Guest Post: We Wouldn’t Be in This Mess, If… We had been True to the Constitution

M* is pleased to present a guest post from Brother Earl Taylor, Jr., President of the National Center for Constitutional Studies.

About Brother Taylor:

 Earl Taylor, Jr.  has taught The Making of America Constitutional Study course to thousands of people over the past twenty years throughout the nation.  He has developed other study courses for a wide range of participants, from high school students to state legislators.

 Educated in Washington State and Arizona, Mr. Taylor graduated from Arizona State University and received his Masters Degree in Political Science from George Wythe College and Coral Ridge Baptist University.  He has had the privilege of being privately tutored by Dr. W. Cleon Skousen over the course of many years.  He became President of the National Center for Constitutional Studies in 1995, an organization founded by Dr. Skousen in 1971 as the Freemen Institute.  The purpose of the NCCS is to teach Americans the exciting message of the Founding Fathers – where they got their great ideas and how they put them all together into a Constitution for the establishment of the first free people in modern times.  In 1998, Mr. Taylor was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from George Wythe College and Coral Ridge Baptist University.  He also serves as a member of the adjunct faculty of George Wythe College.

 Mr. Taylor served as coordinator in 1985 of the Winter Conference for State Legislators where nearly 400 elected officials from 30 states met to study The Making of America.  He has written a special study guide for Boy Scouts to help them earn their Citizenship Merit Badges.   He also helped structure courses on the U. S. Constitution for college re-certification of public school teachers.
 In his desire to begin to train young people in this most important area, Mr. Taylor established one of the first charter high schools in Arizona, Heritage Academy,  where he has developed a special curriculum for the teaching of hundreds of students the exciting message of the Founding Fathers.

 Mr. Taylor has also been instrumental in encouraging the celebration of Constitution Week in many cities and schools throughout the nation.

 Mr. Taylor and his wife, Ruth, are the parents of ten children and reside in Mesa, Arizona.

 We Wouldn’t Be in This Mess, If… We had been True to the Constitution

It would be amazing to hear the reaction of the Founders to the situation our nation finds itself in today. They created a plan of government that would lead to “a more perfect union” and expressed the desire that the manifest destiny of America would be as a “city set on a hill” whose light of freedom would be the envy of the world. Instead we are bogged down in the gutter of corruption, greed, immorality and power struggles both at home and abroad. Studying the Founders formula for freedom reminds us so refreshingly how it could have been. An incident with our students last month reminded us of that fact once again.

Just three weeks ago another glorious week was spent with 50 of our junior and senior high school students in Washington D. C. and surrounding areas. This is an annual event as part of a year-long intensive study of the creation of the United States of America. With a working knowledge of the 28 Principles of Liberty as found in The 5000 Year Leap and a continuing study of the application of these principles in The Making of America, our students see first hand the lands and places where all of this happened. One of the most powerful concepts our students learn is the limited role the federal government was intended to have in our constitutional republic. As James Madison said, “The powers delegated to the federal government by our Constitution are few and defined.” Our scholars have learned that the Constitu tion clearly enumerates these “few and defined” powers thusly: Twenty powers to the Congress (Article I.8), six areas of responsibility to the President (Article II.2 and 3), and eleven kinds of cases assigned to the federal courts (Article III.2).

A feeling of reverence is present in the National Archives Building where those precious original documents are displayed in dimmed light–the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Then there are all the buildings lining the streets of D.C., but the three which are the most impressive are the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court, representing the three branches of government so carefully structured by the Founders. As a teacher, I always look for opportunities to have my scholars experience first-hand what they have for so long studied in the classroom. One of those memorable experiences happened this time in the chamber of the U. S. Supreme Court.

“I’ve never heard of those eleven kinds of cases”

One of our favorite places to visit is the Supreme Court. If the Court is not in session, we take our scholars right into the chamber of the Court itself. Here, along with others who have waited for the tour, we enter the inner chamber and immediately begin to appreciate the beauty and symbolism of this building. The docent welcomed us and proceeded to give about a 20-minute lecture about what happens in this room. She explained the seating arrangements, the procedures of the court, and some of the symbols in the room, including the freezes on the walls high above. Especially impressive are the rays of “streaming inspiration” which, she explains, are representative of the divine wisdom necessary for good law. She also points out, among other lawgivers of history, the figure of Moses holding the tablets upon which are written the Ten Commandments.

It was interesting to hear that nearly 10,000 cases are appealed to this high court every year from lower federal courts and that one of the tasks of the justices is to decide which of the cases they will hear that year. The docent explained that it take four justices to decide to hear a case and that they can only hear approximately 200 out of the 10,000 submitted in any given year. At this point the lecturer asked if there were any questions. A few procedural questions were asked and then one of our scholars raised her hand and asked:

“The Constitution clearly outlines the eleven kinds of cases the federal courts are authorized to hear. Do the justices use these eleven kinds of cases as guidelines when they are deciding which few of the thousands of cases they will consider?”
I sat there in amazement that one of our scholars, without being coached beforehand, could formulate such a question, taking what was learned in the classroom and making a sincere inquiry as it applies in real life in that courtroom. I sat anxiously awaiting the presenter’s answer.

The docent indicated she didn’t quite understand the question and asked our scholar to repeat it, which she did. The presenter then said:

“I really don’t know of those guidelines in the Constitution and I don’t think anything like that is considered here when deciding which cases are to be taken.”

She further said, “I don’t think anyone here even talks about that.”

She then added, “You know, I don’t remember even studying about that when I took civics in school.”

This was one of those moments which drives a teaching point home with such force that it needed no further comment from me. One scholar was over heard saying as he left the court chamber, “They don’t even use the Constitution in this room?”

Only Two Ways to Interpret the Constitution

One of the friends of the Founders in the present Supreme Court is Justice Clarence Thomas. In a recent speech, he said: “Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution–try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up. No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the framers, they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores.” (Wall Street Journal Opinion, October 20, 2008)

A look at several of today’s issues clearly reveals most of our government programs today are far from the Founders’ original intent and as Justice Thomas says, have about as much basis in the Constitution as the latest football scores–the authority is purely made-up. For example:
U. S. foreign policy:

Founders’ intent : Expressed in the Monroe Doctrine wherein the U. S. promised to stay out of the affairs of other nations, particularly those of the eastern hemisphere.
Made-up intent: Involve ourselves in the affairs of nearly every nation on earth and try to buy their friendship with money we don’t even have.

U. S. monetary policy:

Founders’ intent : Congress to establish and control our money system based on gold and silver standard to prevent manipulation.
Made-up intent : Give control of monetary system to private bankers who issue fiat money which lets them make money out of nothing–money on which we then pay them interest.

Federalism or vertical separation of powers :

Founders’ intent : Only limited and carefully defined powers to the federal government. Government concerned with people’s lives and property is only at state level or lower.
Made-up intent : Allowing Washington to have direct influence and control of local government, which destroys strong local self-government.

Horizontal Separation of Power:

Founders’ intent : The power to make law was given exclusively to the representatives of the people in Congress.
Made-up intent : More laws are being made by the executive and judicial departments than are made by congress, which effect millions of people and their property.

National Debt:

Founders’ intent : Debt is a temporary evil and if used must be paid off before the generation that borrowed it leaves the scene. It is immoral to pass debt on to next generation. It amounts to taxation without representation.
Made-up intent : Debt is a blessing to America. We can borrow ourselves wealthy. Passing debt onto the next generation allows those to pay the debt who will benefit from the programs paid for by the borrowed money.

Income Tax:

 Founders’ intent : The Founders put a prohibition of income tax into the Constitution because its enforcement violates the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. They said there are much better ways to raise revenue.

Made-up intent : Unconstitutional programs pushed in the “Progressive Era” became so expensive that new sources of revenue needed to be developed. A tax on incomes began at two percent and is only limited by what politicians can get away with. It is also a vehicle to implement a graduated tax to redistribute wealth.

Welfare Programs:

Founders’ intent : The Founders’ scale of fixed responsibility for one’s welfare is: self, family, church, community, county, and state. Never was the federal government to be involved in welfare programs.
Made-up intent : The federal government has unconstitutionally become the sugar daddy of the American people. One reason the federal government has done this is because the monetary system lets the money managers create money out of nothing. It buys votes and wins elections.


 Founders’ intent : The Founders specifically excluded agriculture from the purview of federal authority saying it is only a local and state function.

Made-up intent : Government programs in agriculture have taken away the freedom to fail, a necessary ingredient in the free-market system. The federal government has increased the cost of food by layer upon layer of regulation.

 Marriage and Domestic Law:

 Founders’ intent : The core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family, therefore governments have the responsibility to foster and protect its integrity.
Made-up intent : State and federal judiciaries have injected themselves into the questions of marriage, redefining marriage and endangering the most fundamental building block of society.

 Thomas Jefferson constantly warned against letting the federal government gradually usurp power over the people. Such bureaucracies bring heavy spending and debt. He said such debt would put the people under such a burden that all they can do is to work long hours in order to survive. Said he:

“And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude . If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, [and] give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers…. This is the tendency of all human governments.” (The Making of America , page 395)

Sadly, with the makeup of our new administration and congress, it looks like we may be far down the road to fulfilling Jefferson’s fears.

68 thoughts on “Guest Post: We Wouldn’t Be in This Mess, If… We had been True to the Constitution

  1. Bro Taylor, I agree with you that we should do a better job of looking at the original intent of the Founding Fathers when looking at Constitutional prescriptions. A question for you on foreign policy: how do you justify our first foreign war, the Barbary Pirate war, with your foreign policy prescription above?

    Please note that this war was waged by Jefferson without a formal declaration of war from Congress.

  2. On the Monroe Doctrine,

    how can you argue that the Monroe Doctrine argued against the US involving itself outside its borders? Monroe clearly stated that the United States would work to prevent European powers from intruding in other Latin American countries. He may have said that America would not involve itself with Europe’s problems (which of course became inoperative thanks to two very bloody wars). But he left wide open to interpretation what exactly the United States could do in Latin America.

  3. I would like to see a series of posts that highlight the 11 kinds of cases that can be discussed.
    I’m also not quite sure what the thesis is. Which mess are you referring to? Which parts of the constitution (or not following which parts) necessarily caused it.

    I admit, I have a very hard time taking seriously rhetoric that encourages children not to pay income taxes. I would echo Julie’s concern, but would be saddened if this post turned into that.

    I have hard time with using what the “founders” wanted and and intended, when they themselves did not always agree. I’m sure it would be the same now, if they were alive.

    While I agree with some of your points, (it is immoral to pass on debt to the next generation), some of them I find baffling. For instance, I love the UN.

  4. I admit, I have a very hard time taking seriously rhetoric that encourages children not to pay income taxes. I would echo Julie’s concern, but would be saddened if this post turned into that.

    Whoa! I think you are reading way too much into his argument. I don’t think he is advocating that we not pay our income taxes. I read it simply as a comparison between the framers’ intent vs. present practice.

    Now, if we could change the current tax system, I would imagine that Earl would be the first in line to recommend something other than an income tax.

  5. Brian,
    I have 5 siblings who graduated from Heritage, one still enrolled–said sibling was on the trip to DC in the post. I assure you that has been taught in his school by the US history teacher.

  6. Founder’s intent: No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due (Article IV, Section 2). Free states must give escaped slaves back to their masters.

    The Voice of the People: President-elect Obama.

    Healthy democracies change over time

  7. Emma, democracies do change over time. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much. Personally, I am thrilled that our nation can look beyond race when electing a president. That is huge. Of course, change for the sake of change isn’t healthy either.

    So, are you arguing that our national debt is a healthy change?

  8. Here is a (short) list of just a few of the taxes we pay:

    Accounts Receivable Tax
    Building Permit Tax
    CDL License Tax
    Cigarette Tax
    Corporate Income Tax
    Dog License Tax
    Federal Income Tax
    Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
    Fishing License Tax
    Food License Tax
    Fuel Permit Tax
    Gasoline Tax
    Hunting License Tax
    Inheritance Tax
    Inventory Tax
    IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
    IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
    Liquor Tax
    Luxury Tax
    Marriage License Tax
    Medicare Tax
    Property Tax
    Real Estate Tax
    Service charge taxes
    Social Security Tax
    Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
    Sales Taxes
    Recreational Vehicle Tax
    School Tax
    State Income Tax
    State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
    Telephone Federal Excise Tax
    Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
    Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
    Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
    Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
    Telephone State and Local Tax
    Telephone Usage Charge Tax
    Utility Tax
    Vehicle License Registration Tax
    Vehicle Sales Tax
    Watercraft Registration Tax
    Well Permit Tax
    Workers Compensation Tax

  9. Your bishop is going to be awfully surprised to hear that you’re paying cigarette and liquor taxes, Brian. 🙂

  10. Kaimi, we believe in honoring, sustaining and obeying the laws of the land, right? That means paying taxes, especially on evil commodities. 😉

    Anyhow, my food storage would not be complete without a carton of Camel non-filters and a fifth of vodka. I mean, what else would I have to trade if not for these items?

  11. Brian,

    If we’re looking at framers intent, then let’s look at it all.

    The framers clearly intended to create a system of government where:

    -White men with money and property voted. Women did not vote. Blacks did not vote.

    -State governments were free to violate freedom of speech, religion, and so on. Protection in the bill of rights applied only to the federal government.

    -Slavery was recognized and indeed _written in_ to the Constitution.

    Thank God that we don’t live in a world that looks much like the framers intended. Thank God.

  12. I agree with Kaimi.

    Note, also, who pushes for a return to the days of the Founding Fathers. White men with money and property.

  13. The problem with this kind of rhetoric about the intent of the Founders is that it assumes that the Founders had broad agreement among themselves on all of these issues. Just to take one example, the isolationism of the United States was quite controversial even in Washington’s Administration. Some of the “Founders” most notably Thomas Jefferson thought that the United States had betrayed the ideals of the Revolution by failing to support France in her war with Britain. These sorts of examples could be multiplied ad nauseum. For what it is worth, W. Cleon Skousen is NOT a reputable source on either the history of the founding period or the thought of particular founders. Those with a serious interest in the period are much better served by reading original sources and looking to the debates among reputable scholars. For a good source that gives you a wonderful sense of the complexity, multiplicity, and depth of political thinking in the Founding period, I suggest Gordon S. Wood, _The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787_. Skousen is nonsense and waste of time. Those with a serious interest in the founding deserve better than a bit John Birtch Society-esque clap trap.

    I say, incidentally, as a conservative law professor who takes an originalist approach to constitutional law, e.g. in my forthcoming Minnesota Law Review article on the Thirteenth Amendment. I clerked for a prominent conservative federal court judge, Morris Shepherd Arnold of the 8th Circuit, and interviewed for a clerkship in Justice Thomas’s chambers. I am not one of those evil liberal academics.

    I still think that Skousen is errant nonsense that is not worth anyone’s time.

  14. I would not give the white men with property of our day that much credit.

    We should keep in mind that the above interpretation of the Constitution has more to do with 1887 than it does 1787.

    Just because somebody uses the framers in a misguided and innaccurate way, it does not mean that we should throw the framers under the bus. James Madison would not recognize these as principles of the Constitution.

  15. Dan, I don’t recall saying I wanted to abolish taxes. I merely pointed out a few of the taxes we pay. Thankfully, we have dedicated tax professionals and attorneys to guide us through our blessed tax code. 🙂

    Actually, I am a huge advocate of services, especially public safety. I voted in favor of two ballot questions that will build new fire stations in my community and ensure police protection.

  16. Kaimi, You are mistaking me with the author of the article. I don’t recall arguing for or against original intent. I merely pointed out what I thought Earl was trying to say about taxation. That’s all.

  17. I agree with Nate, even if he is a conservative. 🙂

    On the broader level, I don’t see the need to freeze government in a 200-year-old model. I mean, really. Do we talk about following astronomy only as Galileo understood it? Do we suggest freezing engineering to what was understood or accepted in 1800? Do we adopt economics only as Adam Smith originally theorized?

    Progress happens. Ideas on government shouldn’t be frozen in amber — heaven knows, nothing else is.

    You realize, there is a legitimate argument that the Air Force is unconstitutional? The constitution authorizes army and navy, and that’s all.

    This is, of course, because airplanes didn’t exist at the time. But still, a straightforward reading of congress’s powers under the constitution, would suggest that we need to abolish the Air Force.

    We don’t live in the same world as existed in 1787, and it’s silly and counterproductive to pretend otherwise.

  18. Let’s abandon the shabby notion of dividing “Framers’ Intent” from “guessing.” Even on fundamental issues we are not talking about some dreamland where the Founders arrived at a consensus on everything and made their intents blatantly obvious. They disagreed with each other, at times vehemently, and left surprisingly few clues as to their intent (even the Federalist Papers have their holes). The result is that whenever we talk about original intent, etc., these are largely placeholders into which we put whatever position we want to defend. We end up creating artificial notions of what the Constitution is about and using those notions as obnoxious clubs (see, e.g., the “scholar” from the docent’s tour).

  19. I now see that I basically parroted Nate’s comment. Oh well. At least I didn’t have to sell my soul to academia!

  20. I have to agree with mmiles, and Nate Oman, the founders often didn’t agree, and it caused strain in their relationships at times (even when they were good friends like Adams and Jefferson). I also agree that Skousen isn’t a good source, especially since I’ve read The 5,000 Year Leap and it has some extreme views in my opinion. However, I have to say that mmiles is wrong. I attended Heritage and was never told not to pay income tax just that it was against the founders ideas (though not all of them agreed on this either) and that it was only meant to be used in time of emergency.

  21. I agree that the Framers disagreed frequently on a variety of trivial and significant issues. I also don’t see the sense of seeing the Const. written in stone, and clearly neither it nor its engineers could have anticipated the details of the complex world of the future. But (and forgive my ignorance) isn’t that why we have a legislature, theoretically accountable to its citizens? Yes, slavery was written in to the Constitution (not to everyone’s liking, I believe, but as a compromise measure), but that’s where the 13th Amendment comes along, crafted by the legislature and inserted into the document, getting rid of the slavery provision and thereby “going against” the Const. as envisioned by the Framers. The amendment process is what allows us to fix what the Framers should have done, or fill a void they couldn’t anticipate. It’s admittedly an agonizingly slow process and of course you can argue that so many provisions should currently be in the Const. which reflect modern society, but that’s the job of Congress, not the judiciary. I think that is Scalia’s point about the Const. being a “dead” text, narrowly interpreted by judges, but it becomes a “living” text (to reflect the present) through the legislature’s power of amendment.

  22. I admire the US Founding Fathers, and I think there are some valid points made here, but it seems they are cobbled together rather haphazardly, on top of the problems noted above with sources and the difficulties of teasing out original intent.

  23. Well, one good thing about this post is that we finally got Kaimi, Nate Oman, Steve Evans, Dan and Mmiles to agree on SOMETHING. Oh, yeah, they also agree that Jesus lives and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. So all is good.

  24. Jacob,

    The post author ignores amendments, though. Just take a look at the income tax section. He states,

    “The Founders put a prohibition of income tax into the Constitution because its enforcement violates the privacy rights of U.S. citizens.”

    He does not mention the 16th amendment; he is, in effect, ignoring amendments and looking only to 1787 intent.

    If that’s the game with income tax, why not with slavery and women’s suffrage as well?

  25. On the broader level, that’s my quibble with the whole approach. One stated benefit of such an approach is that it is consistent.

    But in fact, it’s not consistent. The author wants to cherry pick some provisions where he looks to the unamended constitution for (such as income tax) and yet set aside other provisions where the unamended constitution is ignored (such as slavery and womens suffrage).

  26. Kaimi:

    I agree with you about the author’s omissions or inconsistencies in this post. I should have been clearer that my comment had more to do with the larger original intent debate itself rather than specific assertions in the post.

  27. Quick point: While I don’t subscribe to the notion of original intent, I do believe in originalism. The argument goes something like this. Constitutional interpretation starts with a text. The text actually has a meaning, albeit one that is often vague or ambigious (these are not the same thing). No responsible theory of constitutional interpretation can ignore the meaning of the text. The meaning of the text cannot be recovered other than be reference to the public meaning of its terms at the time of its adoption. Ergo, we are all originalists and any apparent disagreements are just family debates about how originalist we are.

    For the full argument with lots of examples, footnotes, and discussions of Grice see Lawrence Solum’s “Semantic Originalism” which is up on SSRN and may someday even be published someplace.

  28. On the income tax point, it’s also worth noting that it wasn’t implemented because of “Progressive Era” programs, whatever those are. It was initially broadly used to fund the Civil War; it came back in the early 20th century, thanks to amendments to the Constitution, and became significant in large part because of two world wars.

    There are arguments to be made that an income tax is not the ideal way to raise revenue, and that some sort of VAT or consumption tax or something else is the best way. But there is broad agreement that excise taxes, which were one of the primary sources of federal income early in the Republic’s existence, are among the worst ways to raise revenue. For what it’s worth.

  29. Nate, thanks for that quick point on originalism. I know there are lots of nuances to discussions on Constitutional law, and non-lawyers sometimes can’t keep up with them all, but some of us try.

  30. Rather than quibbling about the points this guy made, and pointing out his errors, which are legion, why shouldn’t we simply quote Vinny from My Cousin Vinny when he said, in response to the prosecutor’s opening argument:

    Everything that guy just said is bull*&%$… Thank you.

    I’m with Julie on her reaction to George Wythe College. And with all the people who basically said Cleon Skousen was an idiot. I almost agree with Kaimi on women’s suffrage, but would point out that the Constitution is silent on voter qualifications, except to leave it to the states–thus some Blacks voted before the 15th Amendment, and many women, including women in Utah, voted well before the passage of the 19th.

    Anyone who has read anything about the income tax knows more about the subject that was written in the OP. That section surely deserves Vinny’s characterization.

    I’m just hoping that we can have a guest post from someone who had the privelege of studying communism at the feet of that great American, Joseph McCarthy.

  31. To all those above who are reveling in their invective and ad hominems against Cleon Skousen, I suggest that you pull back your haughty and unChristian demeanors. You can disagree with someone without villifying him. You can state that his scholarship doesn’t mesh with yours–whatever “yours” is–without implying that anyone who agrees with him is an “idiot”. My goodness, what a logical argument: to call someone an idiot. (sarcasm intended)

    I believe that he did read original sources…and he came up with conclusions that some of you mock. Well, you have your right to disagree. But your scholarship is not apparent in your replies or answers.

  32. Whatever happened to “respectful” disagrement with someone? Do we have to resort to saying that Cleon Skousen is an idiot? Also, I happen to have a great deal of respect for Earl Taylor. You may disagree with him (and I do on some points), but let’s be respectful in how we deal with our disagreements.

  33. One other note. The OP makes a big deal about the eleven types of cases the judicial power of the US extends to, and the fact that the docent at the Supreme Court didn’t know what those were.

    But, since among those 11 types of cases are the following (Art. III, Sec. 2):

    “all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority”

    and since any first-year law student could tell you the basic principles of federal jurisdiction

    and since we can be relatively certain that matters of jurisdiction will have been raised by defendants in the lower courts (what better result for a defendant than to have the prosecutor/plaintiff told “Get lost. You’re in the wrong court”?)

    and since the docent didn’t say “Hmm, we never talked about this in law school” but instead referred to civics class, why should we suppose she has any idea how the court decides matters of federal jurisdiction

    I think we can fairly conclude that this whole point raised in the OP was without merit.

  34. Brian, thank YOU! Oftentimes when people have anonymity, their civility goes out the door…as we have witnessed with some of the postings above.

  35. Brian,
    It’s probably worth noting, too, that a good number of the taxes you cite are not federal taxes, and therefore have nothing to do with the Constitution. States didn’t need the 16th Amendment to levy an income tax, or any other type of tax.

    It’s also worth noting that, technically, interest and penalties are not imposed by the IRS; they’re statutorily derived from the Internal Revenue Code itself. Also, they’re technically not taxes–they’re penalties and interest.

    And ditto to Mark–not only do the federal courts have broad jurisiction, but jurisdictionally iffy cases will almost never make it to the Supreme Court–every litigant raises every jurisdictional argument he or she can think of in the trial court and, if it doesn’t fly there, in the Court of Appeals.

  36. Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution–try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up.

    There are of course problems with that. (Why should we presume there is a single intent, for instance) While I like Thomas this is a point I’ve never found convincing.

    From an LDS point of view, if we buy the idea that the constitution is inspired, why should we assume the authors understood the inspiration they were receiving? In that case the meaning of the text (as with any scripture) exceeds the grasp of the people writing. While we may, for instance, accept that Joseph has a special understanding of the scripture he wrote I think it would be wrong to assume the scripture means what he intends. I think many of us have had the situation where we received a prompting, thought we understood it, but later realized we misunderstood it. The meaning of the prompting didn’t change but our understanding of it did.

    Because of that I think Thomas styled original intent is pretty hard to reconcile with an LDS understanding of the constitution.

  37. “Do we have to resort to saying that Cleon Skousen is an idiot?”

    “resort” implies that it’s a big stretch.

  38. Look, Steve, you can disagree with Skousen and even find his books annoying (“Naked Communist,” etc), but anybody who has written as many books as he has is not an idiot. I know a great many people who find his books, such as “the First 1000 years,” quite enlightening, faith-promoting and easy to read. Calling somebody an idiot is simply not a convincing argument, but it’s especially not convincing when he they have published literally dozens of books, articles, etc.

  39. Skousen is not an idiot, but he is badly wrong. And unfortunately his influence among Mormons is too pervasive to just dismiss him.

  40. I presume that I should have simply dittoed Nate Oman, or repeated his assertion that Skousen’s writings on the constitution are arrant nonsense. For those who find my “argument” unpersuasive: I wasn’t making an argument.

    I did make some points about federal jurisdiction, and about the constitution’s language on suffrage. If those are wrong, let me have it. I have broad shoulders.

    And I’ve got one of our resident Canucks here to back me up.

    I do find Geoff’s argument puzzling. We certainly cannot judge the quality of a person’s thought by the quantity of words he’s managed to get printed.

    And, once again: I wasn’t making an argument.

    It’s like reading “‘Shutup!’ he explained” and then complaining about the quality of the explanation.

  41. “Note, also, who pushes for a return to the days of the Founding Fathers. White men with money and property.”

    I can just see Clarence Thomas wiping off his mammy makeup every night.

  42. For the record, while I’m anything but a lawyer, I do think it a good thing that an originist of Thomas’ stripe is on the Supreme Court. I think diversity of constitutional philosophy is almost certainly a good thing. I don’t know how much the Justices actually talk with each other (although I’m sure Nate does) but I’d like to think hearing different views influences some.

  43. I wasn’t really making an argument either. I share the confusion about how printing a lot of books makes one smart. Hell, even *I* write a lot of stuff.

    Skousen was, in my esteemed and learned opinion, a product of McCarthy era FBI conspiracy theory, one who saw communists around every hedge and managed to associate pretty much anything he didn’t like from bubblegum ice cream to Rockefeller as being in bed with Satan. His political theory is a paranoid mishmash of ultraconservatism and sheer nuttery. His gospel commentary wrests the scriptures like Hulk Hogan vs. Jimmy Superfly Snuka. His books are easy to read, though.

  44. Steve,

    Wresting the scriptures is one thing. Wresting the religious academy is another. It is unlikely that one will wrest the latter to one’s destruction.

  45. Steve and Mark B, I tried to read “the Naked Communist” once. Didn’t get beyond the first page. I can’t disagree that it appears to be to be complete trash. However, when I had just joined the Church I read “the First 1000 years” series. Still have good memories of that series. Have you read it? It’s basically a “beginner’s course” on the Old Testament, mixing the standard OT with the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham. As a newcomer to the Church, I found it very enlightening. If you were to read that series, I don’t think you’d find it that bad.

    As for Skousen’s paranoid anti-communism, it was partly a product of the time and partly a product of ultraconservative Western U.S. thought. Goldwater once was a paranoid anti-Communist (as was ETB), but by the time the times changed they had both mellowed, as I’m sure Skousen did.

    I’m just calling for some civility when discussing people like Skousen (and people like our guest post writer). No need to call anybody names. That’s my .02.

  46. Geoff, not to derail things, but yeah The First 1000 Years is pretty bad on a whole slew of fronts. (Whether looking at it from the point of view of Bible scholarship or the point of view of Mormon theology) I’d give a few egregious examples but I no longer have my copy.

    I agree about not calling names though.

  47. All right, I’ll lay off. I just think that if you are basing your worldview on a few key people, and one of the major players is Cleon Skousen, that speaks volumes as to your methods and goals. And not positively so.

  48. To Steve Evans:

    It appears you are also basing your worldview on a few key people….and one of the major players is the “straw man”. You believe that if a theory is written by Cleon Skousen, it is automatically false on its face. I suggest that your sophism is all too readily transparent.

  49. Here’s a related joke for everyone.

    Q. Where do sophists come from?

    A. They grow on sophist trees!

  50. Thank you to everyone for commenting and a special thanks again to Brother Earl Taylor for submitting this guest post.

    I am closing the comments to protect Canadian citizens and sophits from further assualt. 🙂

Comments are closed.