Writing for The Week, Ryan Cooper made his case that “America’s Constitution is terrible. Let’s throw it out and start over.”
While most Americans revere the document that created our government, Cooper is not alone in his disdain for it. Law professors Adrian Vermeule and Eric Posner expressed their opposition in a book that dreamed of doing away with checks and balances and Constitutional limits on the president. The opposition even includes Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who has stated that the U.S. Constitution is not a good model for other nations to follow.
Why do they oppose the Constitution? Cooper says “the major problem… is that it creates a system in which elections generally do not produce functioning governments.” He worries that even when one party is completely in charge, only “one big law per year” can get passed. Others express similar concerns about the difficulty political leaders face trying to implement their agenda and guide the nation.
Such comments reveal more about the critics than they do about the flaws of the Constitution. An underlying assumption seems to be that politicians and government must be free to act quickly and efficiently to lead the nation forward. If writing lots of new laws each year—and changing them after every election—was really what the country needed, the Constitution would indeed be a problem.
However, the Constitution recognizes that politicians aren’t nearly as important as they think they are. Positive change in America almost always begins far from the halls of power in official Washington. Two guys who dropped out of college in the 1970s have played a bigger role in shaping the world that we live in today than all 8 presidents who have served since then. Those two dropouts were named Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Their achievements reflect the fact that the culture leads while politics lag behind. In the culture, shared experiences and new technologies empower communities to solve society’s problems. Every day, countless individuals and organizations find ways to make the world a little bit better.
In this model, the best political leaders don’t force their agenda on the public. They don’t pretend that their policies and legislation will determine the fate of the nation. Instead, they recognize that government is supposed to follow the people, not rule over them. Politicians are to perform a modest role of giving voice to the decisions that have already been made by the American people.
Given the ambitions of politicians, it’s easy to understand why they would chafe at this more modest role. For those who live and breathe politics, it’s hard to admit that political fixes cannot solve our nation’s health care and education systems or other problems. Those solutions will come from young men and women working in obscurity today to change the world. They will build upon the accomplishments of Jobs and Gates and create next-generation solutions for this generation’s community needs.
All Americans should be thankful for the fact that the Constitution makes it harder for politicians to block such progress. Even more, we should be thankful that American culture remains deeply committed to our nation’s founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance.