I thought chapter 12 the, “American Contribution: Constitutionalism” was a very interesting chapter. It was definitely written in a different tone. Even though this chapter was like Hayek’s others in the sense that it was written in a very academic manner. I believe that in comparison to the rest of the chapters read so far in this chapter Hayek is less vague and more concrete and to the point. In essence I believe that Hayek is trying to capture something that is fundamentally important in the development of the concept of liberty during the past centuries, but has a clear point with the establishment of the U.S. constitution.
“The main features of the American Constriction crystallized at so early a stage in the understanding of the meaning of a constitution, and so little use has been made of the amending power to embody in the written document the lessons learned, that in some respects the unwritten parts of the Constitution are more instructive than its text. For the purposes of this study, at any rate, the general principles underlying it are more important than any of its particular features.” (p. 192)
I like this point. When I was taught about the U.S. Constitution by my father an American History teacher extraordinaire he made clear why it was so important. You see what is so amazing and what I believe is a success is that as a living document our constitution can be amended and is not set in stone to reflect solely on its original content but the document has the freedom to change if needed. At the same time many of the most fundamental principles will not be changed and I believe this is what Hayek is getting at in the aforementioned quote. This is the beauty of what is not written in the Constitution. What instead is only implied through simply elegant language.
It quite frankly can speak for itself (Preamble)
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
What it gives is a general purpose of the U.S. Constitution, this is not to give birth to document that gives a tyrannical coercive government powers to restrict others but instead to secure liberty. All of the laws and rules that could have been put in this document but wasn’t shows why our Constitution is so important. I provides a basic framework which is written down and agreed upon at the same time the founding fathers who wrote it took a very valuable philosophical stance originating from John Locke that we as people have unalienable rights, as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.). It is interesting that Americans are so interested in their individual rights. Some think that Americans have this focus simply only out of selfishness…dare I say that some of this might be the outcome of our founding fathers beliefs which centered a basis for our nation. This philosophical stance simplifies legislation and even in a constitution. By giving individuals their own rights and freedoms as long as they don’t obstruct other’s it makes everything so much similar than trying to do this for the group.
I am looking forward to this week’s discussion and listening to all of your takes on this week’s two chapters.