December 4, 2011
By, John Tamny
When I began my employment at Washington, D.C.’s Cato Institute (editor’s note: I remain affiliated with Cato in a professional, non-policy capacity) over eight years ago, one of the biggest eye openers was the Institute’s reading of the Constitution. Used to a more conservative, Robert Bork style approach to our founding document, the view held inside Cato made infinitely more sense to me.
A frequent speaker at Cato events on constitutional issues then and now was Judge Andrew Napolitano (editor’s note: I’m a frequent guest on Judge Napolitano’s Fox Business News television show: FreedomWatch), and much like the scholars at Cato, the Judge’s read of the Constitution was quite liberating, plus made what was once obscure far more understandable. Specifically, in his speeches the Judge made plain that the Constitution was written first to authorize the federal government, but after that the document exists to severely limit the federal government’s role in our lives. Put more simply, the powers granted to the federal government in the document are just that, and if powers are not listed, they don’t exist.
Most revealing to me, Judge Napolitano’s take on the Constitution is that far from something which limits our rights, the Constitution grants our government the right to protect our infinite rights as human beings. Though legal scholars of Bork’s ilk are said to view the 9th Amendment as an “inkblot”, to libertarians like Napolitano the 9th in many ways animates the Constitution for putting down in plain English the basic truth that as humans we’re free to do anything we want so long as our actions don’t infringe on the freedoms of others.
In his essential new book, It Is Dangerous To Be Right When The Government Is Wrong, the Judge expertly explains the meaning of the Constitution, articulates beautifully how we as Americans have infinite natural rights that could never be listed, plus he lays out the myriad policy errors that continue to harm our personal and economic freedom as a result of Washington’s casual disregard of constitutional limits. This book is not to be missed.