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Why We Need A New Constitution: Part 21 of 21

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[W]hy is the experiment of an extended republic to be rejected, merely because it may comprise what is new? Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?[1]

James Madison, 1787

[L]aws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.[2]

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

The words of the Constitution as it stands at any given moment of time, may not . . . suffice to solve the problems of the day. But to whatever extent our people are competent to solve their problems, faithfulness to a scheme of government founded upon a written constitution, and changeable only by deliberate amendment offers the surest hope for solving them.

The growth of our population; advances in high technology; poverty in the cities; racism; pollution; the threat of nuclear annihilation; these and all the other urgent concerns of today and tomorrow can only be addressed by a government which functions consistently, efficiently, and legitimately.
Thomas Brennan, 1982

Due to the Debt Crisis, as previously noted, 32 States have requested a Constitutional Convention to consider a Balanced Budget Amendment. But, as Pascall (1985) wrote, a Balanced Budget Amendment alone would simply be "an admission in the Constitution that the form of government designed by the Constitution no longer worked on budgetary matters."[4] As we have seen, the source of our infirmities is deep, very deep: "the causes of the deficit lie in the structure of our modern political institutions. Until we resolve the underlying institutional issues, no stop-gap measure can truly resolve the problem of the deficit."[5] Unaccompanied "band-aid" fixes such as Balanced Budget Amendments and Line-Item Vetoes for the President are "solutions" to fundamental structural inadequacies that are too little, too late. Our maladies can only be cured by creating a constitution appropriate for our time, and appropriate for the 21st Century, in line with the dictum in the Preamble that we should "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . . ." Dodd stated the obvious:

In light of these considerations, a successful end to the debilitating cycles of the twentieth century requires that we direct attention not to internal congressional reform but to fundamental alterations of the constitutional system itself. We must create an incentive system within the Constitution that, while sustaining a degree of congressional decentralization that will allow for innovation and expertise, will lead members of Congress naturally to support centralizing mechanisms that can sustain institutional integrity. We also must reconsider the nature of the checks-and-balances system with the intent of strengthening the position of Congress. Simultaneously, we can redirect the values by which we wish institutional politics to be conducted, shifting from a politics of minority veto and policy inaction toward majority government and social justice. [6]

Needless to say, devising a proper constitutional form involves much careful thinking it is important, however, to design a Constitution in line with 21st Century ideals, ideals which are considerably more progressive than those used by the Framers in a time when an African-American was considered three-fifths of a person:

As we consider movement toward alternative constitutions we must realize that constitution making is serious and difficult business. It requires realistic and hard-headed assessment of human nature, of the implications of different institutional arrangements, of the social conditions within which politics is to be conducted, and of the consequences that will derive from the interaction of these three elements of political life. In many ways Madison's performance in the Federalist Papers is still the best guide to this type of undertaking. A proper respect for his intellect is always advisable. Yet we also must unlock ourselves from the infatuating clarity and logic of Madison's arguments that continue to exert a seductive hold on our imaginations long after the supporting conditions assumed by them have passed. The transformations of our society in the last century undercut the accuracy of his forecasts. The changes in our values, and hopefully the growth of a greater commitment to majoritarian government and popular justice, alter the goals to which anew or modified constitutional arrangement should be committed. [7]

At a time when we are moving towards crisis scenarios in many segments of our society, it is imperative that we take this necessary first step:

Our Constitution, at the time it was adopted, was a document far in advance of its age. Even today there could be no nobler statement . . . than one particular part of that Constitution, the Bill of Rights. But that part of our Constitution which deals with the mere machinery of government must now be candidly reexamined . . .

The Constitution exists for the country, not the country for the Constitution. We must not make a fetish of a rigid legal document. . . . We must be at least as ready to make progressive changes in government as our forefathers were when they framed our basic law. No one today thinks that the proper way to show our admiration for the Wright brothers' original biplane would have been never to design anything better. Nor is this the way to show our admiration for the enterprise of the men who framed the Constitution. [8]

And guess what? A draft of a new constitution has been created. You can access that link here:

Numerous changes have been made. Hope you find them constructive . . .

Barry Krusch


[1] Federalist 14, pp. 66-7 (Madison).

[2] Letter from Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816, 12 Works of Thomas Jefferson 12.

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Barry Krusch is president of Intelligent Communities, Inc., sponsors of The Intelligent Community Initiative. He is also author of 2 books, The 21st Century Constitution and Would The Real First Amendment Please Stand Up?
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