Equality's beauty in the law: What Obama has forgotten

To restore the Constitution our Founders wrote, Mark Levin proposes 11 amendments to it in 'The Liberty Amendments'

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People vary, often dramatically, in appearance, aptitude, work habits, character, interests and ambitions. We differ in gender, race, ethnicity, age and in the circumstances into which we were born.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote, on behalf of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal," he meant only that we share equally in the rights bestowed upon us by our Creator.

"Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws," wrote Frederic Bastiat. These "gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it."

For us to pursue our "diversity," as God intended, the law must be the same for rich and poor, male and female, young and old, black and white, Democrat and Republican.

This idea has ancient roots. "Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike," says Deuteronomy 1:17. So some forget equality before the law is still the newest political idea in history. In every country before ours, there was one law for the powerful, another for the hoi polloi.

It took some while, and a great deal of pain, before "all men are created equal" applied to men who were black. Decades more passed before women were accorded the same political rights as men.

Still, Abraham Lincoln spoke the truth when he said: "Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions."

Equality before the law is the fundamental principle that undergirds democratic government. Remove it, and there is just the arbitrary exercise of power.

Lincoln understood this. President Barack Obama doesn't. If a law is inconvenient for him, he ignores it. The president's scofflaw behavior culminates a century-long assault on the Constitution. It's ironic those making it style themselves "progressives," for theirs is a return to the ways of pharoahs and caesars.

The combination of the Supreme Court's arrogated power of judicial review with life tenure for federal judges made it possible. The federal government can do what the Constitution forbids because, said Justice Charles Evans Hughes, "the Constitution is what the judges say it is," and they are accountable to no one.

To restore the Constitution our Founders wrote, Mark Levin, chief of staff to Attorney General Ed Meese during Reagan's administration, proposes 11 amendments to it in his new book, "The Liberty Amendments."

Offering so many was a mistake. It diffuses focus. Restrictions on federal spending and requiring a photo ID to vote would make good public policy, but don't belong in the Constitution, which establishes the framework for debating public policy. If these three were adopted, the others would be unnecessary:

• Abolish life tenure for federal judges.

• Limit terms for members of Congress.

• Permit a super-majority of state legislatures to nullify federal regulations and laws passed by Congress.

Congress won't approve such checks on federal power, which is why Mr. Levin's book is valuable.

Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by Congress, or by a convention called by the states. This last has never been done, in part for fear a "runaway" convention could alter fundamentally our form of government.

This fear is spurious because, however proposed, an amendment can become part of the Constitution only after it's been ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.

The Founders proposed this second means of offering amendments precisely because they feared Congress might abuse its power, Mr. Levin explains in concise prose.

"Article V expressly grants state legislatures signi?cant authority to rebalance the constitutional structure for the purpose of restoring our founding principles should the federal government shed its limitations, abandon its original purpose, and grow too powerful, as many delegates in Philadelphia and the state conventions had worried it might."

An Article V convention may be the only way to stop those who -- stealthily and dishonestly -- are fundamentally altering our form of government.

"An oppressive federal government, an oppressive Congress, is not going to rein itself in," Mr. Levin said. "The Framers anticipated this day might arrive, for they knew that republics deteriorate at ?rst from within. They provided a lawful and civil way to repair what has transpired."

It's up to us to take advantage of their foresight. Mark Levin makes a compelling case for why we should.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).


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