He joins the Discovery Institute after having been a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for six years and serving as a managing partner at a consulting firm, RemingtonRand. His research and writing has resulted in over 250 published articles on economics, business and regulation. Scott Powell graduated from the University of Chicago with honors (B.A. and M.A.) and received his Ph.D. in political and economic theory from Boston University in 1987, writing his dissertation on the determinants of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth.