Friday, May 28, 2010

Some Thoughts On Constutitional Culture

In the latest issue of the Review of Austrian Economics, Nicolai Wenzel of Hillsdale College argues that Constutitions survive only when there is a strong constitutional culture. So long as the culture supports the constitution, one can expect the constitution of a particular country to be supported, the government to be stable, etc. But if the culture does not support it, then the government won't abide by it, and we get political and economic chaos.

This suggests a particular rhetorical strategy. It does little good to argue that something should not be done because the Constitution prohibits it if the person you are arguing with cares more about the issue than the Constitution. We see this all the time, especially among people in our government (which means they are violating their oaths of office, but, again, this only matters if there is a strong constutional culture). What we need to do instead is argue principles, and get more and more people to agree with those princples. If we can do that, people will apply those princples to specific issues.

For example, consider the principle of rule of law. Under the principle of rule of law, every person has to abide to the same laws, no matter who they are. This would include politicans and bureaucrats. Once you get people to agree with that, you then point out that we do in fact have laws that apply to the average citizen, but not to members (and former members) of the government. Why would legislators exclude themselves from a law? If a law is good enough for you and me, shouldn't it be good enough for them? From there, one can then move on to specific laws, if you want.

This suggests an entirely new approach to arguing for libertarians, including campaigning for Libertarians. If we want to be more successful and realize a freer future, we need to use rhetorical tactics that will work. It also puts particular importance on libertarian artists to produce great works (meaning, not vapid, polemical works) that contribute to the creation of a constitutional culture.
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