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Introduction to the Essays

Most of us love our country. Why is this? Why do we love America? We love the story of the Pilgrims and, later, Paul Revere and the American Revolution. We love that our Founding Fathers, who wrote our Constitution, were so smart and well educated and gave us a Constitution that has protected so many of our freedoms. We love the great American spirit of equal justice, equal rights, and equal opportunity for a better life. We are saddened by the wars whose battlefields have killed so many innocent people. But we love that we won, that we remained secure in our freedoms, and that our citizens had the creative genius to invent and produce those things that have made us stronger than our enemies.


We know now that the love we have for all of these things had a beginning and a reason. Can we say what it is? Can we write it down? Can we explain it to our children? Do we explain it to our children?


I read Professor Paul Woodruff’s Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (2001), which quotes from Protagoras, a great pre-Socratic thinker:


Whenever they gathered into groups [early human beings] would do wrong to each other because they did not yet have the knowledge of how to form society. As a result they would scatter again and perish. And so Zeus, fearing that our whole species would be wiped out, sent Hermes to bring reverence and justice to human beings, in order that these two would adorn society and bind people together in friendship. Plato’s Protagoras, 322 c.


Before reverence and justice were distributed, ancient cities were battlefields. Without reverence and justice today, our nation will become a battlefield. The challenge is to rekindle reverence and justice by restoring faith in the people and to replace our current politicians with statesmen who put freedom, reverence, justice, and the best interests of the whole country first and their ambitions last.


Today, we are engaged on a battlefield of ideas. It is a battlefield whose outcome is freedom or tyranny. Our elected representatives in Washington have allowed their love of power to displace their love of country and to diminish the wisdom of the people. Our interests are not being protected. The result is that the checks and balances given to us by our Founding Fathers have become ineffective. The competing interests in our pluralistic society are fueled more by the flaws of human nature than love for our country. Our leaders have deluded us and try to convince us we can sustain ourselves by spending more than we make and that federal planners are more knowledgeable about where we live and what is good for us than local citizens. Businesses are portrayed as the bad guys, even though they are really just us. We should not forget that. We are the workers. We have chosen a system that allows smart and educated leaders who know what they are doing to run the businesses and that encourages financiers to supply the money. We do this because we trust them to perform and provide benefits for us greater than could be obtained from any other system.


This system has made America the greatest engine of production in the world and lifted the standard of living for everyone. Yet, the federal government makes our businesses look bad and, because of the immoral deeds of a few who gain headline notoriety, imposes regulations on all of our businesses, thereby slowing down the great engine of production by making it go uphill. These regulations reinforce an illusion mentality that business is bad and government is good. What is required is balance, which is decided by the people, who can choose to buy or not to buy. No one person, committee, or government can define and achieve the optimum balance necessary to keep our production engine running smoothly without consuming our freedoms. Our freedom to choose is the best regulator, but government is also necessary to prevent fraud and other injuries in appropriate cases.


On this battlefield of ideas, there are many persons competing to be our leaders. Some say they are Democrats or Republicans. Others say they are progressives or liberals or conservatives or neo-conservatives. Yet, nobody but the intellectuals have much of an idea what these terms mean. And whatever each of them stands for likely has some good and some bad. So, waging the contest on a battlefield of nomenclatures is not likely to do much good. I realized this in 1977.


December, 1977, was the two hundredth anniversary of the Revolutionary Army’s encampment at Valley Forge. Reports in the paper at the time caused me to pause and reflect on our country and its history. I remembered my dad telling me once that he was summoned for jury duty, and every time someone offered an excuse to get out of it, the judge would say, “Remember the frozen feet at Valley Forge,” and the complainants would then sulk back and perform their duty.


I decided not to complain but to do something. I ran for office several times but was not successful. However, the experience did give me an incentive to learn and to use what I had learned as an architect would do, to fix our country by working on its systems and not competing for authority to exercise the powers they provide or taking the systems for granted.


In 1982 I wrote a business plan for Campaign Constitution, which was not much different than the one I have now. Yet, I could not interest anyone in helping me push this campaign along. I set it aside and went back to being a worker like everyone else. Even so, I continued to collect every idea that crossed my desk on how our Constitution could be improved by amendments and continued to give the subject the benefit of my own thinking.


In the meantime I grew more and more frustrated with our leaders. I remember listening to presidential debates in 1992 between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In two lengthy debates I heard three offhand references to the word “freedom.” In other words, the most important word we have in the governance of our affairs was largely taken for granted, with no comments or questions on the impact any of their ideas might have on our freedom. And if that was true, then the Constitution itself likely was also taken for granted. Twenty years later, we now hear the word “freedom” more often, but it is asserted with little determination.


During the past thirty years the issue in the competition for power has always been how much the government could do for us. It was not about acting on Abe Lincoln’s injunction that we should help those who cannot help themselves or defending our country, but how we could have a universal system of social justice that would benefit everyone and, since it was universal, justify taxing everyone. Yet, the actuarial discipline that keeps insurance companies solvent was not a discipline of the federal government as our large national debt now affirms.


So, what was I to do? I could join the ranks of those who take freedom for granted. Or those who hope everything will work out fine. Or those who are resigned to accept whatever may come. Or I could dust off my Campaign Constitution plan and do something about a broken system that few of our leaders address. I decided to do that and allay the fears of those who worry that they or their progeny will someday be like Shukhov, who, while in a Russian labor camp, said that guessing how the authorities would next “twist the law” to extend his sentence was like “pitch-forking water.”


What follows is my proposal to fix the system by reforming the Constitution. If you share even a few of the ideas here set forth, I hope you will roll up your sleeves and work on your state legislators to make the changes we so desperately need.