Amazing how the problems never seem to keep coming, don't they? And through it all, our government seems terminally unresponsive. Perhaps there is a reason for this.
I believe that there is a reason, and the reason is that we are living under a form of government that has been rendered obsolescent by the passage of time and technical progress. Accordingly, it is my view that we should look at possible remedies which can be achieved by amending the Constitution. Not just one, two, or even three amendments, but a whole host of amendments, resulting in a new constitution.
But for those who are looking for more evidence regarding the primary assumption of government obsolescence, the following article is the first part of a multipart series on exactly why we need a new constitution. This series of articles was originally contained as a single chapter in my book The 21st Century Constitution, originally published in 1992. 17 years have passed since the book was published, and yet the underlying reality has not changed at all. The only real difference is that some of the examples of government malfunction have changed, the problems of structural malfeasance having become more and more dramatic over the years. For example, in the first paragraph, I listed a large number of symptoms of a malfunctioning government. The first example I listed was "A Nation $4,000,000,000 in Debt." 17 years later, that number has mushroomed to nearly $12 trillion now. Or, to take another example, I noted "34 Million People without Medical Insurance." Again, that number has ballooned, to over 47 million in 2009.
17 years ago, the ship was sinking, and now that the water is up to the portholes, maybe it is fair to explore the whole ship for signs of structural failure.
It's my guess that if we don't act on this soon, the government we'll have in another 17 years may not afford us the luxury of attempting to reform it.
June 17, 2009
People are not so easily got out of their old Forms, as some are apt to suggest. They are hardly to be prevailed with to amend the acknowledg'd Faults, in the Frame they have been accustom'd to. And if there be any Original defects, or adventitious ones introduced by time, or corruption; 'tis not an easie thing to get them changed, even when all the World sees there is an opportunity for it. 
- John Locke, Second Treatise, 1689
[A]ll experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
- The Declaration of Independence, 1776
A Nation $4,000,000,000,000 in Debt. Toxic Waste Dumps. The Rise of a Monolithic and Unresponsive Government Bureaucracy. 34 Million People Without Medical Insurance. The Growing Necessity of a Two-Income Family. Crack Babies. Spare Parts 1000% Over Cost. Dominance of Government by the Special Interest Groups. Unnecessary and Cruel Animal Research. A 30 Percent Functional Illiteracy Rate. An Alarming Rise in Violence and Drug Abuse. Schoolchildren Scanned by Metal Detectors.
We have many problems in society, but our worst problem is a seeming inability on the part of our Government to deal with our problems. And yet, our form of government was supposed to remediate our problems. The Preamble to our Constitution states that the Constitution was established in order to, among other things, "promote the general Welfare." Yet a cursory analysis reveals that our Government is falling far short of the mark. Does the existence of a $4,000,000,000,000 National Debt that necessitates $300 billion in annual interest payments help "promote the general Welfare"? No. Does the inability of government to come up with a health-care solution help "promote the general Welfare"? No. Does the domination of Congress by special interests help "promote the general Welfare"? No. Unfortunately, these problems (and many, many others) have not only persisted over time, but are getting worse; to the extent that many people feel that they will never be solved - that "there's nothing you can do about it."
The Framers of our Constitution did not feel this way. They felt that not only could Government solve these and other problems - it was its chief reason for being! In fact, the mark of the success of Government was the extent to which it solved those problems. Interestingly enough, the situation confronting the Framers was parallel to our own. They were also faced with an inept Government (which, among other things, created a National Debt that could not be paid under the existing Constitution), but their response was different from ours, and definitive; they lost no time in going to the root of their problem, by completely revising the existing constitution (known as the "Articles of Confederation").
Needless to say, this was a controversial approach. In 1787, many had argued that the United States was better off remaining a loose confederation of States, and that a strong National Government was not desirable. To counter this assertion, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay had to devote 36 essays in The Federalist, the political classic written in defense of the 1787 Constitution, to the topic of the inadequacy of the Articles for the Union, and the erroneous nature of the major premise of the supporters of the Articles: that "united we fall, divided we stand." As the authors of The Federalist conclusively demonstrated, the more proper formulation was "united we stand, divided we fall." A group of confederated States was doomed to inefficient duplication of resources, an inability to pass legislation for the common good, and a tendency to interstate conflict that could be resolved only by war. The Constitution drafted in the Philadelphia of 1787 was designed to solve the problems of 1787, and did so - dramatically. But the 1787 Constitution was not designed to solve the problems of 1987, and therefore it should be no surprise that many clauses in the Constitution are no longer relevant for modern times. Nor should it be surprising that the Constitution omits many clauses that are necessary for an Information Age. Designing a political system appropriate for the times is one of the most important tasks a people can undertake. Our Framers did so, and we ought to follow their example.
The issues in this book, needless to say, are serious, and deserve serious, careful thought. The Framers of our Constitution were well aware of the enormity of the task they undertook, and fully expected future generations to evaluate their handiwork in the light of subsequent experience - a task we will undertake here. In Chapter One, Why We Need A New Constitution, we will see why the Constitution drafted in 1787, while adequate in many respects, has ultimately led to the violation of seven critical criteria for a just, efficient, and workable Government - criteria the Framers themselves saw as legitimate. In Chapter Two, The 21st Century Constitution, the only democratic alternative to the 1787 Constitution authored since 1787 is presented - a constitution far more likely to satisfy the seven critical criteria enumerated by the Framers than the Constitution they drafted. And finally, in Chapter Three, the Epilogue, we will see how the New Constitution will change life in America, and explore strategies to secure its enactment.
Let's begin with an analysis of the adequacy of the Constitution in light of contemporary reality.
"Second Treatise," John Locke, §223, 1 Founders' Constitution 84-5 (All quotes indicated Founders' Constitution are taken from The Founders' Constitution, ed. by Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner (University of Chicago: 1987)). All bold emphasis in the text is by the author.