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Which of the two schools of thought about interpreting the Constitution seems good to...

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lilylee | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 5, 2013 at 11:41 AM via web

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Which of the two schools of thought about interpreting the Constitution seems good to follow and why?

There are a few schools of thought on how the Constitution should be interpreted: one says Americans should stick with the original intent and go no further in making up rights that are not specifically in the Constitution; others say Americans look at the emanations from the penumbras and see if people can find a right that may be there or should be there.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 5, 2013 at 2:35 PM (Answer #1)

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Different individuals will, of course, follow different schools of thought.  In this answer, I will outline the basic arguments for and against each school of thought so that you can decide for yourself which is better.

Many conservatives believe that we should follow the original intent of the Constitution.  What they say is that there is no point in having a Constitution if we are not going to follow the letter of that law.  If we have a Constitution that is the supreme law of the land, we should obey what it says.  If we want to change its meaning, we should do so by amending it.  Supporters of original intent also tend to argue that the Framers of the Constitution were political geniuses (some say guided by God) who made up a system better than we could today. 

Liberals tend to believe that we cannot and should not try to follow the original intent of the Constitution.  They say it is impossible to know what “the Framers” thought.  There are two reasons for this.  First, there is no way what the Framers as a group thought.  They did not all write down how they understood each part of the Constitution.  And what would we do if some Framers understood a provision in one way and others understood it in some other way?  Second, the Framers could not have anticipated the sorts of issues we have today.  We can never know what they would have thought about the government using GPS to track someone’s car, for example.  Therefore, it makes no sense to try to follow original intent.  Instead, we should try to understand the general principles of our Constitution and try to apply them to modern circumstances as best we can.

These are the two sets of arguments.  Which one would you follow?

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