In light of the perpetual insistence of American conservatives that everyone must take personal responsibility for oneself, and furthermore that one succeeds or fails entirely by his/herself, I have decided to start a list of ways in which I depend upon humanity. It’s an excellent exercise, I highly recommend it.
- to have been spawned by a pair of humans
- a house to live in
- objects of comfort; furniture, entertainment, etc.
- roads to walk on
- food to eat
- be free of serious or common threats to my physical security
- entertainment- television, music, art, books
- tools to use
- mobile devices
- writing instruments
- grooming tools and solutions
- glasses/contact lenses
- first aid materials
- means of transit
- an office to work in
- a school to attend
- a field of study in which to participate
- a degree to be recognized internationally
- people to have taught me
- people to have written materials from which I’ve gained insight
- a common language to speak and write
- values in which to subscribe
- a culture in which to participate and gain insight into the nature, meaning, and destiny of humanity
- social etiquette and manners facilitating interaction with other humans
- clothing to have been designed, manufactured, and sold
- recreational objects
- literally billions of fellow species members, most of whom will provide assistance if needed, some of whom with the capacity to entertain and provide some degree of validation of my own existence
- the design, manufacture, and sale of things I have used to express myself: clothing and accessories, cosmetics, perfume, creative instruments and supplies
- various fashion, technological, intellectual, and other trends influencing how I present and understand myself
- individuals through which I understand reality
- those who have tended to my physical appearance and health
- artists to have inspired me
- those who inspired the artists I have enjoyed or from whose work I have benefited
- farmers of all kinds
- those who design(ed) and innovate(d) various advances in modern agriculture
- people to have bred the plants I enjoy aesthetically or culinarily
- people to have done the research that permitted various technological advances
- a (stable, valuable) currency to earn and use to obtain objects of necessity or recreation
- a number to call to receive assistance if I am having an emergency beyond my control with regard to my health or another human or other animal
- the history and development of modern science, including medicine and psychiatry, botany, technology, biology, engineering, and physics
- the invention and employment of electricity
- sources of energy to be harvested and employed
- modern plumbing
- means and regulation of the control, cleaning, enrichment, and delivery of water
- the internet and those involved in the maintenance of every website I’ve ever used
- political movements to become involved in
- means to understand and contextualize the experience of being alive
- the existence of foreign and domestic governments to ensure a similar level of security and convenience in many other places on earth
- political liberty
- physical liberty
- architecture and infrastructure
- postal services
- the existence of businesses and conditions conducive to doing business such that I may readily obtain goods and services to facilitate various activities of necessity or recreation
- the regulation and quality control of various goods and services upon which I depend
- a justice system through which I may be able to guarantee my rights or correct injustices done to me
by Heather L Stephens
Next week, I will wake up in Europe and start a new life as an American expatriate. As one who was once a loyal defender of the American experiment, and in the wake of today’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, I am moved to reflect a bit on the US Constitution. A number of Americans, including several Supreme Court justices and a not-insignificant portion of elected officials, identify as strict constitutional originalists, meaning they believe we should adhere to the Constitution exactly as it was conceived by its original authors. It might be worth noting at the outset that many of the framers themselves didn’t even fully comprehend the meaning of all elements of the Constitution, and so to claim that there is some universal constitutional truth is a bit disingenuous. That is not my main quarrel with this philosophy, however.
To start, if one claims that Congress’s powers are solely limited to those outlined in Section 8, then why did the Framers include clauses such as this one?
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
You see that phrase, “all other powers vested by this constitution”? That encompasses practically everything relevant to participating in a human society, because it also includes the 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.
This is in essence our government’s mission statement. This might be the most important part of the whole document. At its core, the Constitution describes a structure. It does not prescribe a final product; it is not teleological; it is open-ended, and that is among its foremost strengths. It provides an objective and a set of tools. So the question becomes, who exactly decides how to manipulate these tools (pun intended) in pursuit of a more perfect union? Well, we all do, really. Our evolving value systems influence the formation of public policy, insofar they are able with the tools we have chosen to use.
So then, can it be “unconstitutional,” as Ron Paul claims, to establish a department of education? What an absurd question: that’s like trying to learn how to compose music from a book describing the mechanics of a piano. If the founders had any wisdom, and I believe they did, it was to avoid policy suggestions in a manual meant to sketch merely the constitution of the government (get it?), not its substance. Indeed, the specific provisions that are offered in the constitution are sort of nonsensical in modern society. Cases exceeding $20? Blacks are 3/5 of a person? Two senators for every state?