Will the Coronavirus Create a Constitutional Crisis?
“The Mexicans had taken the US Constitution as their model when they drafted their own, but it had not given them any of the strength and stability that the American Constitution had conferred. Mexican democracy was marked by turbulence and volatility, and could hardly be judged a success, and it was this that made the prospects of a lasting solution difficult. . . both the United States and Mexico had roughly the same structures of freedom in terms of the constitutions and the laws, but Mexico lacked what Montesquieu called the ‘spirit’ of freedom, what Tocqueville called the ‘habits of the heart,’ and what was the direct legacy of covenantalism to American freedom and trust. A century later, it is clear that America has grown more like Mexico than Mexico had grown like America. Covenantalism, reciprocal responsibility, loyalty, and trust have all eroded across American life—in marriages, families, communities, businesses, and public life.”Os Guinness – Last Call for Liberty
I have been studying Os Guinness’ 2019 book Last Call for Liberty and was struck by his statement above, and how timely it is now during this Coronavirus pandemic. We are not only facing a health crisis that could change our country forever, but we may soon be facing a constitutional crisis as we start to weed through the larger effects of this global event. Will we fall for the narrative that we need a socialized healthcare system in order to manage large scale outbreaks in the future? Will we abandon the foundations of limited government to ensure our safety or will our libertarian colleagues prevail in their persistent mistrust of government? Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s recent unilateral decision to postpone the primary until June 2nd – which was only approved by the state’s health department and not drawn up by it – I have been seeing a pattern of grave mistrust within the Ohio Republican Party. Was DeWine overstepping his reach and becoming a bit tyrannical in his approach to the pandemic? Unfortunately, mistrust and anxiety are a reasonable response considering the political climate we live in today, where more and more conservatives are being pulled over to the left in order to placate to the narratives of uber progressives like Bernie Sanders. But what are the philosophical reasons for why this is happening? This brief article will attempt to explain where America is at today and how we are at a crossroads of history.
The Philosophical Roots of Our Division
Our country is becoming more and more divided between the philosophies of the Enlightenment and the Jewish covenantal system that our constitution was founded upon. What’s the difference you ask? The Enlightenment was based upon ideas like that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s social contract, which promoted very limited federal government, but provided no moral obligation to keep this contract. In a covenantal system you are putting your integrity and reputation on the line as a contributing member of society. If you break your covenant with your fellow citizens, you are shamed into reversing your decision – this is true Biblical corporate responsibility and not the Marxist narrative that some churches are spewing out from the pulpit each week. Today, individual citizens feel that the responsibility of maintaining a contract lies only with the government. These same individuals often embrace moral relativism and post-modernism, which teaches that there is no truth but your own truth. Is it true then that the government is bound to the contract? If there is no truth, then why do we expect our leaders to take care of us? Don’t our leaders have the same right as we do to break the contract?
After the 2008 stock market crash people walked away from their home loans without looking back. Large corporations took golden parachute bailouts from the government, while their former employees worked two to three jobs to make ends meet. This is something that could never have happened in early America as everyone was accountable to one another. But in our increasingly globalized society how can we stop the roaring train of progressivism? How do we prevent our country from turning into Mexico – where there never has been and probably never will be any trust of government?
Truth Leads to Morality, Which Leads to Trust
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.John Adams
Mexico, like many Central and South American countries, is a borderline narco state because its government is so corrupt and in bed with the cartels. The only truth the Mexican people can hedge their bets on is the fact that their government is not looking out for them, but for themselves. The church in Central and South America has become nothing but a platform for bigger government in a corrupt society. It pushes liberation-theology more so than anything looking remotely similar to the Sinai Covenant. In liberation theology, only the government is morally required to keep the contract. God forbid we call out the rampant number of murder and armed robberies that occur in these countries that are not even associated with the cartels. Rousseau believed that we are all essentially good inside and that “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” To Rousseau, it is the repressive policies of the government that cause men to falter, not man’s inherent nature. And if we would all return to a life independent of the government, we wouldn’t have these problems. Really? Is that what happened in 1789 during the French Revolution? Most certainly not!
In 1789, the people of France were filled with hatred and malice towards their monarchs and the underlying feudal government system. There was no sense of forgiveness or of creating a society that would give all people, including former nobility, an opportunity to participate and have representation in government. France was more like ancient Greece and Rome, where only elite Greeks and Romans had rights, and non-citizens and Christians were left to rot. I wonder if all the people in America who hate Donald Trump would behave the same way if we have a revolution in this country, and I’m not just talking about those on the left. We are at a point in history where we may find out. After the French Revolution came the tyranny and dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. What will we see if Donald Trump is thrown out of office?
In our post truth world, where there is no sense of morality, can we expect our citizens to step up and help their fellow man? The social Darwinists would argue that if we want to evolve as a country, we need to help one another at all times and especially during a crisis. But I must ask. . . does this equate man as a commodity? Will these same people help those who have philosophical differences with them, and who do not believe in social Darwinism? If we are all commodities, and if Christians are not helpful toward the goal of utopia, can we expect help from our neighbors that don’t share our values? Social Darwinism does not create trust between people of differing perspectives. Only the Biblical covenantal system can provide this solution.
What Can I Do?
Part of the reason why governments like Mexico’s are able to succeed despite their corruption is because of dubious free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was used by the US as a bargaining chip to encourage Mexico to incarcerate leading cartel members. Mexico is all too happy to feed American hyper-consumerism and will do just about anything to do so. But who is profiting? Is it the average person in Mexico or is it state-owned industry? Globalism only empowers those who are already in power. There is no accountability as local governments are now obsolete. We need to move as far away as possible from a globalized government.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big proponent of free trade as I firmly believe that the free flowing of goods across our border is the best way to prevent high prices. However, free trade can only occur successfully with a country that can be trusted – Mexico and most of the countries to the south of us do not fall into this category. So, what do we do? We need to simplify our lives and get back to the principles that this country was founded upon and stop relying on other countries to provide us cheap goods at the expense of our virtue. Within this pandemic crisis we have been caught with our pants down. Since we are dependent upon China for most of our medicines and medical supplies, we cannot criticize them for their ineptitude. We need to downsize our homes and stop buying cheap Chinese and Mexican goods. Our employers need to stop buying yachts and $100,000 cars, so that our employees can make a respectable wage. And our employees need to take pride in what they do and not look to the unions to bail them out for poor performance.
Our history hangs in a balance as we decide who we want to be as a country. Will we be a virtuous country that looks after one another and provides no strings attached help to those in need, or will we continue to look to the government – of whom we don’t trust – to keep the contract? Will we continue to buy more and more things that we don’t really need in order to make up for the lack of relationships we have with one another? Will luxury out live love? Will we be a covenantal system based in Judeo-Christian ethics or will our hatred for Donald Trump lead to the tyranny of the majority as it did in France? Do we want the dictatorship of socialism or strong community discipline? The time to decide is now as America’s future has never been threatened to this degree before.
Guinness, Os. Last Call for Liberty: How America’s Genius for Freedom Has Become Its Greatest Threat (p. 113-114). InterVarsity Press.