General Question

jrpowell's avatar

Should the Constitution be a malleable document?

Asked by jrpowell (40374 points ) March 16th, 2008

Should we consider a document adopted on September 17, 1787 to be our guidance for how we live our lives today? Should it be altered to reflect our current situation?

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29 Answers

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I feel we are in our current situation because we stopped following the constitution . The constitution grants certain privelages to government, while protecting our freedoms. Old or not, freedom is freedom.

What exactly do you mean ” alter it to reflect our current situation?” What would you alter?

Remember what Ben Franklin said, “any society that gives up essential liberty, for temporary security, deserve neither.”

jrpowell's avatar

The second amendment for example.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We have a military now. Do we really need a militia? Every dude doesn’t need a gun to protect their land from the Brits.

Between the Army and Wal*Mart I don’t think the second amendment is needed. And I know we will disagree on this.

It is a old document and maybe it needs to be modernized.

squirbel's avatar

I held off from answering this one because it’s so… difficult.

On one hand, the Constitution was written in a different era, with different [but not that much] circumstances and technologies. In that respect, our Constitution should pertain to the current times.

On the other hand, allowing the Constitution to become a flexible document opens it up to serious corruption by whoever is in power – unless rules are written in stone about how often it can be modified and to what extent.

So yes, I believe the Constitution should be malleable – but not in its entirety. The most basic clauses should be set in stone and unchangeable through the ages. Amendments such as the second should be considered corollary, and subject to scrutinization based on current times.

The next question would be, “How do you determine what is set in stone and what is corollary?” Anything that can be considered a basic “Human” right, or anything directly related to creating a fair existence should be set in stone. Anything that is dependent on external affairs [i.e. a war necessitating a militia] should be considered a corollary.

This is just a rough draft of my thoughts…

trainerboy's avatar

The Constitution was written in different times, but to me, the inherent message of the Constition is not situational, it is of a spiritual nature and deals with the basic desires of people no matter when it was written.
It is already malleable in that the framers created a judicial branch of government to interpret the Constitution over time. To me,it has withstood the the test of time. We would do well to get back to the basics of it as well.

mac316's avatar

By incorporating a provision for amendment, the framers recognized that change is inevitable. They also knew that it should be difficult to incorporate change. Over time the document has reflected a changing society. However, the truths expressed do deserve the most profound consideration before causing temporary expediency to override the basis for our freedoms.

Zaku's avatar

Seems to me the modern cult of stupidity should be malleated first.

trainerboy's avatar

Mac, And what about the cult of judgment? Shoud that be malleated also?

srmorgan's avatar

Amending the Constitution is a difficult thing to do politically. It requires passage of a proposed amendment by each of the Houses of Congress by more than a simple majority and then ratification by three-quarters of the States. Any proposed amendment is going to have to have a broad base of popular support throughout the country in order to be adopted.

The Framers included this process for amendment because they could foresee the need to change it in the future, whether in response to changes in popular sentiment, to react to a change in the political structure of the country or simply to correct errors in the original design.

Zaku's avatar

trainerboy, yes!

trainerboy's avatar

Yes, I misread who wrote that statement.
So thank you Zaku.

gooch's avatar

It is that’s why it is also the oldest working model. AMENDMENTS

cwilbur's avatar

The Constitution is a malleable document; there’s a process in it for amending it. If it’s not working, and enough people think so, it’s easy enough to fix.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@johnpowell

Do you know what percentage of our military is stationed in the US? I’m not sure, but I know that we have a large amount of troops everwhere else. I’m curious how much of our military could protect us if something happened here. I’m not worried about protecting myself from Britain or terrorists. It is this current administration and Blackwater that I want to have the right to protect myself from.

Spargett's avatar

@chris6137

The United States is the least defended country in the “Western Word” by a standing army. This is prob most likely due to the fact that the two most logistical attack would be either through Canada or Mexico. Not very big threats. Besides, we don’t really fight wars like that anymore.

And if I remember correctly, we also have largest amount of open/unprotected borders. Just ask all the mexicans.

squirbel's avatar

I resent that last comment :)

Spargett's avatar

What’s there to resent? Thousands of Mexicans cross our borders illegally each day. There’s nothing racist about that. Its just a plain, undebatable fact relating to the topic.

The only way you could take offense to that would be if you are part of the Mexican government.

squirbel's avatar

No, you said “ask all the Mexicans”.

That openly implies all Mexicans don’t belong. Sure, I could have been reasonable and said to myself, he didn’t intend for it to be all-encompassing… But the fact also remains that you didn’t take the time to choose your words correctly, and therefore I resented the statement.

Spargett's avatar

Fortunately I’m not in politics. Therefor, I don’t have to word everything like a politician.

Poser's avatar

The Constitution is a farce. It isn’t malleable—it’s petrified. A relic of a bygone era when people didn’t fear freedom, and the government was not a “safety net,” but something to be minimized whenever possible.

It shouldn’t be malleable, but at this point it might as well just be burned.

trainerboy's avatar

What would you replace it with, Poser?

srmorgan's avatar

@poser,
The thought of replacing the Constitution with something else is, to me. truly scary. Not necessarily because of the result but because of the process.
At some point, it might have been in the 60’s or early 70’s, there was talk of calling a new Constitutional convention for purposes of “re-designing” the Constitution. This must have been in the days when I read the National Review and actually took it seriously, probably during one of their periodic tantrums when discussing the Warren Court which they thought was judicial anarchy gone wild.

Anyway, the thought of permitting the various state legislatures, dominated then as now in many places, by sclerotic representatives of rural districts, manipulated by the Robertsons and Hagees of the world, actually selecting the actual delegates to a constitutional convention and investing these men and women with the power to modify or even re-create a system of government for these United States scares the poop out of me. We could and probably would, end up with the trashing of the First Amendment and a good deal of the rest of the Bill of Rights, elimination of judicial review which was inserted into the Constitution to provide a check against the excesses of the Executive and Legislative branches, re-distribution of powers to the states from the Federal government and who knows what else

About the only good thing to come out of this kind of clusterf***K would be that we would once and for all get a clearly worded revision of the Second Amendment that would replace the imprecision of the current version. I might add that this would not result in what I might consider to be the “ideal” re-interpretation.
SRM

mac316's avatar

@ SRM Probably not worded exactly to my thinking, but close enough!

Poser's avatar

I didn’t say we should replace the Constitution. I said that at this point, we might as well. It’s not serving any purpose except to give grade-school kids something to look at on their field trips.

I love the Constitution. I just wish that it meant something today. When is the last time the federal government did anything that was actually Constitutional?

trainerboy's avatar

Poser,
Saying it might as well be burned does give the impression that you don’t love it. I get what you are saying now, that you feel it is not adhered to. So basically, what I am getting that you are saying is that burning it would not matter since it is not being followed, is that accurate?

Poser's avatar

Precisely.

winblowzxp's avatar

@johnpowell

If you look at Article I of the Constitution, you’ll find that Congress has the authority to raise an army, navy, etc. It also does not give Congress any authority over the militia. Why? The militia is a body of private citizens, and they were expressly mentioned because a private body of private citizens, free of control from Congress is the last bastion of hope in the event that the Government runs amok and becomes the tyranny that the Founding Fathers had declared independence from. That is why we still need a militia, and our right to keep and bear arms intact.

Darbio16's avatar

After they established the national guard, congress pretty much made it illegal for any other type of militia. we need something that doesn’t answer to the state.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. The Constitution, if it is to have any integrity, should be practiced in the spirit the authors wrote it. Today many parts officially or unofficially is quite malleable, as you say. To be innocent until proven guilty has been out the door and long gone some time ago. Hand in hand with that is equal protection under th law. If you are poor and you get arrested your liberty is taken until your trial. If that takes weeks to months or longer you are stuck locked up though you are an innocent man. And it regain your freedom you need legal counsel, hard to have a public defender have the resources and time to over turn nearly every rock like a private attorney would or could, but if you are poor you can’t afford that type of representation.

The parts of the Constitution people won’t tinker with is the part they (the populace) feel they will lose something off of, but if it seems to affect “them over there” then no one notice or hardly cares if it gets watered down.

PacificRimjob's avatar

No.

It completley defeats the function of a constitution.

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