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Could it be true that the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) concept was conceived in 1776? Perhaps earlier?

Mr. Thomas Paine certainly made no compromise when explaining the woes of complex government. He writes, “I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature… that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered.” He continues to remark on the ineffective English Constitution. When it was instituted, it was a step in the right direction for human rights, but at the time of Paine’s writing it was incapable of delivering its promises.

I decided to read the English Constitution that Paine refers to myself, but I was unable to find a single, exhaustive document. What I found was that the operative documents of the UK, England, and Scotland are referred to as ‘unwritten constitutions’. Also described as ‘partly unwritten, wholly uncodified’. To this day, England’s (and the UK’s) constitution is based on largely unwritten rules which serve as the shaky foundation for various treaties and acts which bind the United Kingdom together. Can a populace truly have confidence in an arrangement like this? Can they count on consistency of law? How can it set clear bounds to limit the abuse of power? Perhaps those in power prefer the ambiguity. (I was able to find a document which resembles a constitution, and apparently took effect in August of 2004 [more on this subject in the YouTube clip at the bottom of this post]).

What a novel idea for a country’s instruction manual to be found all in one place.

I can liken the UK’s lack of a single, definitive document for their government to a professional sporting event where all the teams play by different rules. Since no definitive rulebook exists, the referees would be made to invent rules on the spot to promote fair competition, and would likely be unable to enforce their impromptu rules effectively. Neither the teams, nor the fans would be able to count on the rules remaining consistent as the referees may not be able to agree, and the fundamental play of the sport would be subject to their whims and could change at any time. It might be fun to watch the incoherent gaggle run around on the field for a while, and hope for the occasional fight to break out, but the fans who exchange their money for the promise of competitive show will eventually lose interest and likely find other outlets for their entertainment.

My analogy assumes free will, of course. In reality, the people of the UK (the fans) have no choice but to endure watching the nonsensical play on the field, since the government (the team owners) operates on coercion. The UK lacks a single, core rulebook to keep those team owners and refs in check.

The only concession Paine makes in favor of absolute rule is its simplicity. If there is a problem, the people know exactly what the problem is, and can easily determine the remedy – though I imagine that executing the remedy is another matter. He continues to remark about the English Constitution, “… the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies… every political physician will advise a different medicine.”

I note some similarities in the English constitution with our current state of affairs. I may actually have to give more credit to the Brits in this regard. Their state has never made any direct promises in regard to the foundational rules of their government, so the haphazard nature of their laws and treaties are a natural result. Our current situation is the result of seeds of hypocrisy methodically planted in our culture decade after decade so that now, our Congress is able to pass laws with ease that our constitution was written expressly for the states to mitigate. At least the Brits have remained consistent in their inconsistency.

Execution of power was envisioned like this by the framers of the U.S. Constitution:

Declaration Model for Federalism

Framers' intention for power. The more surface area in the triangle, the more power is granted to that part of government. Note that the federal government is not contained in the triangle, but was intended to oversee the matters between the states. Each triangle is a separate state.

We now live in a model that looks something like this:

Modern Model

Like the above model, the more surface area, the more power is exercised

Of course, you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to acknowledge the purpose for the tenth amendment in the U.S. Constitution was expressly written to limit the power of the government from instituting whatever laws our elect see fit. You don’t have to recognize that for the first time, beginning in 1913 with the advent of the progressive era and the passing of the 16th amendment, our constitution began to increase the size and power of the government, and contravened the very principle of the document completely. You don’t have to agree with U.S. Representative John Hostettler’s (R-IN) observation that, “The Internal Revenue Code and regulations add up to one million words and is nearly seven times the length of the Bible.” And of course, you don’t have to agree with my logical conclusion that between the government and the people, the people surely aren’t benefiting from this complex governance that our founding documents were written to prevent.

I’d sure be surprised if someone came to a different conclusion based on the evidence. My liberal friends, I await your observations.

We’ve been given a tremendous gift in our founding documents. A gift that may be long forgotten but is still in effect! As I write this, the state of Idaho is considering an official refusal to adopt the Affordable Care Act (aka. ‘ObamaCare’). My hope is that this exercise of the tenth amendment results in a snowball effect that takes our nation by storm.

In our current day, it’s exactly as Paine observed. Political physicians of every sort – namely, modern liberals, or ‘progressives’ – are prescribing different medications for the problems in our country. Invariably, all of these narcotics seem to result in increasing the size of the federal government.  We’ve already been given the only medicine that’s been proven to work: less medicine, more exercise (less external government, more personal responsibility). It’s been done before, and it can be done again.

Let’s go, America! The Constitution was written to establish the tranquil garden of limited government. As ‘we the people’, it’s our job to keep the hedges trimmed to keep our government manageable. Though I fear the overgrowth is so prolific now, we may have to burn the fields down and start over.


I leave you with a couple of YouTube clips that made a serious impact on me a couple of years ago. It seems that sometimes, the best observations are made by outsiders. The following is a speech given in Colorado by Daniel Hannan, a conservative MEP (Member of European Parliament), regarding our constitution. If you don’t feel like watching the full 15 minutes, watch the first clip starting at 6:53.

And please, leave your thoughts in the comments section!


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