Thursday, February 17, 2005

Constitution? What constitution?

I guess I haven't been checking the right-wing blogs recently. I wasn't aware that the Tiger In Winter On Politics (see sidebar "Politics - Right") was in the midst of some serious political turmoil. He had apparently arrived in Nepal just before a coup temporarily overthrew the King. The main body of his blog was black for around a week, but I'm glad to hear that he's all right, because that sort of thing is notorious for spiralling out of control quickly. (Ever read "Bodily Harm" by Margaret Atwood?)

I've been reading Thomas Hobbes for the last couple of weeks, and my philosophy professor said something to the effect that constitutions are sometimes not worth the paper they're written on, and every so often, even democratic governments go bad, which is why people should be allowed to have guns. This makes sense actually, and in spite of gun control, most people could go out and get a gun, but down south, the availability of high-powered firearms and "cop-killer" bullets just doesn't make any sense to me. I guess in that respect, I'm a hopeless lefty.

Back to Ben's story, he seemed to be having a memorable vacation (how's that for an understatement). I would agree with him that the sovereign should not be allowed to suspend the Constitution at will, but I wonder, could just any government suspend constitutional rights for any reason? Ours has, although we did not have a written constitution of our own until 1982, the most recent time that civil rights were suspended I believe during the Quebec crisis in 1970. And what would happen if the Americans were hit by another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 or worse? I don't think that people there or abroad would make too much of a fuss about the suspension of civil rights, we would probably all turn into willing Hobbesians, begging for the government to save us, no matter what it takes.

However, I think another terrorist strike is highly unlikely, my main point is: what keeps a government abiding by the Constitution even at the best of times? Could a government just stay on after it has lost the election and just refuse to go, and say "The hell with the Constitution" even if no catastrophe had striken? It could happen though...

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