by Ron Paul

A speech before the US House of Representatives on January 19, 2011.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Constitution has received a lot of attention in recent weeks, thanks to the tea party movement. It goes without saying that Members of Congress should have read the Constitution many times, and we should continue to study it.

Citing the particular clause of the Constitution that authorizes newly introduced legislation is a reasonable suggestion, yet in reality it will do little to restrain unconstitutional growth of Federal Government. We have had such rules in the past and no benefit came of it.

The laws that are passed reflect the preferences of those in charge, who promote their personal agenda. For too long that agenda has expanded government at the expense of personal liberty, regardless of which political party was in charge. Generally this trend was supported by voters, who rewarded most Members of Congress with reelection.

For many of us, this expansion of government clearly violated the Constitution, yet it was always argued that the program somehow conformed to that “living” document.

By misinterpreting the general welfare clause, the interstate commerce clause, and the “necessary and proper” clause, Congress has justified every conceivable expansion of the Federal Government. Congress also has misinterpreted the 14th Amendment and legislated as though it had repealed the 10th Amendment. Sadly, Congress has also systematically abdicated its prerogatives and responsibilities to the executive branch over many decades.

Too many people, in and out of Congress, grew up being taught that the Constitution was malleable. This has allowed judicial, legislative, and executive flexibility to make the Constitution “a modern living document.” Though the authors allowed for “flexibility” through the amendment process, this process has been ignored for the sake of speed and convenience.

As a result, the Constitution now has little meaning since most Members pay only lip service when taking their oath to obey it. But I am encouraged by our growing grassroots interest in the Constitution, especially among the younger generation. I am glad Congress is becoming aware of it.

Our Constitution should be viewed as law, and Members of Congress should be expected to follow the rule of law. But a document is just that, and it is only as good as the character of those who represent us and promise to obey it. Distorted interpretations come easily when the goal is opposite of what the original authors intended and what the plain text provides.

If true liberty is not our goal, persistent efforts to rationalize misinterpretations and circumvent the Constitution will continue. Without men and women of character in Congress, respect for the rule of law and a love of liberty, the Constitution becomes but a worthless piece of paper.

Celebrating the Constitution without this understanding will do nothing to restore the greatness of America. Simply praising the document distracts from the need for Members to gain the courage to resist special interests; political self-interests; emergency needs in times of crisis; fear-based economic myths; and the persistent temptation to seek security over liberty while ignoring personal responsibility and self-reliance.

Providing instruction in the Constitution for staff and/or Members begs the question: Who will be the teacher?

I wonder, will this welcomed renewed interest in the Constitution lead to a healthy reassessment of all of our policies? Will there be no more wars without an actual congressional declaration? Will the Federal Reserve Act be repealed? Will only gold and silver be called legal tender? Will we end all of the unconstitutional Federal departments, including the Department of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor? Will the Patriot Act be repealed and all of the warrantless searches stopped? Will TSA be restrained or abolished?

Will the IRS’s unconstitutional collection powers end? Will executive and judicial quasi-legislative powers be ended? Will we end the Federal war on drugs? Will we end the Federal Government’s involvement in medical care? Will we end all of the Federal Government’s illusionary insurance programs? Will we ban secret prisons, trials without due process, and assassinations? Will we end our foreign policy of invasion and occupation?

For America to once again become the standard for a free society, our love of liberty and desire for peace must far surpass any public display of fidelity to the Constitution. We must first look to strong moral character, respect for the rule of law, and an understanding of the proper role of government in a free society.

Ron Paul is a republican member of congress from Texas. He is the author of many books, including End the Fed, The Revolution: A Manifesto, and the upcoming Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom