Saturday, October 07, 2006

Founder's Lookahead Problem

There is a good post at Belmont Club, most of the posts at Belmont Club are good, but this one has more interesting comments than many. This subthread on the Constitution, initiated by Cedarford (they call him C-4 after the explosive, I think), was too interesting to moulder in comment limbo. He points out (as he has in the past) the undeniable fact that the US is almost unworkable, that the government has insufficient authority and flexibility to do its job. The Constitution, he says, is obsolete and politically unfixable. The consequent sanity gap is being plugged by activist judges (which is fine by me) and a tacit collective agreement to look the other way when real work needs to be done.

Cedarford said...

Red River - We need a constitutional amendment for Voter ID.

We know that the Constitutional Amending process is broken - impossible to do unless there is near-unanimous bipartisan support for doing so.

So errors, obsolete portions, and archaic terms continue to accumulate. Major flaws in the Constitution like no continuity of government in a nuclear attack, lack of a line item veto, confusing war power provisions, lifetime appointment of a badly flawed Federal judge, encroachment of the Feds onto State Rights are deemed "unfixable" - or worse, at the sole discretion of an unelected judiciary to hold their own little mini-Constitutional rewriting to divine "what the Constitution really meant" through "analysis" of unwritten emenations and penumbras..

Most nations recognize, most organizations recognize that constitutions, charters, code must be subject to revision and correction every 50 years or so to remain vital and relevant.

The Constitution of 210 years ago was a great old thing...wonderful, other than the Civil War...for getting much of what America became - right for so long. But it is long, long overdue for a real cleanup and correction of some bad provision or provisions the Fed Courts have perverted into different meaning.

The time is coming...unfortunately...it will be when we, The People - not the Courts - are empowered by necessity of a growingly dysfunctional, ossified, uncompetitive America incapable of waging war or peace effectively --to sit down With lawyers and fix the obsolete, archaic, or just flat wrong elements of the Old Paper...

10/05/2006 09:28:39 PM

2164th said...

C-4, you are off your game when you say:

... "The Constitution of 210 years ago was a great old thing...wonderful, other than the Civil War...for getting much of what America became - right for so long. But it is long, long overdue for a real cleanup and correction of some bad provision or provisions the Fed Courts have perverted into different meaning."

Do you really believe this current generation of ill-informed, poll driven, media-manipulated Americans is the right one to change and rearrange the US Constitution?

Repeat after me: "Hanging Chad".

10/06/2006 01:54:25 AM

10/06/2006 06:43:20 AM

Teresita said...

Do you really believe this current generation of ill-informed, poll driven, media-manipulated Americans is the right one to change and rearrange the US Constitution?

Yeah, how would you like Rosie O'Donnell to fix the 2nd Amendment, Bush to fix the 4th Amendment, and Alberto Gonzales to fix the 8th Amendment? Besides, you can't just sit down and change it, because the Constitution itself calls out a different procedure that involves the legislatures of 3/4ths of the States. Cedarford's only hassle is with the current interpretation of the document. I know it's a slow process (by design) but Cedarford should vote for Presidents and Senators who will install SCOTUS judges who see things your way.

10/06/2006 06:44:35 AM

Well, I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I have often thought that we treat the Constitution like the Torah. No one would have the courage to correct it for fear that others might make incorrect changes, not to mention that God would strike us dead. The actual accumulation of precedents and legal theory is more like the Talmud. Crazy old judges have pushed analogies and intimations of intent so far that the result defies common sense. The TV remote is comparable to a wagon wheel. You can pick it up to retrieve something underneath it, such as a book or a child’s leg, but you can’t move it to carry a load unless its already moving of its own, as down a hill. So beginning at sundown, as opposed to sunset, of Shabat, we can watch only that station which is already playing, unless it is showing the cooking of an animal in the milk of its mother, in which case we can drop the remote hoping that the impact will change the channel, just as we could stop the rolling wagon wheel by putting a rock ahead of it. [ed: not a real example]

I believe that the Constitution is fixable, but we have to get a whole lot better at talking things over, a whole lot better at merging the collective wisdom, before we take the chance. A leadership of alternating ideologues, which seems to be our pattern, will never be trusted enough to allow such delicate surgery.

10/7/2006 1:23 AM

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2 Comments:

At Sunday, October 08, 2006 10:24:00 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Your first link didn't work for me JJ, as I'm not an AOL person. I did go look at the Belmont Club post and discussion, though I didn't come away very satisfied. That's not a slam, it's just that I don't know what satisfaction could look like, all things considered.

How are we going to get better at collective wisdom, what with the observation about alternating ideologues in your final paragraph being spot on?

I think that if we find ourselves in an improved situation a decade or three down the road, we're going to be rather surprised at how we got there.

Maybe some economists won't be surprised. Those who think we're headed for universal wealth may be able to say "I told you so", but I will be very surprised, very happily surprised that my pessimism was unfounded.

 
At Friday, October 13, 2006 10:35:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

It was a bad link. Its fixed now.

Comment discussion is usually much worse than the posts. Once you get past the dittoheads and the slammers, there are people, like c-4, who have real philosophies. What's interesting to me is that he would actually come out and say that the Constitution is not a be-all end-all. I retain a certain reverence for the document, myself, but it reminded me that complex algorithms, almost by their nature, have bugs.

What I have said, often I think, is that the current algorithm, including the whole social structure and legal system of the US, is not capable of solving our problems. The problems are too big and too pressing. What I'm saying now is that we can't take the risk of changing the very foundation of the Republic, which sustains our freedoms and what strength we have, until we figure out what it is that we need to do to fix it. That's where we need to focus our thoughts.

I believe that an algorithmic approach to social networking is the solution. We need a social system that will support the Constitution and allow us to act in concert rather than constantly warring with one another. Our politicians spend their lives doing image-tending and blame management. They don't have time or permission from us to do actual work. If we can just get a clear cadence, maybe they can row together.

---------

I like that thought, that if we succeed, we're going to be surprised how we got there. It makes me think. I'm not sure we always know enough to be surprised. What brought about the collapse of the Soviets? Why have we been successful at turning around the tobacco habit? How did we bring back our economy after the Rust Belt implosion? How is it that the Saints are winning football games?

 

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