Monday, January 07, 2013

Responding to Seidman's calls to trash the Constitution

A well written response that shouldn't have to be made. [Link]
Should we acknowledge that the U.S. Constitution is filled with “archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions,” and “extricat[e] ourselves from constitutional bondage” by cashiering the document?
“As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken,” argues Louis Michael Seidman, tasked with teaching constitutional law at the Georgetown University Law Center . And the Constitution, he asserts, is largely to blame.
The Constitution, he writes, was adopted by a “group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation . . . and thought it was fine to own slaves.” The Framers acted illegally in drafting the Constitution because they exceeded their power. Moreover, “[n]o sooner was the Constitution in place than our leaders began ignoring it.” And ignoring it is often a good thing: FDR did it for example, and so did the Supreme Court when it banned school segregation.
Besides, “much constitutional language is broad enough to encompass an almost infinitely wide range of positions.” And while we should keep some parts of the Constitution—like regular elections and freedom of speech—the rest gets in the way of leaders who make considered judgments on the merits. We need to rely on other sources of legitimacy, he concludes, moving to an “unwritten constitution,” like that of Britain.
That such a judgment was rendered is less shocking than who rendered it. The judgment is not unique because there always have been American Tories—people who chafe at restraints on central power and would prefer a British-style government. In recent years, as political “progressives” have gradually lost the scholarly battle over constitutional interpretation, some have stopped pretending the Constitution means whatever they want it to, and have begun to trash the document itself. A controversial example was the Time Magazine cover essay of June 23, 2011. (See my response to that article here.)
But the source of the claim is more shocking, because it comes from one who has taught constitutional law for 40 years. And who should know better.
And an appropriate quote. [Link]
"What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

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