Twenty-first Century Constitution

Today, many people consider the United States Constitution to be a scared document, like the Ten Commandments from God, worshiped but never to be changed.  Even Thomas Jefferson knew that was not the right attitude about this document.  Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, from Paris September 6, 1789 wrote:

…the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor right over it…. On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation…. Every constitution, then, and 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.

And for those who say that our Constitution has provisions to be changed, Jefferson went on to say:

But the power of repeal is not an equivalent.  It might be indeed if every form of government were so perfectly contrived that the will of the majority could always be obtained fairly and without impediment.  But this is true of no form.  The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious.  Various checks are opposed to ever legislative proposition.  Factions get possession of the public councils.  Bribery corrupts them.  Personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of the constituents; and other impediments arise so as to prove to every practical man that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.

Maybe it is time for creating a new constitution that deals with issues of our day instead of what was happening in the eighteen century.  Things like privacy, more for citizens and less for governments.  Or the Electoral College that did not protect us from a person that is unqualified, but with a talent for “low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity”, attaining high office as concerned Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist No. 68.  It could be a new form of government is possible, using modern communication networks to assemble, organize and interact in a more direct way that was impossible in the 1700s.

Author: Dirk Huizenga

Founder of Denver Center for Democracy.