Has the Constitution Lost Its Sex Appeal?
A recent editorial in Investor's Business Daily (IBD) spoke to the lack of appeal among other nations, and among certain elements within our own nation, for our Constitution.
Our Constitution is no longer respected as it once was. Nations writing new constitutions don't see it as the prototype to be followed. All have something in common with our president.
... "Among the world's democracies," writes David Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia, "constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall[.] ...
"Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s."
The New York Times' coverage of this study finds "lots of possible reasons" for the decline. The U.S. Constitution," it says, "is terse and old" and "guarantees relatively few rights."
The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation[.]
So there seems to be a consensus (according to the Times, at least) that our Constitution is outdated. After all, the bulk of it is over two hundred years old. While that is true, does that mean that we should toss it out? Rembrandt was born over four hundred years ago. Should every museum toss his works into a dumpster? Should the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and even Aesop be trashed simply because they wrote in a time that bears little or no resemblance to today's world?
In their editorial, IBD also noted:
The Constitution doesn't seem to be of much use to Barack Obama, either. The president who also thinks U.S. power and prestige are no longer what they were, and aren't that important anyway, recently lamented that the Founders "designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.
The president and Justice Ginsberg should take note of the fact that according to an article published in Time magazine in 1987, "Of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version." It would seem, then, that in the past 25 years or so, our Constitution has lost some of its appeal.
Now who has been busy writing constitutions around the world? Islamic nations, perhaps? Would they include freedom of religion?
Could the fact that currently only two other nations, out of 170-plus, guarantee the right to bear arms contribute to the reduced popularity of the U.S. Constitution? Could the desire of these governments to have the authority to control anything and everything within their borders be a contributing factor? So long as the government controls the guns, you can be sure that only people who support the government will have guns.
The fact that other nations are turning away from the U.S. Constitution as a model indicates only one thing -- their constitutional scholars are apparently a lot brighter than our own. Foreign scholars and politicians have seen the one thing that distinguishes our constitution from any others ever drafted, which is that it is a law designed to constrain the government itself, not the people. Even the way the Preamble is phrased says it all:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Nowhere in this text is it assumed that a government, prior to the approval of this document, actually existed. Therefore the government cannot possibly be extending or granting "rights" to anyone about anything. The document establishing the government defines with a significant specificity exactly what that government is allowed to do -- and nothing else.
Foreign scholars, would-be totalitarian dictators, and the Liberal-Progressive-Democrats within our own borders who want to exert more control over the behavior of "We the People" are the ones who see our Constitution for exactly what it is. And they aren't too happy about it.
The U.S. Constitution was meant to be a straight-jacket for those who would abuse the limited powers that the people of this country have granted them. The government is supposed to do only what they have been allowed to do, and absolutely nothing more. But, since it's so much fun pushing people around, these foreigners and our own domestic LPDs, are not too happy with those constraints.
Like teenagers, they think that they always know more, and better, than do their elders. Sadly, they never seem to reach that Mark Twain moment when they realize:
When I was 17 I thought my father was the stupidest person in the world. By the time I turned 21, I was amazed how much the old man had learned in 4 years.
These new constitutions from around the world are being written, not by "We the People," but by the existing governments. One simple question needs to be asked of all Americans before we allow our Constitution to be tossed out and replaced: Would you trust the Congress to draft a new Constitution to replace what we have?
The Founding Fathers got it right. As IBD noted at the end of their editorial: It's not perfect, but it's as close to perfect as man has come.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran, and an independent voter. Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com, or he can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.