Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Outdated Constitution

Alex Seitz-Wald writes over at The Atlantic that we need a new Constitution, and he has some ideas about how to write it.

Seitz-Wald says that our Constitution is seriously out of step with the best and most recent thinking about constitution-making around the world.  Indeed, he writes, "Almost nobody uses the U.S. Constitution as a model--not even Americans."  More: our differences don't reflect anything especially unique about the United States.  Instead, our Constitution is just, well, old.

It's also short, leaving too many holes.  That means that the courts can step in to interpret and apply it, giving judges remarkable power.  ("Where modern constitutions in other nations get specific, we get judicial activism.")  It also ensures the kind of hyper-partisanship, and resulting government break-down, that has become common in our politics.

In contrast, other, more recent constitutions around the world are long and specific, filling in the holes we left open.  They also create institutions that protect against the dangers of hyper-partisanship, and voting and participation rules that increase direct citizenship involvement. 
But if ours is old and short, it's also uncommonly hard to change.  So Seitz-Wald surveys some familiar proposals (an amendment convention called by the states under Article V) and some not-so-familiar ones (the German Pirate Party's "liquid democracy") to get us going.  Whatever the process, Seitz-Wald concludes, "the status quo isn't working.  We badly need a more perfect union."

Comparative Constitutionalism, News | Permalink

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