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All About C-POL

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. In May of 2004 C-POL expanded to include a weblog, or "blog".

What do you mean by "constitutionalist"?

Constitutionalism is the once-common, 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 lead 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 C-POL postings (as well as in this website). 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 I heard somewhere 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 capitulate. 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.

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 regulation of abortion clinics?

None of the examples are constitutionally legitimate areas of concern for the federal government.

Why do you run both a blog and an e-mail list?

Good question. The e-mail list is targeted at people who consider themselves to be conservatives (of whatever subgroup) who wish to be kept informed about issues that are important to them and to debate these issues in a "safe" environment.

The blog, however, is aimed at a wider audience. I want to attract people there from across the ideological spectrum to engage in civil debate on issues that I raise.

Okay, how do I join?

To join the e-mail list, follow the instructions on the C-POL home page. No formal membership is required to read the blog, but currently we require those who leave comments on the blog to be registered with Blogger.com.


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