January 1, 2011

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Ezra Klein and the Dead Constitution

Clearly a fan of understatement, Ezra Klein once ran a blog called “Not Geniuses.” Now, of course, he demonstrates his ignorance on MSNBC.

Last week, Klein unwittingly advanced the cause of dead constitutions. He did a better job than any proponent could. He said:

The issue with the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than a hundred years ago.

(William F. Buckley once described a statement like Klein’s as evoking of the sort of pity one feels for the ignorance of animals.)

Getting past Klein’s ignorance and cognitive feebleness (some massive obstacles to circumvent), we see he’s dropped a gem of an argument in favor of dead constitutions.

By “dead,” I mean that the meaning doesn’t change with the changing of the seasons. Proponents of a “living Constitution,” such as Klein and his not-genius friends, believe that the Constitution has no meaning. Rather, they wish the whims and fancies of the day to guide an oligarchy of judicial rulers to determine the definition of life and everything surrounding it.

Wise men, like Jonah Goldberg understand that the founders intended, and reason demands, a dead Constitution.

The case for dead constitutions is simple. They bind us to a set of rules for everybody. Recall the recent debate about the filibuster. The most powerful argument the Democrats could muster was that if you get rid of the traditional right of the minority in the Senate to bollix up the works, the Democrats will deny that right to Republicans the next time they’re in the majority (shudder)

Whether I write “Carthego delenda est” or “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam,” the meaning is identical today as it was when Cato the Elder said it 2000 years ago. “Carthage must be destroyed.” (For Klein’s edification, 2000 years is even more than “over 100 years.”)

We call Latin a “dead language,” not because it fails to convey life, but because its meaning is set in stone, chiseled in granite, as it were, with “U”s that like “V”s. The advantage of a dead language is that the author’s intent remains understandable for all eternity.

If men like Ezra Klein find the Unites States Constitution confusing, it is not because the Constitution changed over the 223 years of its existence—but because Klein and his ilk refuse to understand the meaning of the words.

(Actually, it’s more likely that Klein has determined the meaning of the words, found that meaning in direct opposition to his tyrannical goals, and decided that playing stupid (superbly) would best advance his collectivist goals.)

To say that we cannot determine the intent of those who ratified the Constitution is to say that all language is meaningless. That’s great mental masturbation for the Derrida’s of the world, but offers nothing to people live real lives.

According to Klein’s reasoning, whoever wrote the Christmas song Deck the Halls meant to imply that men in the 19th century at Christmas time dressed to imply homosexuality. Yes, that’s absurd—just as absurd as Klein’s belief that we cannot know what was intended by the statement “Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes.”

Dead Constitutions, like dead languages, give us a fixed point upon which to navigate. Living Constitutions create massive confusion—the kind currently enveloping Ezra Klein’s feeble mind.

To the Constitution! May it remain dead forever.