Did you know that a Constitution can be written or unwritten? I like to use the example of teenage drivers as an illustration. There’s usually an unwritten constitution in the home about the use of the car. The teen is limited to where they can go with the car, must put gas in the tank before returning, and must put the keys back in the designated spot. This makes the shared use of the car amenable to all of the drivers in the family.
As we continue in our study of “The 5000 Year Leap,” (Skousen, W. Cleon. The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Ideas That Changed the World. National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1981), we find this 18th principle of liberty:
“The unalienable rights of the People are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution.”
Note that Skousen says our unalienable rights need to be written down. It wasn’t always that way. He informs us that “the tradition of written constitutions in modern times is not of English origin, but is entirely American, both in principle and practice.” (Ibid., p.218)
Skousen also gives us a history lesson on the Constitution in America. He tells us that the Founding Fathers sought the counsel, wisdom, and experience of many. If you’ve ever served on a committee, you know how it goes. The bigger the committee, the harder it is to reach a consensus. But our Founders were against rule by a few. They wanted a system of government run by We the People. So, they worked through a process to have our Constitution written down in its entirety. We have that document readily available on our phones, computers, in libraries, bookstores, and in schools. It is not hidden or subject to change on the whim of a few. Every generation has read it. Most can tell you that it starts with “We the People.”
Not readily memorized is the 10th Amendment, which is the subject of Skousen’s 19th principle of liberty. He breaks it down like this:
“Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to Government, all others being retained in the People.”
The 10th Amendment says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.”
This principle got a ton of attention at the Constitutional Convention. Throughout our study, we have seen that limiting the power of the federal government was upmost in the Founder’s minds. We are reminded in this chapter of humans’ love of power. The people at the top don’t like their power constrained. Our Founders knew the difficulty of restraint in government and the human tendency to be selfish, so they wrote government’s limitations into our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our Founders wanted no part of absolute power being given to anyone absolutely. That’s just how We the People roll.
And that’s Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??