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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why is the Constitution so Cool?

The constitution of the United States of America was drafted in the year 1787. The world was a different place back then, and technology and society are drastically different today. This vast difference is why most legal scholars and constitutional experts are fighting an ideological battle over how the constitution should be interpreted. One school of thought maintains that the constitution should be read literally, and decisions of law derived from the wishes of the framers. Another view maintains that the constitution is a living document, designed to adapt to the test of time.

An Originalist view of the constitution holds that the constitution must be interpreted through the eyes of the founders, and that subsequent amendments to the constitution should be read in their historical context, in the manner the writers intended. This is confining, but some people feel this method of constitutional interpretation is necessary so as to prevent judges from making their own individual interpretations, thus “seiz[ing] the reigns of power from elected representatives”. Originalists believe that if judges deviate from the original context and literal content of the constitution, the intentions of the founders would be betrayed and the constitution would lose its value as a binding governing contract. If the constitution isn’t working, it can be changed by an amendment, says the Originalist movement.


Amicus Brie

But sometimes a strict interpretation of the constitution can lead to results that harm the people governed under said constitution. A strict interpretation would most likely assume that “the Constitution, shorn of all bad prior readings and interpreted in its best possible light, will always lead to happy endings and never to unhappy ones”. The original constitution, circa the Civil War, contained provisions allowing slavery to continue. Though slavery was abolished through a constitutional amendment, institutional discrimination via the “separate but equal” doctrine was allowed through a strict interpretation of the fourteenth amendment. It wasn’t until Brown v. Board of Education that this doctrine was overturned. Indeed, Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine, was based on what the framers of the 14th amendment intended. In its reasoning, the court that decided Plessy wrote that the object of the fourteenth amendment was not complete social equality, but legal equality. Therefore, under an Originalist view, Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided because it went against what the framers of the 14th amendment intended. Civil Rights bills, voting rights bills— an Originalist view would invalidate them all, since they all violate the original intent of the framers (of the 14th amendment).

Other than all that, why do so many people and legal scholars believe that the constitution is an evolving document? Perhaps the answer lies in the intentions of the founders. The people who wrote the constitution were the best statesmen of the time. They were knowledgeable, clever thinkers. They knew that it would be impossible to plan for every eventuality, which is why they left parts of the constitution purposefully vague. Regarding the court system, the framers wrote very little. Of course, the courts established themselves as an equal branch of government through the process of judicial review. This process allows federal judges to interpret the constitution to decide on the constitutionality of laws, thus creating the whole problem of how the constitution should be interpreted. Other parts of the constitution are completely subjective. The ninth amendment reserves powers not defined in the constitution to the people, and the tenth reserves unspecified governing powers to the states. This further bolsters the notion that the constitution isn’t static, but is instead a “general principle, a basic skeleton on which contemporary vision would build upon”.

Although the constitution was written over 200 years ago, we still make use of it today. But how should we use it? Should we view it as the founders did when it was first written? Since they are all gone, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty what their wishes would have been, given the drastic social, political, economical, and technological changes this country has undergone in the intervening centuries. Therefore, it makes a lot more sense to interpret the constitution as a living document, and relate its passages to what would benefit the most people. Originalists argue that not following the intentions of the founders degrades the purpose of the constitution. I say that not applying the constitution to the needs of society degrades its purpose. The rule of law can and will persevere.

There have been 17 Cries of Anguish:

Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/13/2005 2:50 PM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

what was I thinking????

12/13/2005 2:57 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

Thinking hurts the skull muscle.

12/13/2005 8:57 PM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

Did you read the comment that I deleted?? I almost outed myself on national radio!!

12/13/2005 9:18 PM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

SH*T! I did it again!!!!

12/13/2005 9:19 PM  
Blogger Cabe maliciously intimated...

Couldn't disagree with you more on this one Gyrobo. The Constitution isn't silly puddy...we can't make whatever we want out of it for good or for bad reasons.

Jefferson had some beautiful thoughts about the Constitution. Democrats look up to this guy, and yet he contradicts everything they beleive.

I should know...I'm nominated for the Supreme Court....well a Supreme Court.

It's wonderful that you're getting involved in political discussions, it brings glory to our country.

12/14/2005 12:51 AM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

George Washington died exactly 206 years ago today.

12/14/2005 8:47 AM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

What do Democrats believe??
I'm a little fuzzy on that one.

Thomas Jefferson didn't write the
Constitution. (I learned that from Cabe). He had some pretty interesting thoughts on religion; although I'm not buying his God doesn't exist theory. However, I do believe he was correct in stating that the church would be the downfall of our society. Which I believe we're seeing right now. Religion (thanks to President Bush and the Christian Conservatives) is playing far too much of a part in our politics. And I don't believe for a minute that Bush is a Christian Conservative; I think he just used them for their votes.

I believe Gyrobo started this blog to counter the right-wing blogs that are occluding the minds of the young. Am I right, Gyrobo?

12/14/2005 11:17 AM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

p.s. This is my favorite political blog because it tells it like it should be told:

Click here for the real Dubya

12/14/2005 11:19 AM  
Blogger Lee Ann maliciously intimated...

hmmmm....Originalists vs. Realists
I can understand wanting to maintain the integrity, but I am for what can benefit the people most.
I guess you know that if I keep coming here, I will learn to like history more. I have been trying to like it more now than when I was in school (my least favorite subject). Maybe you could be my tutor! ;)

12/14/2005 1:28 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

Political? No, I could've posted anything I wanted to on Roboshrub Inc.

This blog was a mistake from the start, but then there was the whole Evil Bob Dole incident, and now I'm stuck with two blogs.

So... tired...

12/14/2005 2:33 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

You vant to learn zee history?! Zen I shall prepare for you an essay on zee populist movement!

12/14/2005 2:34 PM  
Blogger Bob Dole maliciously intimated...

Evil Bob Dole was a bastard...and I voted for him!

12/14/2005 5:09 PM  
Blogger Cabe maliciously intimated...

"Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." - Great Quote by Thomas Jefferson.

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." - Jefferson

Jefferson, other than his religious views, was a brilliant man.

12/14/2005 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Rogers maliciously intimated...

If you stand close enough to Gyrobo you can hear the ocean.

12/14/2005 5:58 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

I'm not saying the constitution should be remade every time something changes. It is, in fact, fixed around a set of rules. But that's just the skeleton of the system. We fill in the organs and cellulose as time progresses.

12/14/2005 9:12 PM  
Blogger Bhakti maliciously intimated...

The only thing that stays the same is change. And you can quote me on that.

12/15/2005 9:13 AM  

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