Is the Constitution outdated? Should it be changed? Should it stay the same? Is there anything that needs to be added?
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Constitution is not a static document. Constitution of many countries, including that have undergone may amendments since their inception. So there is no need to take extreme position either that brand it as outdated and demand its replacement with an entirely new one, or insist that the a constitution should be so perfect that there should not arise any need for its amendment in future.
The nature of societies change with time, and with that the most appropriate ways of managing societies also need to change. This at times requires some changes in constitution, and every good constitution recognizes this need and incorporates provisions for its amendment.
In the summer of 1787, the Constitution of the United States was forged in Philadelphia. During the subsequent ratification period, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote essays in the New York papers addressing and countering the various arguments that had been advanced against the Constitution and against the federal model of governance: The Federalist Papers. No other set of essays compares as an education in the founding of a nation. Here was applied political philosophy on a grand scale, written by men of affairs and of generous learning, living in tumultuous times. Those who defended and defined the fledgling Constitution and the “new order of the ages” they believed it signaled were young yet wise; schooled in the patrimony of the Newtonian achievement; and confident that things that have never been done cannot be done save by methods never tried. Aware that republics have always failed, they sought the grounds—both political and ethical—for theirs to survive.
A remarkable feature of the Convention of 1787, which drafted the Constitution, is that it specifically refused to incorporate a Bill of Rights. The omission was a deliberate act based on vitally important understandings. A self-governing people should decide what its own rights are—to list them is to limit them. The federal government should not trump the communities that compose the federation: The Peoples of Maryland, New York, or any other state have formed self-governing communities based on their own views of their rights. One has no need of federal guarantees of your rights against your local community: Its laws and principles are one's own, and one needs no defense against it.
The Constitution's political, historical, and philosophical underpinnings make it one of the most current, elastic, and social documents written: it is open to amending by a majority of the states at any time.
What undermines the Constitution is not only the continual sidestepping or outright ignoring of its principles, but outright violations of its terms. The Founders, riding on the crest of the Enlightenment, were well aware of the difficulties in establishing and maintaining a government for and by the people. History has shown that democracies over time sadly devolve into oligarchies. The tragedy of these United States is how quickly the process has taken place over the last 2 centuries, especially accelerating over the last decade. Government, as George Washington observed,
"...is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
To contain the force of government, the Constitution divided power among government branches; these walls have eroded, and that erosion of the separation of powers is why the Office of the President has power never intended for it, and why federal elections are so contentious. It explains the cancerous growth of government, where agencies set policies and enforce them as law, without accountability to those they govern. It is the root cause as to why government has become large and elitist, and in the process, stripped citizens of their freedoms. As Patrick Henry observed,
"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
The more government, the less freedom; the less government, the more freedom. The Constitution is not outdated; it is ignored. Living by its terms would solve many current day issues. Because of the abuses government has perpetrated upon the founding documents, I propose the following amendment, which serves not to define a "right," as so many believe amendments do, but to restrict government:
Section 1. "Congress shall make no law from which itself is exempt."
Congress gets to endure social security and broken health care like the rest of us. No special sweetheart deals at our expense.
Section 2. "Nothing shall have the force of law unless enacted by Congress."
Downsize and eliminate bureaucracy. The president's special commission on blahdedy-blah has no bearing nor regulation on anyone's freedoms. Congress is once again responsible for creating and repealing law. Don't like a law? Hold them accountable.
Section 3. "No law enacted by Congress shall remain in force longer than 7 years, unless re-enacted before expiration."
Bad laws need to die, good laws need to survive. The appropriate function of Congress is to debate, enact, and repeal. This forces them to start doing their job again, and to function appropriately as the legislative arm of government.
Section 4. "Each member of Congress shall receive per annum a $25,000 stipend."
"Public Service" should be just that. It should be more like jury duty.
Section 5. "No limitation of representation shall apply to either House of Congress."
Two senators for each state for the Senate, and more importantly, no cap on the number of representatives from each state in the House. 435 seats (set by Congress in 1911!) is not adequate for the current population (then again, if the 7 year rule was in place, this would not be an issue. But it is the reason campaign spending is out of control.)
Attach this amendment to the Constitution, and then see who cares who spends what or how they spend it for an election.
The answer to this would depend on how one perceives the document, as a whole. If one believed in the notion of judicial restraint, then the answer would be that the Constitution is not something that should be changed and must remain intact. These thinkers believe that the Constitution is a document which helped to originate the nation and establish law and order throughout the land. In the act of continually changing and altering it, the unique and distinctive nature which helped to articulate the freedom of a nation is lost. The idea that the Constitution should be changed is one that brings individuals too close to a setting where the Constitution is changed constantly, allowing it to lose meaning. The other side of the coin are those who believe that the Constitution is a "living, breathing document," to quote Justice Holmes. For these thinkers, the role of judicial activism is needed to reinterpret the Constitution over time and ensure that it is being responsive to the different needs and demands of a social order. The original document failed to recognize the rights of women, people of color, and young people. Additional amendments were needed to ensure that their voices and narratives were integrated into the discourse.
First, I want to point out that the doctrine of judicial restraint does not say the Constitution should not be changed. What it does say is that judges should not change it. A person who believes in judicial restraint could still believe the Constitution needs to be changed. Such a person would say it should be changed by amending it, not through lawsuits.
Second, in my opinion, enotechris's view of the Constitution is impractical in a country the size of ours. Congress could, I suppose make all the laws in such detail that the bureaucracy had no real power to make law. If Congress had to do that, nothing would ever get accomplished (too much detail) and lobbyists would have even more power than they do now (at least when bureaucrats make rules they are often experts in their fields).
The seven year rule would cause gridlock as well. It would add to the burden of what Congress already has to do. If laws are bad, they can already be changed. If that rule were in effect, most laws would be automatically reinstated every seven years and nothing would change except that there would be a lot more time wasted in Congress.
So does the Constitution need to be changed?
I think it does not. The Constitution was made with a great deal of flexibility in it. The basic ideas -- separation of powers, checks and balances, limited government -- are ones that must be preserved.
Within those basic contours, there is plenty of room for change -- but these changes are not ones that require amending the Constitution. All of enotechris's changes (except Section 5) could be made without changing the Constitution itself.
If we change the Constitution too often, it loses the importance it has today. We have one example of that -- the way that Prohibition was put in and taken out by amendment. That kind of thing makes the Constitution seem like any other law and erodes its power.
The system of government we have has plenty of flaws because it is run by people. But the flaws can be fixed without changing the Constitution.
If you study the history of constitutional amendments, you might notice that change to the document tends to come in waves. There were three amendments after the Civil War in the 1860's (13th, 14th, and 15th), four amendments from 1916 - 1920 (16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th) and three amendments in the 1960's (23rd, 24th, and 25th). So the Constitution does need periodic change. Since 1972, we have made only one minor adjustment (the 27th amendment) and that amendment had been proposed in the 1790's, so I would argue it is a time for change.
I believe the Constitution needs to address election reform. If it were me, one amendment to eliminate the Electoral College system, and one amendment to require public funding of elections, outlawing individual and corporate campaign contributions. Of course, that's merely a matter of my own opinion.
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I beleive the Constitution should be updated, just like how we update everything else in our lives.
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