My response to op-ed on giving up on the constitutionSubmitted by surple on Thu, 01/03/2013 - 03:14
Original Article: Let’s Give Up on the Constitution - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/opinion/lets-give-up-on-th...
Below is my response, let me know what you think:
I found your article to be confusing and contradictory. I'll look at it piece by paragraph by paragraph and share my thoughts with you. My letter to you aims to spell out why I think your article is nonsensical.
1. Let's give up on the constitution - title and conclusion
Premise: The system of government is broken, as we can see from the economic chaos.
Culprit: The constitution
Since this is the main claim, we'd have to first look at if the economic policies of the constitution here are actually followed by the government. I don't see you address that at all. For example, gold and silver being legal tender which Nixon finally abolished.
The federal reserve was founded by Woodrow Wilson in order to avoid any further financial crisis, but it didn't work. We now have the same type of crisis it was created to avoid. What did the founders have to say about a national bank? Jefferson ruled one unconstitutional, as did Andrew Jackson.
2. Citation of a constitutional rule of where revenue measures originate.
This is a political game and parties use the constitution only where it furthers their agenda. Recently the senate renewed FISA for another 5 years while completely ignoring the 4th amendment of the constitution, and this happens all the time. When it's suitable to ignore it, it's ignored even in a bi-partisan effort.
3. Shame because you finally realize following the constitution bizarre because it's 225 years old.
OK, so you admit shame that it's taken you so long. Suddenly you have a revelation and you confess you've been wrong about the constitution for 40 years. This has no bearing on the subject itself, but really has volumes to say about you as a person. That's a long time to follow such a path.
The framers were avid students of human history and human behavior. Yes, the constitution is 225 years old, but did they only study the last decade of history? Or the last few thousand of years. You'd have to claim that there's no human behavior patterns that can be inferred, and worse yet, you'd have to be pretty convincing to say that only in the last 200 years or so, human behavior has changed so much as to make the constitution completely irrelevant. Yet you don't , because you mention some amendments you'd like to keep. The reasoning why you want to keep only specific parts of the constitution is unclear, other than subjectively you seem think those are good.
4. Constitutional disobedience is nothing new. It's been done. Sedition Act is cited.
Ignoring the economic guidelines of the constitution is one case of constitutional disobedience. One which is likely to have a huge deal more to do with the current economic chaos than the constitution itself.
You have to prove that following the constitution is worse than ignoring it; which is what the American people have essentially done.
Sedition Act was by no means the first incidence of disobedience. I'm surprised you don't mention the others. We've got the Whiskey Rebellion, or Washington trying to establish the first national bank, spurned on by Hamilton.
So far I can only see evidence that ignorance of the constitution is the problem, not following it. So why then are you saying to give up on it? What alternative do you offer?
5. Abe lincoln and slavery.
This seems to be neither here nor there. Perhaps this should have been grouped with one of the other paragraphs perhaps? What point are you making? How does it support your claim?
6. Roosevelt expanded scope of federal power beyond anything the framers imagined.
The general theme in your op-ed is now, let's do away with the constitution, because we keep ignoring it.
That's a defeatist argument and hardly surprising, but the confusion comes when you advocate for SOME of the constitution which you seem to believe is good. Freedom of speech, equal protection etc. Those are, you claim, good whether they are in the constitution or not. Well, of course. Lots of things are good on their own whether they belong to one set of views, none, or all views, but it doesn't help your cause.
7. Judges can never agree what the constitution says.
Another argument to toss it. Same as above. Agreed on these premises. Sadly. However, again, no alternative form of government is offered, and the conclusion that this is the fault of the constitution itself is peculiar. I would infer that regardless of the rules which are established, people will prefer to follow whatever they want or believe. Human behavior. And Jefferson did say we have a Republic, if we can keep it. So why fault the constitution for human behavior? There will be no other alternative which can solve this and is certainly not grounds for dismissal of the constitution.
8. Nothing gives you any indication of what would happen if we deserted the constitution or at least, that we'd be worse off in fact, disregarding the constitution has led us to prosper in many cases.
What acts of disregard has led us to prosper? You give no examples. What would the outcome have been if we followed the constitution instead? Can you say that it would be unprosperous?
Can you say with certainty that our prosperity wasn't built on a facade that's set to collapse as the result of the same disregard? Ignoring gold and silver as legal tender should really be discussed especially considering that you start off by saying it's all related to economic chaos.
9. You list the things you seem to like about the constitution.
You don't think all things in the constitution ar ebad, only some, however, it's very unclear which things are bad in the constitution, and which things are good. How are those determined? The concept of amending the constitution hasn't been mentioned at all. Why not?
You argue the constitution can be done away with, yet in the same breath say the president wouldn't have unlimited powers due to congress and the states. Well, wait a minute. What is congress? Supreme court? What are their powers? Those are also in the constitution. But you're not looking to do away with that part neither?
10. The rules in the constitution should be challenged on their base for legitimacy.
Still you argue for tossing the whole thing without mention of amending. Why? One of the tools in the constitution is the ability to amend. Your example is odd here, since it talks about the presidents military action. This is a balance of power you just mentioned. Congress is supposed to declare war. Never the president. You should know that, you're supposed to be a professor of constitutional law. This is one of the checks and balances you just professed to be necessary to avoid an "all-powerful president". I'm baffled as to why you now say he should be free to do as he pleases without "a claim of unchallengeable constitutional power as commander in chief." He doesn't have such power now. It would be just another case of the constitution ignored, and checks and balances failing.
11. The deep-seated fear that such disobedience would unravel our social fabric is mere superstition
Once again you contradict yourself. I will say only that such disobedience HAS unravelled our social fabric. Isn't this the economic chaos which first made you write this article?
What resources does Britain have that we can draw on? With all the talk about disregard for the constitution, what part of it are we actually shackled by? Are they not suffering from similar economic chaos? Is their government without flaws? With CCTV's in every street corner, are they more free than us?
12. You mention what has preserved us as a nation.
Considering that the United States were formed conceptually as many nations, it's an odd idea that we have been preserved as a result of being one. You are of course aware that America was a big experiment. And it has indeed prospered on a very large scale. What other country has done so? Certainly not Britan nor New Zealand. But the states have also remained independent. If you propose to Sweden or Greece that they throw away their laws, and simply obey the laws of the European Union, you would be met with sneers and jeers, and so you should.
13. If we acknowledge that the constitution can be interpreted in so many different ways, it becomes irrelevant, we may have a different attitude.
We can argue that position on just about anything in the world. Gun control? Let's do away with it because we won't agree. You can of course take the opposite attitude, gun control? Let's have it, because we won't agree.
You get nowhere with that attitude.
You don't seem to know what you want. You argue for the abolishment of the constitution because it's ignored, and claim it's good that it's been ignored, and at the same time blame it for causing the problems. Why is it a problem? Is it a problem because it's been ignored? What's a better solution? None of these questions are addressed. To find the constitution to be the culprit is a staggering idea.
It's quite obvious that you have the attitude of a living constitution. We'll, you've gotten your wish. It's been interpreted haphazardly "in light of modern demands". And so because your interpretation has failed, you blame the constitution, not your erroneous interpretation which is the real culprit.