In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.–President Dwight D. Eisenhower
For my parents, November 23, 1963, had been their 9/11. I came along ten years and one day later. Yet I have only recently come to realize that I’ve never lived in a constitutional Republic.
I have only ever lived under a cryptocracy—a shadow government.
You see, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the Constitution died too. The more details that emerge from the trove of declassified files, the more we see outlines of a dark cabal with enormous extra-constitutional power. They seem to have ruled for some time.
Clandestine powers pull the strings and occasionally eliminate anyone who challenges them—as any decent mafia would do. But even if you’re skeptical that Deep State actors are firmly in control, a permanent politburo has done enough damage to weaken the Republic.
A new constitution is in order. (More on this later.)
Dead or Dying?
Interlocutors will argue with me on the above points. They’ll say the Constitution isn’t dead. We just need one more election to install a better captain to right the ship. Or maybe they’ll agree that the Constitution is dead but that its death came at another point in history. No matter. It could be that the Patriot Act and Global War on Terror killed the Constitution. Or perhaps the New Deal and World War II did, spawning the debt-fueled welfare-warfare state.
The demise could be more of a process, like dying of cancer. But if the Constitution is in Stage IV, the Republic is as good as dead, too.
We needn’t argue too much about metaphors for scribbles on parchment, because few can say that America’s Great Charter is alive and well. FBI agents routinely censor citizens, interfere in elections, and imprison political enemies without a speedy trial, due process, or evidence. The national debt stands at record levels. Banks are teetering on the edge of collapse. And hyperinflation looms.
So even if one doubts that the CIA assassinated JFK, which would mean the national security state has the power to act with impunity, he might still be the sort who shakes his fists at Washington and expects congressional hearings to produce accountability.
Dead Souls and the Corpses of Children
Paper constitutions are just that. They depend for their life on the soul of a people.
In other words, if people treat our foundation of law as an object of reverence, then our social operating system can work. But if enough people are willing to treat that foundation as an obstruction to be overcome—whether those in power or partisans locked in the conflict machine—then we have reached a critical mass of dead souls. And we need to separate from them.
A dead soul is one willing to give up on the founding ideals out of fear, hatred, or political expedience. Public intellectual Sam Harris exemplifies such a soul.
“At that point, Hunter Biden literally could have had the corpses of children in his basement, I would not have cared,” Harris said, referring to the FBI and Twitter suppressing information about the infamous laptop.
Harris was at least honest, revealing more than anyone in the media had up to that point, capturing the sentiment of millions.
But the more troubling point is Harris is not alone. Half of the country hated a politician so much that they were willing to let the ends justify the means. I don’t care much for the former President, but any-means-necessary thinking is murderous to the soul of a people. If you’re willing to make exceptions to the Constitution and rule of law, whether out of blind hatred or partisan team sports, you’re rubbing the lamp of an evil Djinn. He might grant your wish, but he’ll dismantle the liberal order in the process.
Brutus Was Prescient
Remember the Federalist Papers? Maybe your high-school civics teacher threw the antifederalists a bone.
In “Brutus I,” Robert Yates aired concerns about the potential dangers of the Philadelphia Constitution and its impact on states’ rights and individual liberties. Because “Brutus I” is a long read, I asked ChatGPT-4 to summarize Yates:
It is as if Robert Yates had a crystal ball. Yet the mounting proof of his prescience will not likely reward poor Yates, even in death. Names like Madison and Hamilton have eclipsed his. The latter two not only “won” the constitutional debates, but the Nevesian central banker even got a musical named after him.
Still, Yates is redeemed—among the remnant anyway.
Jefferson remains our most important founder because of his radicalism, not despite it. He warned that Philadelphia’s Constitution contained “a bitter pill or two” and later blasted the General Welfare Clause as “sophistry.”
He was right.
Furthermore, Jefferson wrote:
I see as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the states, and the consolidation in itself of all powers foreign and domestic; and that too by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.
Jefferson, like Yates, saw it all coming.
The Constitution of Consent Contest
Even if I haven’t persuaded you that Americ– nee, humanity, needs a new constitution, maybe I can persuade you to enter our Constitution of Consent Contest, anyway.
The winner(s) gets $20,000.
Sign up for launch updates at Underthrow:
We’re inviting you to write a new constitution.
You can work alone or with a team. Thanks to the support of folks at K5054 Enterprises—a venture studio—we can offer the winner(s) that $20,000 cash prize.
But it can’t be just any constitution. The contest comes with Guidelines designed to satisfy the following, which we view as the fundamental moral and legal justification for any body of law:
[T]o secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Emphasis mine)
If anyone is curious about why we’re doing it, that’s why.
Still, one might be skeptical that a new constitution will amount to anything. But consider the possibilities:Discussing a Constitution of Consent could help move the Overton Window toward a consent-based order. Exploring the idea of a new constitution might at least prompt us to restore the “Lost Constitution,” which would be preferable to the status quo. A Constitution of Consent can provide an object of reverence, something foundational to what Balaji Srinivasan calls a “startup society,” which precedes a “network state.” A multi-party contract with real signatories is likely to make for greater social coherence than simply being born into a system and inculcated with Social Studies. The Constitution of Consent can serve as a document for micro-states or special economic zones to use as is—or adapt it. The result can be something like panarchy.
Too many intellectuals and activists play fast and loose with terms like “social contract,” which is why a Constitution of Consent is one people will literally sign. In this way, we seek to realize Jefferson’s vision, too.
The Declaration’s author questioned whether “one generation of men has a right to bind another” and he was worried that “no society can make a perpetual constitution.” Otherwise, binding people to a set of imposed laws would be an “act of force and not of right.” We think people will trust the institutions they build and use together.
We are thus at a crossroads.
We can go the way Jefferson suggests and forge a new consent-based order. Or we can continue adrift in the manner of Hamilton, FDR, and Wilson. Our hope, bold but tentative, is that we can innovate our way out of our servitude again, without bloodshed, one signature at a time.