What’s a “Constitutionalist”?

Another fulfilled promise of President Trump during his first year in office was to appoint “Constitutionalists” to federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

What is a “Constitutionalist”?

People use the term differently. In essence, a Constitutionalist is someone who views the original U.S. Constitution as the basis for a proper government.

The Constitution was explicitly based on Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was much more than a statement of independence from Great Britain. It was a declaration of man’s inalienable and individual rights. The Constitution grew from there.

A Constitutionalist, properly understood, is someone who sees the role of government as (1) limited and (2) strictly existing to secure and uphold individual rights. The most basic right we have is the right to property. The right to property makes all other rights meaningful, including the right to speak and think freely on your private property (the First Amendment) and the right to physically defend yourself on your private property (the Second Amendment).

It’s little wonder that those who do not respect property rights likewise have little or no respect for the First and Second Amendments. Because without property rights, we are sunk.

We have no capitalist system without property rights. Capitalism is the system that upholds property and contract rights. A Constitutionalist will not support today’s version of pseudo-capitalism, where property rights are upheld in some cases and eschewed in favor of government or political interests in others. The concept behind capitalism is simple: If you made it or earned it, it’s yours. All of it is yours. Period. The government does not have some 20 percent or 50 percent or 80 percent claim on your property. You don’t lose the right the keep what you earn at $100,000 per year or $250,000 per year. Morally and legally, it’s yours. That’s not what we have, although we still have something closer to capitalism than most of the rest of the world, which is one reason why the United States is still the place where virtually everyone prefers to live.

I will not claim that all of President Trump’s appointees are Constitutionalists as I’ve defined it. But I can tell you that’s what we need.

The Constitution is the first (and so far only) statement that individuals’ lives and property belong first and foremost to themselves, and that a government’s role is only to make sure we respect this fact. Just as we all have a right to be protected from the physical force or fraud of criminals, we all have a right to be protected from the physical force and fraud of a government — the biggest criminal of them all, at least when we give it power outside the boundaries of the original U.S. Constitution.

The fight for individual rights may go on forever. If President Trump’s appointees buy us some time in the right direction, I’m all for it. But let’s never lose sight of the real goals at stake.

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