Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declaration of Independence vs. the Constitution

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  There was an article in the Houston Chronicle this morning that was written by a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.  You can see it here:

Below is a letter that I wrote to the editor of the Chronicle.  Please let me know what you think.

The letter is as follows: 

I seem to remember that in the past, the Chronicle printed the Declaration of Independence in its entirety on the 4th of July.  For some reason, you chose not to do that this year and instead published an article by UT Professor Sanford Levinson about the flaws of our Constitution.

Professor Levinson opines that "the Framers created a system that was fundamentally designed to make it difficult for government to respond effectively to the great issues of the day."  I'm no constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that our founders, being acutely aware of the dangers of an over-reaching, intrusive government, sought to limit the government to those things that only government can provide, e.g., national security. The problem is that some people have come to believe that the government should address and solve every problem encountered by the populace.  It's clear that those who politically are left of center view the Constitution not as a protection against aggressive government, but as an impingement on their wish to expand governmental reach.  This was demonstrated clearly with President Obama's remark that he viewed the Constitution as a set of "negative liberties".  That's such an odd phrase to me.

The problem with having a Constitution that is a "living, breathing document" is that it then becomes vulnerable to passing fads and ideologies.  Social and political trends tend to be cyclical:  we go a little to the left, we go a little to the right, back and forth.  Do we constantly want to be reinventing the Constitution to suit the whims of the moment?  

I would compare the Constitution to the foundation of a house.  It might need a little repair once in a while, but if you tinker with it too much, you risk undermining its integrity and the soundness of the structure which it supports.  Thus it is with our Constitution and government.  

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