Circular Logic on Constitution

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

A Constitutional law professor at Georgetown claims the Constitution is useless because nobody follows it.  “When you see how the law works up close, you just cannot miss the tremendous gap between the story law tells about itself and the way things actually function,” Louis Michael Seidman told Alexander C. Kafka of The Chronicle Review.

Seidman went on to note that the U. S. Supreme Court “is more arbitrary, more at the mercy of eccentric views of individual justices.” Seidman himself clerked for Thurgood Marshall, whose eccentricities Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong catalogued chapter and verse in their book, The Brethren: Inside The Supreme Court.

“He had fit easily into the Warren liberal majority,” they wrote. “Plain spoken and direct, Marshall saw his job as casting his vote and urging his colleagues to do what was right.”

“On the court, he had little interest in perfecting the finer points of the law.”

When asked to elaborate on his own views, Seidman points to the complexity of court decisions as a reason for ignoring America’s founding document. Yet and still, that sounds like a good reason for ignoring the interpretations and following the original charter.

Law school classes such as Seidman’s remain a staple of university business because of the reams of opinions and judgments rendered upon the Constitution. The actual document can be read in two and a half hours, Peter Knickerbocker of “We Read The Constitution” calculates.

Seidman goes on to lament the Bill of Rights. “Amendment is a bear, requiring two-thirds vote by both houses or a call to convention by the legislatures of two-thirds of the states,” Sediman notes. “Then it needs ratification by three-quarters of the states—not the 13 original ones, but the 50 wildly disparate current ones. Out of some 11,000 proposed amendments, only 27 have been ratified. Ten of those, encompassing the Bill of Rights, were necessary to get the original states on board, and the 13th through 15th Amendments entailed a Civil War that almost destroyed the country and were essentially forced on the Southern states as the price of readmission to the Union. More fundamentally, the amendment argument is again circular, because at issue is whether we should obey the Constitution that sets out its provisions.”

Isn’t that kind of the point? The founders wanted amendments to be substantive, not silly. Putting them through a grueling marathon was the means towards accomplishing this end.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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