The Constitution of the United States of America does NOT make America a great nation. I know this might come as a shock, but it is true. How? I mean no offense toward our brothers and sisters south of the border, but Mexico has a constitution that is very similar to our own, yet that country is a mess. The same could be said for nearly every country in Central America. In fact, the U.S. Constitution has served as the template for the governing documents of many countries around the world, most of which have failed to develop out of the third world. So what is the answer? Is America a world power because she cheated its way to the top via slave labor? Is she great because you have a gun? Does America’s power come from the philosophies of dead white European men? No, no and no. It’s very simple. America’s success can be explained by two words: civil obedience.
I have had the pleasure of working with numerous first or second generation emigrants from South Asia. They have observed a funny thing. When driving in America they stop at stop signs, maintain their lanes, yield to other traffic, and [generally] obey speed limits. However, when they return to visit relatives on the subcontinent, they disregard all of the above, as do all of their countrymen, and follow only one rule: every man for himself.
This chaos does not end at the curb (as if they wouldn’t hesitate to drive on the sidewalk if they could make a lane of it). In India and Pakistan, they don’t think twice about paying bribes or buying black market goods. When they return to their homes in America, they resume their law abiding ways.
It is not a matter of law enforcement. These countries have their own police agencies and India in particular has an excellent legal system. But no country has enough cops to force their masses to comply with the laws if the majority of the people choose not to obey them. Numerous totalitarian societies have tried and they have all failed.
America is great because of her people’s longstanding tradition of civil obedience, meaning most of the people voluntarily comply with most of the laws most of the time. The Constitution would be nothing if its ideals were not embodied in the behavior of its citizens. Its power comes from the people, not the other way around. Because most Americans voluntarily comply with these rules for orderly society, our law enforcement is not overwhelmed and can concentrate on pursuing the sociopaths in our midst that want to be a law unto themselves.
Of course, mindless civil obedience in the face of unjust laws can yield atrocities such as slavery or The Holocaust. Thoreau, who said, “I cannot for an instant recognize as my government [that] which is the slave’s government also,” was right to encourage conscientious targeted acts of civil disobedience as a non-violent weapon to use against governmental tyranny. But as with exercising the people’s “revolutionary right [to use military arms] dismember or overthrow [a tyrannical government]” (Lincoln, First Inaugural Address), civil disobedience is fundamentally destructive to a society and therefore should never be used lightly.
Civil obedience reduces the risk for an entrepreneur to open a business and hire workers. Civil obedience stabilizes the currency by reducing theft. Civil obedience fosters scientific research, engineering, medical innovation, and art by protecting intellectual property rights. Civil obedience even provides for a stable government that provides for the country’s common defense (i.e. there aren’t enough IRS agents to enforce all of the tax laws).
Yesterday, Robert Farago reported on a U.N. Gun Grab program in which the boys and girls in the blue hats attempt to convince countries to forswear Small Arms Light Weapons (SALW). Like most bureaucracies, the U.N. brain-trust believes that man’s inhumanity to man can be cured by the right law, policy, regulation, treaty, or constitution. (I hope that the U.N. categorizes machetes as SALWs because I hear they are wreaking havoc in Africa.)
The sad reality is that programs such as this succeed only in disarming populations that are most likely to voluntarily comply with the laws of the land, so this wrongheaded Utopian dream would only serve to further destabilize these societies as the unarmed innocents would become perpetual victims of armed criminals. The U.N. has certainly proved over and over again that it is incapable of providing protection or disarming local thugs.
If the U.N. truly wants to promote peace and protect law-abiding elements in these countries, they would be better off seeking out pockets of populations that embrace civil obedience and strengthen them – including providing them with SALWs.
Early settlers came to America for many reasons, but those who came here to freely exercise their religion left a legacy of civil behavior that has influenced all other comers. Not all of the Framers of the Constitution were pious with regard to conventional denominational Christian worship, but they all feared God; they believed that eventually they would be judged and rewarded or condemned according to their actions in this life.
This belief bred the culture of civil obedience that made America great. Furthermore, they had the wisdom to empower (i.e. arm) their like-minded countrymen so they could not fall victim to forces of tyranny or anarchy. The Constitution is an inspired document. But it would be meaningless scrawl on paper without us.