The political right vociferously argues that much or most of the current agenda of the political left violates the intentions of the Founding Fathers, i.e. is unconstitutional. The claim being, in essence, that the genius displayed at the Convention in 1787 created a work product that was designed and intended to be a roadblock in the way of our participation in the development of a modern world.The whole problem with the backward lookers, though, is that they’re so busy trying to argue for why the world should never have been allowed to change like it has that they have no contribution to make at all to the discussion of how we order our affairs in an increasingly more complex future. That and the fact that none of them would choose an 1800’s primitive life over that of life in the U.S. in 2010.

I keep waiting for talk show hosts to propose disbanding the FCC or the FAA or the CDC (or numerous other modern federal functions). My copy of the Constitution makes no mention of the airwaves, the airways, or fighting disease epidemics. Sure there are Clauses that can be construed broadly enough to allow modern society to evolve, but doing so leaves the right without a principled leg to stand on in the current debate.

If you think that health care reform will lead to a socialistic result, what would you call the Interstate Highway System? Or does welfare for rich people fall under a different category than welfare for folks on the other end of the scale? Try comparing the benefit of getting on the freeway for three exits on the drive to work every day with driving with ease and comfort around the nation in a monster motor home. In floating the original proposal President Eisenhower relied upon National Defense for legal justification.

On the right the only opponents were the people who owned the railroads and they were going to be unhappy at being forced to compete with trucks no matter what arguments were rolled out. On the left, going with the Interstate Commerce Clause or Post Roads would have opened things up to pricey consideration of matters of social equity since the disparity between those who paid and those who benefited was so great.

Is the United States better off to have invested in the collectivization of that portion of our transportation function? Certainly. But this still doesn’t change the fact that we have never faced, and never will, the need to move vast armies quickly around the homeland in order to stave off a massive, full scale military invasion. Rather our Republican President simply cynically created a system of socialized highways (expanded one really), and then camouflaged the act with an incantation to hide the truth from ourselves. On an honest day (of which there were far too few) even Ronald Reagan would have admitted that “free” freeways goes against pretty much everything he claimed to stand for.

“Leave everything to free enterprise” is a cheap and cynical political slogan. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of a thoughtful policy for managing the public affairs of an immense, immensely blessed, and vastly powerful society that can and should play the major role in intelligently developing the planet Earth and the human race that populates it. In order to play that role, however, we have to resolve to look at all people as our equals and at the future quality of life on the planet as being far more important to our progeny than the content of the estate that we bequeath to our personal heirs.

And that’s the rub for talk radio conservatives. “The public good” is their mantra only when it can be used to disguise a selfish motive, and they’ll drag out any part of The Constitution if floating it offers them cover for not wanting to pay their fair share of creating the magnificent life they “own” only because of a lucky accident of birth.

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