Book Launch – The Constitution of Liberty (event archive)

May 9, 2011 by  

Márton Baranyi (mandiner.hu) moderated a discussion with our featured speakers András Lánczi (president, Századvég Foundation) and Marion Smith (president, Common Sense Society). They addressed the arguments of our first publication, the Hungarian translation of a book by Matthew Spalding, Az Amerikai Függetlenségi Nyilatkozat és Alkotmány Alapelvei.

Click here to read the foreword of the book by CSS President Marion Smith in Hungarian.
Scroll  down to read the foreword of the book in English.

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Foreword of the book

On the 18th century American scene, there were a varied cast of characters who were responsible for the period of transition in the United States, from the beginning of the War for independence from Great Britain in 1776, to the time that the final government of the United States was established in 1789. Despite the merits of their political ideas, it took the actions of brave and honorable men to establish and protect the U.S. government. George Washington could have become king, as some Americans wanted him to do and as many Europeans thought he would do. Instead George Washington became like the ancient Cincinnatus and chose to allow the rule of law to prevail over the rule of man. The rule of law and the consent of the governed is represented in the United States Constitution and has been protected and enforced by generations of American statesmen, many of whom find inspiration in the principled actions of Washington. Had he decided differently and attempted to keep power, American liberty may have vanished.

Today, Hungary also has the chance to decide whether to re-establish institutions of liberty or allow the rule of man. As Hungary drafts and debates a new constitution, it is a precarious moment, but also a rare opportunity replace the amended communist constitution of 1949, and as many believe, a chance to symbolically complete the regime change that began in 1989. As Hungarians contemplate the exact form of the future government and the philosophy on which it will be based, it is vital that terms of great philosophical significance, such as republicanism, self-government, and liberty, be considered on their own merits. No misuse of these terms in practice by individuals, political parties, or popular culture, can erode the philosophical truths that they represent and their universal applicability.

The Common Sense Society recognizes the crucial importance of a constitution in modern democracy, but realizes that not all constitutions are exactly the same. Nevertheless, the very ideas of self-government and of constitutionalism indicate certain key (or foundational) political ideas such as the rule of law, separation of powers, and protection of fundamental human rights, which are all inspired by a desire to protect human liberty and keep the state in its proper role. All constitutions should seek to relate these universal political principles to the particular political circumstances at hand. By translating this book into Hungarian, we hope to provide you with an account of the American experiment in self-government at its earliest stages and of the principles that inspired the longest remaining constitution in history, the United States Constitution.

Hungary’s new constitution should not be merely an extended piece of legislation or a partisan document, but it should be a principled and legitimate constitution of liberty that represents the settled will of the Hungarian people and will provide for a stable government and a prosperous economy. This is moment of decision for Hungarians and their elected leaders. Depending on the honorable decisions of Hungary’s officials at this crucial time of change, future generations of Hungarians will either bless or curse the names of today’s political leaders. Those who love Hungary and freedom can only hope that the spirit of Cincinnatus will prevail over the spirit of Tyranny as the new system of government takes form, and that Hungary can even be an example of proper constitutionalism and self-government in Europe and internationally.

Marion Smith
Common Sense Society
Budapest

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