Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian Blog, Jason Brennan has a post on “What Libertarians Think about the U.S. Constitution” based on his new book Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know. Of course, Jason does not speak for all libertarians on this issue, and certainly not for this moderate libertarian. I plan a couple of posts on Jason’s argument.
I should begin by pointing out that Jason’s criticisms of written constitutions and the U.S. Constitution bring to mind one problem that I have with less moderate libertarians. They often disparage the good that can be achieved in favor of the ideal that cannot. Written constitutions, including the U.S. Constitution, have been in the main an important force for liberty, even though they have not been perfect. Failing to recognize that undervalues what can be secured in the real world and what has been responsible for our liberty. This turn of thinking brings to mind the abolitionists’s zealous criticism of Abraham Lincoln for not being radical enough.
That said, I agree with some of what Jason says. Here let me consider a couple of Jason’s points. First, he argues that while the U.S. Constitution establishes a constitutional democracy, the constitution part is more important than the democracy part. For a libertarian, there are certain things that even a majority should not be allowed to do. Well, I certainly agree with that latter claim. Majority rule has it virtues and vices, and an ideal constitution would limit majority rule to its proper limited sphere.