Modern history teaches that constitutions are
easy to write. Over the course of the last 200 years, almost
every nation in the world, including communist dictatorships
and Islamic theocracies, has drafted a constitution. The sad
reality, however, is that few have brought freedom.
The particular difficulties that the Iraqi’s face in establishing
a new constitution are awesome. If they are to have any chance
at creating a prosperous, just, and free Iraqi future, they must
confront and overcome their own history. This means two things.
First, they must face directly the uncomfortable fact that they
have no usable tradition of self-government. Iraq is a nation
long governed by traditions of fascist-like political rulers,
medieval forms of tribal and ethnic justice, and warring religions
that are hostile to freedom.
Second, they must reject the political anarchy of their ethnic
chieftains and the religious tyranny of their Islamic mullahs.
In a free Iraqi society, neither tribe nor mosque must be able
to gain governmental power.
More important, they must discover and accept the moral preconditions
of a free society. Iraq’s political, social, and economic
reconstruction will require an ideological reconstruction. Bad
ideas destroyed Iraqi society and only good ones can save it.
Once freed from the political grip of the twin evils of ethnic
collectivism and religious oppression, it is imperative that
Iraq import and accept the ideas of the Western Enlightenment.
Philosophers such as John Locke and America’s founding
statesmen discovered the moral foundations and the political
institutions necessary to establish a free and just society.
Iraqis must begin, as we did in our revolution, by recognizing
the moral sovereignty of the individual. A free society recognizes
that each and every man is capable of rational self-government
in the fullest sense. They must enshrine as inalienable the rights
of all men and women to their lives, liberty, and property.
Through our revolutionary experience, we learned that the protection
of man’s individual rights is the only legitimate function
of government. This means that Iraqis must design a government
limited to making and enforcing objective laws of social conduct.
This is no easy task.
According to James Madison, the father of our constitution,
the great problem in framing a government that is to be administered
by men over men is this: “You must first enable the government
to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to
control itself.” The genius of America’s founding
fathers was to have discovered a solution to this perennial problem—i.e.,
the idea of a written constitution as fundamental law. Men such
as John Adams and James Madison learned through experience that
a written constitution must stand above government as a higher
law that creates, defines, and limits the powers of government.
Politically, Iraq’s supreme law must be the constitution
and not the Koran or sharia law. Otherwise, its constitution
will be little more than a “parchment barrier” against
the encroachments of power-lusting mullahs.
In order to elevate the rule of law over the rule of men, America’s
founding statesmen designed a constitutional system that curbed
power in two important ways. First, they limited the role of
government to making and enforcing laws that define crimes and
punishments objectively, resolve civil disputes between individuals,
and enforce the sanctity of contracts. These functions serve
to protect the rights of the individual from the arbitrary power
of other men. Second, they built into our constitution several
crucial principles, procedures, and institutions that are necessary
barriers to the concentration and abuse of political power: e.g.,
separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism. These
mechanisms serve to protect the rights of the individual from
the arbitrary use of government power.
In addition to these general principles of constitutional construction,
Iraq’s founding fathers should add a double security to
the freedom of the Iraqi people by explicitly identifying and
protecting individual rights in two crucial areas: freedom of
thought and freedom of production and trade. The Iraqi state
must be barred from interfering in the intellectual and moral
lives of its citizens, and it must not attempt to regulate wealth
creation or redistribute the fruits of a man’s labor. In
other words, there must be a strict separation of mosque and
state, as well as a strict separation between the economy and
In stark contrast to Iraq’s Arab and Persian neighbors,
Iraqi’s have a unique opportunity to liberate themselves
from the darkness of their past. The United States of America
has freed them from the tyranny of a brutal and wicked despot,
but its greatest and most enduring gift is contained in two old
and musty documents written more than two hundred years ago--the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is here
that Iraq will find the true meaning of freedom.
C. Bradley Thompson, the author of John Adams and the Spirit
of Liberty, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in
Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn
Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send