Thomas Sowell on the Constitution and its relevance

Posted by: Phineas on June 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Thomas Sowell’s July 4th article at is a reply to the cover article in Time Magazine of that same date on the Constitution by editor Richard Stengel. In it, Stengel asks the question “Does it still matter” and then proceeds to answer with a “no,” offering a series of reasons.

Very dumb reasons, which Sowell proceeds to demolish; I’ll let you read that yourselves. What I want to quote here is Sowell’s explanation of the significance of the Constitution and why it is still a revolutionary document 225 years after its writing:

Not only did July 4, 1776 mark American independence from England, it marked a radically different kind of government from the governments that prevailed around the world at the time — and the kinds of governments that had prevailed for thousands of years before.

The American Revolution was not simply a rebellion against the King of England, it was a rebellion against being ruled by kings in general. That is why the opening salvo of the American Revolution was called “the shot heard round the world.”

Autocratic rulers and their subjects heard that shot — and things that had not been questioned for millennia were now open to challenge. As the generations went by, more and more autocratic governments around the world proved unable to meet that challenge.

Some clever people today ask whether the United States has really been “exceptional.” You couldn’t be more exceptional in the 18th century than to create your fundamental document — the Constitution of the United States — by opening with the momentous words, “We the people…”

Those three words were a slap in the face to those who thought themselves entitled to rule, and who regarded the people as if they were simply human livestock, destined to be herded and shepherded by their betters. Indeed, to this very day, elites who think that way — and that includes many among the intelligentsia, as well as political messiahs — find the Constitution of the United States a real pain because it stands in the way of their imposing their will and their presumptions on the rest of us.

More than a hundred years ago, so-called “Progressives” began a campaign to undermine the Constitution’s strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven’t really changed much in a hundred years.

Sowell focuses on Stengel’s article as just a variation on that century-old attack, but bear in mind that the Constitution and the ideas behind it and the Declaration of Independence are just as threatening to foreign despots now as they were “back then,” whether they be kings, theocrats, dictators, or dictators disguised as democrats. As Michael Ledeen often writes, we are the most revolutionary society on the planet, because we were founded and still largely believe the crazy notion not only that people are capable of governing themselves, but that they should, by right. And the dynamism unleashed by free societies scares the heck out of those who think themselves our “natural rulers,” from Riyadh to Brussels to… the House Progressive Caucus.

It’s something to think about next weekend while enjoying the hot dogs and fireworks.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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3 Responses to “Thomas Sowell on the Constitution and its relevance”


  1. Zippy says:


    I’ve yet to read the article (it comes into the office..wouldn’t dream of buying such rubbish ..

  2. Dave Dooling says:

    Stengel would have argued differently had a Republican administration tried to censor Time’s web stories. He’d scream that that whether it’s electrons that Washington never dreamt of or paper, it’s still free speech.

    OK, so every president from Washington to perhaps Truman or Eisenhower never heard of drones that could kill from afar. A drone is little different from Washington’s muskets. It lets you stand at Point A and safely kill someone at Point B. That’s it. The technologies are radically different, but the effect is the same: executing a hostile act against someone else.

    Stengel is confusing the tools with purpose and effect. The Framers dealt with two things that remains constant regardless of technologies: human nature and the never-ending lust of some people to control the rest of us.

  3. TexasDoc says:

    Dave – completely agree with you on Stengel and other liberals hiding behind the constitution. They are so busy pumping out garbage that they forget rights come with responsibilities. Considering how irresponsible and narcissistic the media is, that will never happen.

    Stupid really does hurt. Time and Stengel must be on maximum doses of analgesics as evidenced by that piece of excrement.