Constitutionalism: Ron Paul vs. Rick Santorum

By Adam Bates

So, in case you missed it, Rick Santorum declared recently that he understands our Founding documents better than Ron Paul. Ron Paul, Santorum says, has a “French” understanding of Liberty, more committed to radical individualism than the “rights with social responsibilities” enshrined in our Constitution.

I thought that was a bit of an “interesting” take, so I think we should play a little game.

You tell me which one of these sounds more like “rights with responsibilities (i.e. Santorum’s conception of rights),” and which one sounds more like unadulterated individualism (i.e. Paul’s conception of rights).

1. Freedom of expression/press

A. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

B. Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press.

2. Freedom of speech/religion

A. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

B. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.

3. Liberty

A. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

B. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

If you said that the A’s sounded more like what Santorum is talking about, then you and I are in agreement. The only problem is that the A’s are from the French Declaration of the Rights of Man while the B’s are from the U.S. Constitution.

If that wasn’t enough proof that Rick Santorum got his Constitutions crossed, in 2006 he said, unequivocally, “This idea that you can do whatever you want to do as long as you don’t hurt anyone is not part of a society committed to the common good.” (Don’t believe me? Start at about 1:20) The idea that we must subvert individual liberty in the name of the “common good” certainly finds no home in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, but it does sound an awful lot like “Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society,” doesn’t it?

And if you watch the entirety of the above video, you might catch Sen. Santorum indignantly claiming that “the pursuit of happiness is harming America!”

Well “the pursuit of happiness” is not just a thrown together phrase, it’s a reference to something written more than 200 years ago. No, it’s not from the French Constitution. It’s from the Declaration of Independence, penned and signed by a group of men I daresay understood what they were saying far better than Rick Santorum appears to.

By Adam Bates

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