What is C-Pol?
C-Pol began in mid-1995 as an e-mail discussion list where political, cultural and religious issues could be highlighted from a constitutionalist, conservative perspective. The terse term "C-Pol" is an artifact from the days when email discussion list names were required to be short.
In May of 2004 C-Pol expanded to include this blog. In May of 2007 I also waded into the troubled waters of global warming heresy, but I'm currently taking an indefinite break from that.
You can see the horribly designed original C-Pol website here.
What do you mean by "constitutionalist"?
Constitutionalism is the once-commonplace, now-radical idea that each level of government -- federal, state, county, municipal -- should operate within the explicitly-defined boundaries of the charter under which it was established. In the U.S., the charter of the federal government is the Constitution. A constitutionalist believes that the federal government ought to exercise only those powers explicitly granted to it under the Constitution. Given that the vast majority of the power currently exercised by the federal government has been unconstitutionally usurped from the states and the people, constitutionalists have their work cut out for them.
What do you mean by "conservative"?
I mean what is typically understood as American conservatism. Of course, there are several subgroups within American conservatism. Some might emphasize minimal government interference in the economy. Others might be concerned more about cultural issues. Still others might focus on constitutional issues. Although people in each subgroup may have profound disagreements with those in the other subgroups, in modern times they have been able to unite on important issues often enough to be seen as a single group, "conservatives".
What do you mean by "perspective"?
Look it up in the dictionary.
So you're the one responsible for all of this. Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Tim. I put bread on the table by working as a software developer for one of the departments in a large university in Texas. I have been married since 1994, and have been a daddy since 1998. I am active in my church, working mostly with international students at the university. Oh, I like to follow politics, too.
Given C-Pol's emphasis, am I right in assuming that you consider yourself to be a "constitutionalist conservative"? What do you think of the other major conservative subgroups?
Yes, you are right to assume that. I am also strongly supportive of the economic and cultural conservative subgroups within conservatism as well, and issues important to these subgroups are well represented in blog postings. C-Pol places a special emphasis on constitutionalism because I think the philosophy needs a greater emphasis within conservatism as a whole.
So are you saying that constitutionalism ought to be promoted as the philosophical foundation of all subgroups within conservatism?
It's worth a try.
Okay, let's give it a try. How might the constitutionalist philosophy affect the cultural conservative's strategy on abortion?
Most cultural conservatives believe that elective abortion is abhorrent, and that they must do what they can to eliminate the practice. A constitutionalist who likewise despises elective abortion would still insist that the federal government has no constitutional right to say anything about abortion, either for or against. A constitutionalist would probably agree, however, that a state's penal code could deal with abortion. This is because the prevention of the shedding of innocent blood is a legitimate function of the local levels of government.
Thus, the pro-life constitutionalist may often find him or herself in the awkward position of opposing a pending federal law that is popular with other pro-life conservatives.
So what do you see as the legitimate functions of the federal government?
National defense (and I do mean defense), diplomatic relations with other governments, and arbitration of disputes between the various states.
Hey, wait a minute! You believe that, militarily, the federal government is limited to genuine defense. But as I read your blog, it seems that you support the War on Terror. How is that consistent?
The War on Terror is a response to an attack on the U.S. by people who have vowed to do all in their power to destroy America. It makes no difference whether or not their goal is realistic; they believe it is realistic, and they consider themselves to be at war with us. We have no choice but to respond. Acting in defense of our country certainly allows us to choose the battlefields and to seize the initiative from the enemy, both of which we have done. By doing so, however, many people have come to the false conclusion that we are waging aggressive war. We are not. However, we are pursuing the defense of our country aggressively.
America was attacked by members of an organization, but that organization is but a fraction of the footsoldiers of a radical ideology that will accept nothing less than the total destruction of all who will not submit. This enemy 'army' transcends national boundaries, but for the most part they are geographically concentrated in the Middle East. We have taken the battle to them. This 'army' must be beaten back relentlessly until they themselves give up or else they are destroyed.
Again, I am fully convinced that the pursuit of these goals is perfectly valid within a constitutionalist framework. Granted, wartime has been and will continue to be used as an excuse for the power-hungry to assault our liberties, and so we must exercise increased diligence to hold the line against such abuses. I fully intend to use C-Pol for this purpose.
Okay, okay. So, which of these legitimate functions (defense, diplomacy and dispute resolution) covers federally-funded research into the mating habits of the Mediterranean fruit fly? Or block grants for cities to hire more police? Or setting of minimum wages? Or funding and regulation of public education? Or regulation of abortion clinics? Or regulation/control of the health care, banking and automotive industries?
None of the examples are constitutionally legitimate areas of concern for the federal government.
So why don't you just call yourself a libertarian?
Although my beliefs overlap those of libertarians to a large extent, we part ways on a number of issues. For example, I agree with George Washington, who in his farewell address (here in particular) insisted that the government should use its bully pulpit to promote public virtue -- for the simple reason that a virtuous people would insist on virtuous leaders.
I also believe in the principle of subsidiarity, namely, that any legitimate function of government should be exercised at the lowest level of government possible. It seems that the closer the government officials are to the people who actually vote for them, the more sensitive they are to the opinions of these voters, and thus (in principle) the officials are more accountable for their actions. We don't really get to see this principle in action today because power is increasingly concentrated at the top, rather than the bottom.
So how is this different from what libertarians believe? It seems to me that although we are in strong agreement regarding the legitimate powers of the federal government, we might have strong disagreements about the legitimate powers of the lower levels of government. For example, see what I said above regarding abortion.
Libertarians have a serious public image problem. It is not without justification that the public sees the libertarians as chiefly interested in drug legalization.
Why is your posting schedule so erratic?
There are two main reasons for this. First, although I'm a voracious consumer of news and commentary, it takes a nontrivial investment of time and emotional energy to dump my thoughts into a coherent post. Often, "real life" interferes with the process, and because of this I may go several days (or even weeks) between posts.
The second reason is related to the first. For the most part, I'm not content to do simple link-and-excerpt posts. If I don't feel like I have something intelligent to say about what I'm posting, I take it as a signal that I should leave it be. Thus, although I have strong opinions about a lot of things, I won't always jump into the fray on the latest hot topic.
You're not one of the big-name conservative bloggers. Why should I read your blog?
You just should, okay?