NYT Laments the Features that Make America’s Constitution Great
February 7, 2012 - 12:00 pm
The Constitution has seen better days.
Sure, it is the nation’s founding document and sacred text. And it is the oldest written national constitution still in force anywhere in the world. But its influence is waning.
In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”
A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.
The entire thrust of the article is that our Constitution is old, and therefore dated, and that America risks becoming a “legal backwater” as long as we keep it in force. Left unsaid is the role that the Constitution plays in keeping us relatively free. We don’t have courts prosecuting us for things we say, as Canada and the UK have. Their “sexier” bodies of law offer little protection for a right we take for granted as protected in our Constitution, the freedom of speech.
The Times story even compares our Constitution to obsolete computer operating systems.
The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights. The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation. And the Constitution’s waning influence may be part of a general decline in American power and prestige.
In an interview, Professor Law identified a central reason for the trend: the availability of newer, sexier and more powerful operating systems in the constitutional marketplace. “Nobody wants to copy Windows 3.1,” he said.
And a nation’s body of law is just a bit weightier than computer operating systems that have to adjust to new technologies and new uses for the computers that run them.
This disrespect for the US Constitution has become fashionable on the left, as a means to assault the very things that make America America. President Obama doesn’t approve of its “negative” approach to rights or its omission of redistributing wealth. Tom Friedman would junk it, just for a day, so we could become more like China and use force to undertake projects that the majority of our people don’t want and know that we can’t pay for. This attitude trickles down from the leaders to the progressives’ online shock troops like Ezra Klein, who objects to the Constitution because it’s “confusing” and was “written 100 years ago.” Deep, Ezra, very deep.
The most disturbing part of the Times’ article:
In a television interview during a visit to Egypt last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court seemed to agree. “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she said. She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.
If that truly reflects her attitude, Ginsburg ought to be removed from the court. She’s not fit to interpret the law she clearly holds in contempt. That she said this in an interview in Egypt, a nation that we might want to encourage to look our way rather than allow the Muslim Brotherhood to write its poisonous views into Egyptian law, is disgusting.
The real reason that the Times, and Obama and Friedman and Ginsburg and the rest resent the Constitution is that it doesn’t let them do unto us all the things they want to do unto us, against our will. Which, actually, was the framers’ purpose in writing it, and remains the entire point of keeping the Constitution right where it is.