Recently I talked to a friend who is very active politically. He is passionate about justice, regularly participates in campaigns as a grassroots activist, and votes in every single election. He also has the most superfluous knowledge of the Constitution and has no idea what "a government of laws and not of man" means.
"How do you choose from the list of candidates?" I asked. "It's quite simple," he answered. "I vote for whoever feels right, whose philosophy sounds the closest to mine." I kept pressing: "But how do you hold these people accountable if you don't know the fundamental law of the land?" My friend said, "Oh, I don't have to worry about such matters. We have the Supreme Court for that. It's their job to know the Constitution."
This left me dumbstruck. We require that a person go through years of training and exams before he calls himself a surgeon and is granted the right to touch a scalpel, because an unskilled doctor may kill someone. We mandate that anyone who wants to operate a motor vehicle must pass a written, driving, and vision test because incompetent or visually impaired drivers can cause multiple casualties. And yet we let anyone born in the United States call him- or herself a citizen-a title that goes with the right to delegate powers to people whose decisions affect the lives of billions in profound ways.
My friend is not some hillbilly-the guy has a Ph.D. and a successful professional career. If intellectuals are willing to let our liberty stay buried in a book on a shelf in a building somewhere in our nation's capital, if they are comfortable letting only a handful of lawyers interpret it for us, what about the rest of the country? How long until such complacency turns the United States into Venezuela or Somalia?