Value of the U.S. Constitution

Typically I don’t read Slate.com, for a variety of reason, but a friend of mine brought a recent article of theirs to my attention. The article of course being where judge Richard A. Posner states he doesn’t see any value to spend “decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution.” His point comes as a sidenote at the end of the brief article, but he goes on to elaborate his reasoning, claiming “Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21stcentury. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today.”

This comes as shocking to many Americans, especially those that the constitution dear to their heart. The federalist spirit is still alive and well, the belief that for a properly functioning government we need a strict reading of the constitution. That’s where we get the modern term “constitutional conservative” people like to identify as. To clearly show the severity that some people take it to, it’s hard to forget former House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s statement that “God wrote the constitution.” These sentiments have been echoed constantly throughout our nation’s history, but conservatives have come to expect strong constitutional convictions ever since the Reagan era, to a near religious level. In fact in a speech in 1987 Reagan said about the constitution “It is a human covenant, yes, and beyond that, a covenant with the Supreme Being to whom our founding fathers did constantly appeal for assistance.”

Somehow the constitution of the United States has been elevated to the status of a religious document in the minds of many Americans. Obviously Richard Posner’s statement directly conflicts with this.

If Tom Delay really believes that God wrote the constitution, then by his rationale the constitution must be a perfect document (assuming he believes God is perfect). Which is absurd to believe, because the very fact that we have amendments is enough to admit that the constitution is not nearly perfect. And these were some very glaring mistakes too, causing changes in everything from the abolition of slavery, to changing congress meeting dates from December to January.

But the real question still stands at of how much validity the constitution has in these modern times. Theoretically the ability to add amendments should keep the constitution relevant in response to new events, however, it can be notoriously difficult to get a new amendment passed. And even so, there is the obvious problem that perhaps something passed may turn out to be wrong. The constitution was not crafted by God, which leaves room for an extreme error in human reasoning which could result in any number of inappropriate legislature.

Ultimately the constitution is political philosophy put into practice, and therefore the original document represents the consensus of political philosophy at the time. Or, at the least what could be agreed upon at the time. With this reasoning I would like to see more leeway to changes based upon the contemporary philosophical opinions. This sounds obscure, but I promise it has very real effects.

Perhaps the best example of this idea is the FDR’s proposal for a “Second Bill of Rights” to secure economic rights. Roosevelt proposed this idea in 1944 after his State of the Union address, likely as a response to the earlier depression that his administration was famous for confronting. A full video of the rights can be found here, but the Second Bill of Rights would include in his own words:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

There would have to be some definite tweaks to this list, and a few updates to fit with modern times, but otherwise these seem like basic human rights which the constitution does not provide.

My point here is that FDR’s Second Bill of Rights was the culmination of events that happened throughout the Great Depression and this was his conclusion to prevent another such disaster. This is the type of liberty a congress should have to insure the freedom of all Americans and to effectively respond to new issues. However, with this sort of liberty there is always the chance of the power being abused. So to counteract this I’d propose that for every amendment and new legislation that congress outline their exact logic behind the changes, in a step-by-step geometrical fashion. This way we can have a government truly based on reason while encouraging the questioning of our own philosophical groundwork.

 

 

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Reaction to Making “America White Again”

Making headlines across the country, Rick Tyler, running for a congressional seat from the 3rd district of Tennessee, put up a billboard with the words “Make America White Again” to bring publicity to his campaign. In an interview he practically admitted it was to stir up controversy, but still claimed there was a great amount of truth to it. In his own words he wanted to go back to the America of the 1960’s, or what he calls the “Ozzie and Harriet” or the “Leave it to Beaver” America. But something striking about this interview is how completely composed the man is: he speaks intelligently (or just what he regards as intelligent sounding), he has his ideas clear and articulates, he even provides a few shady statistics to reinforce his claims.

There were already speculations about the true meaning of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and what it actually meant, but Tyler’s slogan takes all suspicion out of it. He confirms our suspicions in a way that even the demagoguery of Trump would not dare to do.Read More »

Finding Meaningful Jobs

A Gallup poll found that a staggering 87% of people worldwide don’t feel engaged at work, more specifically only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. It’s also important to remember that millennials have the highest rate of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S. but somehow we are still described as an idealistic generation. The poll also found that again 87% of millennials believe development is important for meaning in a job.

The first insight from this of course is that people do not simply want jobs, like so many politicians claim, but in fact they want good jobs. A good way to think of it is to think if it were possible to add millions of jobs to the economy by simply picking strawberries all day, that would be missing the point! Just imagine how much less people would be engaged at work. People want to go to work and find some kind of meaning without doing too much actual work, in many ways the paycheck is just a byproduct of this. What exactly makes people engaged at work? And more importantly, what makes any type of work more meaningful than others?Read More »

On Mysticism and Logic

Bertrand Russell’s famous essay “Mysticism and Logic” can seem striking to readers at first glance. The first reason being that Russell actually seems to admire some mystic’s line of reasoning. Bertrand Russell, the philosopher that redefined mathematics and logic, giving praise to mystic’s wondrous and deep intuition. Despite being written in a period where Russell was redefining his own beliefs, that is especially odd for a man of his convictions. The second most striking thing is that, for being a man so adamant about logic and reason, he really doesn’t know much about mysticism.

The essay’s main focus is analyzing what Russell believes to be universal traits of mysticism. In contrast he often analyzes these traits along with their opposite beliefs in the realm of logic, these issues being:

  • Intuition
  • Unity
  • Time
  • Good and Evil

These are definitely core issues of mysticism, intuition and unity being the most common. The basic claims with these two are that mystics reach their conclusions merely through insight or intuition, as opposed to logic and reason. This is a slight generality, but works for our purpose. Even Hegel, whom Russell claims is a more mystic philosopher, can undoubtedly be attributed high functions of reason in his philosophy. The second issue, unity, is something so central to much of Eastern philosophy. Here Russell sights the sayings of Heraclitus, such as “good and ill are one,” and “the way up and the way down is one and the same.” Even someone only familiar with philosophy on a satirical level understands the commonality of these sayings.Read More »

Politics as a Feeling

A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found something that, believe it or not, surprised nobody. The conclusion of the study found that “People vote with their party, not their personal beliefs.” As YaleNews later reported:

People vote on an issue based on the facts and their ideology, or personal beliefs, but they disregard both the facts and their personal beliefs when they are aware of their political party’s position

The premise of the study is that given a situation involving the issue of welfare, people artificially voted from their beliefs. But when informed of their party’s beliefs beforehand they often switched their own opinion to fall in line with the party. Again this is not very surprising. A simple talk with a stranger reveals how little people truly care about core issues, or when they do take an interest to them how little information they get on that subject. The worst possible outcome is someone who is not just interested, but militant and uninformed.Read More »

Criticism of the Sanders Campaign

The 2nd Democratic debate last night revealed some interesting things about the Democratic Party. Each candidate had their own moment, for Sanders it was the quote “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower“, and for O’Malley it was calling Trump an “Immigrant-Bashing carnival barker” and oddly enough for Clinton, it was using 9/11 to justify taking corporate donations. But it was about all that was expected.

Many of the  internet polls after the debate showed Sanders to have won the debate by at least 70%-90%, but many still proclaim for the average viewer that Clinton won the debate. This comes at an unfortunate time, the latest poll shows that in the early voting state of New Hampshire Clinton leads by 21 points, just last months Sanders was leading. The results are similar in Iowa, while Sanders and Clinton were tied at one point, Clinton now leads by over 18 points.Read More »

Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

After the night of fury and chaos in Paris, the world is still dazed. It’s being reported that 129 people were murdered, but with many more still injured and in critical condition. President Francois Hollande called the attacks an “Act of war“. And although the French government has only just begun to identify the attackers (You can read the passport nationalities further down in the Reuters article) ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack. It is too early yet to know anything for sure.

This attack comes just months after the ruthless slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo office in France. Using the recent past as a guide, it is possible to make assumptions on the aftermath of the attack.

What was unique about the Charlie Hebdo attack was that since it specifically targeted the magazine, the event sparked a wave of free speech sentiment. But what was typical about it was the jailing of 69 people that spoke differently by the French government, most notably the French comedian Dieudonne. This was mostly ignored. Alongside of this came the rise in right-wing fascist activity in Europe, calling for the removal of Muslim immigrants. Of course a surge of Nationalism took place in many other groups as well.Read More »