Constitutional Evolution

Charles Mueller

I think it is time we reexamine our Constitution. The purpose of the Constitution, as laid forth by our founding fathers, was to have a set of rules that protected our rights. Our rights are reflected in the values and cultural norms of our society. They are a product of the times. Therefore, the Constitution should evolve with the times. It’s not to say that we have to change the Constitution just because things change, but we should have a habit (either forced or by due diligence) of reexamining the Constitution every 20 years or so; each generation should have at least one chance to reexamine how their rights are protected.

Thomas Jefferson’s 1789 letter to James Madison examined the argument that the Constitution should be dynamic and reflect the times of those being governed under it. So why doesn’t our Constitution reflect the current era? Why was the most recent amendment to it (the 27th) really an idea from 1789 that took over 200 years to ratify? When we refuse to acknowledge the needs and demands of society are different now than what is portrayed in our Constitution, we cement our governance to the will of those who last laid pen to it.

The idea of having flexibility in the rules for an organized system is not a human invention. In fact, our cellular constitution (our DNA) already embodies this concept. For example, if a virus enters our body, it triggers our immune system to search our DNA for a solution to stop the virus. If we have encountered the virus before, our DNA likely has a solution for stopping it (an antibody gene). However, if it has never seen this virus before, something interesting happens: a new gene is created that is optimized to deal with this new change in the environment. This makes the human body both dynamic and rapid in its ability to adjust to a changing environment, and is just one example of the many ways the human body is built to adapt.

If humans are nature’s best design for an organizational life system, and this system is designed so that its cellular constitution must be rapidly adaptive, then isn’t there some sort of lesson to be learned here? Why isn’t the US Constitution designed and being used in a manner that allows for it to be rapidly adaptive? Why, in a time when the global environment is changing at an exponential pace, do we still insist on being governed by a Constitution that is frozen in time? Shouldn’t our Constitution, like the DNA inside our cells, have some sort of flexibility that allows our “blueprints” for running this country to properly reflect the state of the world?

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct…every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right”. I think it is time we change the way we manage our rights. I think it’s time we come together to update the Constitution in such a way that it protects not just the rights of the citizens of today, but also allows it to adapt with the times.   Let’s get serious about our future and have a Constitutional Convention were we reexamine the fundamentals of our nation like our forefathers intended.

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