There are a couple of things of which to take note here. First, far from being the blessing bequeathed to them by its Framers that most Americans have always took it to be, the Constitution, according to Obama, is actually a burden, a curse even, from which Americans “suffer.” Second, it is a hardship because it fails to secure what Obama calls “economic rights.”
These remarks are telling enough on the surface. The reasoning uniting them is that much more shocking to anyone willing to follow its logic.
Since everyone knows that the Constitution guarantees a system of private property ownership—once more, the only system compatible with liberty—Obama clearly has something very different in mind from private property rights when he speaks of “economic rights.” The latter he values. The former, though, by his lights, constitutes a burden from which “we” “suffer.”
A system of private property is a cause of suffering, according to Obama. This means that the United States Constitution in which that system consists is a cause of suffering. And this in turn implies that the liberty for which generations of Americans from the founding onward have sacrificed is a cause of suffering.
In this same interview, Obama insists that the Constitution imposes “essential constraints” from which we must liberate ourselves, for these obstacles from which “we have not broken free” account for the Constitution’s silence on “what the Federal government or State government[s] must do on your behalf.”
Obama, it should now be clear, views, and can only view, the Constitution as nothing less than a mistake of epic proportions. Beyond this, it is a moral calamity, for the liberty, the private property rights, internal to it have imposed incalculable suffering—income and wealth inequalities, “the defining challenge of our time”—upon generation after generation of Americans since the 18th century.
Everyone should be concerned with helping the poor, whether the needy in question are impoverished materially or otherwise. Yet “income inequalities” can be addressed only by a national government, a government in which authority and power are centralized. In short, greater income equality means, and can only mean, greater inequality of power.
And this in turn must mean that greater income equality can be had only at the cost of forfeiting individual liberty.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.