As George Will writes in a recent op-ed, the Founders’ purpose in drafting the Constitution was not to establish unlimited democracy; rather, it was largely to restrain democracy in order to preserve individual liberty. He writes:
The [basic] argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights.
Although we can quibble with Will’s use of the term “conservative” in this context (conservatism actually means loyalty to tradition), Will puts his finger on a crucial and fundamental debate in American politics.
To show that the Constitution is fundamentally about preserving liberty, Will relies heavily on the new book by attorney Timothy Sandefur, The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty (reviewed here). TOS will feature an in-depth interview with Sandefur in the Summer issue of our quarterly journal, due out next month (subscribe here). . . .