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isla
10-21-2009, 09:50 AM
Some of Mark's recent posts got me thinking about this, so I thought it would be worth asking.

At which point in American history do you believe the constitutional ideal started to go astray? Or do you think the current democratic/legal frameworks, and their adherence to the original principles are just fine?

John Smith
10-21-2009, 09:58 AM
Some of Mark's recent posts got me thinking about this, so I thought it would be worth asking.

At which point in American history do you believe the constitutional ideal started to go astray? Or do you think the current democratic/legal frameworks, and their adherence to the original principles are just fine?

I think the founding fathers pretty much got it right, except they, themselves, hadn't lived by the principles they espoused.

That said, what they could not have envisioned is the progress of modern inventions.

I don't want to turn this into a second amendment thread, but "arms" back then had a meaning which is totally different than it has today. The weaponry developed since then could not possibly have been imagined then.

Back then it took substantical time to travel across state lines. Today it is routine. Not just because we have cars, trains, and planes, but because we have bridges and tunnels.

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 09:59 AM
I think its always been a battle from the start but the idea of a central bank seems to have been the most destructive. Then of course the civil war. If one includes the bankruptcy of 1871 and the incorporation of the UNITED STATES it was mostly over by that point. The creation of the Federal reserve and the IRS sealed our fates.

Keith Wilson
10-21-2009, 10:01 AM
It's a very different country than it was in 1789; predominantly urban rather than rural, predominantly industrial/post-industrial rather than agricultural, interconnected with speed-of light communications rather than speed-of-horse. The people are far more mobile and better educated, and states have devolved into mainly administrative divisions rather than semi-independent units. The economy is many, many orders of magnitude more complex. And the really obvious point - there are a LOT more people, and most of us live in cities far larger than even existed in 1789. It's not realistic to expect that the same structures which worked reasonably well for the country as it was then would still work well today. Whether we've gone in a good direction is debatable, but 'faithfulness to the original intent" is a profoundly silly idea.

switters
10-21-2009, 10:06 AM
civil war, Lincoln trashed the bill of rights, and started income tax, as a temporary measure. That was the beginning of the end for states being in control of everything not specifically spelled out in the constitution. and by extension citizens rights.

1862, although very few people could have known at the time.

I see this is pretty similar to TDs post, interesting to see the rest of the comments now.

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 10:10 AM
civil war, Lincoln trashed the bill of rights, and started income tax, as a temporary measure. That was the beginning of the end for states being in control of everything not specifically spelled out in the constitution. and by extension citizens rights.

1862, although very few people could have known at the time.

I see this is pretty similar to TDs post, interesting to see the rest of the comments now.

Yeah, you will get "its a completely different world we live in now"

Lots of supporters of color of law but in my understanding justice is blind and law is black and white.

I must be nuts.;)

ishmael
10-21-2009, 10:20 AM
'I don't want to turn this into a second amendment thread, but "arms" back then had a meaning which is totally different than it has today."

No, they didn't. It's still a bullet coming out the end of a gun. More sophistication these days, but the same thing.

"Whether we've gone in a good direction is debatable, but 'faithfulness to the original intent" is a profoundly silly idea."

This is where the Right and Left today part ways. The US Constitution is special. Its writers were profoundly aware of human foible. As such it's not a document aimed at a particular time which can be cast off because it doesn't fit today's pique. While it does have provision for amendment, the provisions are pretty restrictive. It's not easy to amend it, for good reason.

Good of you to show your true colors, Mr. Wilson.

Kaa
10-21-2009, 10:20 AM
I don't think it's gone astray, at all.

Especially with regard to the scope and the reach of the federal government ;)

Kaa

ahp
10-21-2009, 10:29 AM
A few years ago I was in Philadelphia, and Constitution Hall. We heard a lecture by a National Parks person. She said that the designers of the Constitution considered it to be a temporary arrangement and they thought that in about 50 years it would need to be modified or redone.

I recall from elsewhere that the designers tiptoed around the issue of slavery, lest the southerns walk out.

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 10:32 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but we still have the Constitution..



Actually no, since continuity of government was established on 9/11 we don't. It would take completely new elections and a con-con to restore it.
If you want to include the fact we have been at a war emergency renewed by every sitting president since Roosevelt we could even go further with that debate. Of course that's color of law stuff which needs to be ignored I guess. :eek:

Keith Wilson
10-21-2009, 10:32 AM
The US Constitution is special. Pseudo-religious idolatry.

Jack, I congratulate you on the erection of a truly charming straw man, very decorative, although it only vaguely resembles either what I said or what I think.
. . .which can be cast off because it doesn't fit today's pique.Did I advocate casting off the Constitution in a fit of pique? "True colors" indeed. Next you'll be claiming I'm a closet Maoist.

Kaa
10-21-2009, 10:41 AM
So, I'm guessing that your problem is that you simply don't agree with the majority of the electorate?

Oh, I don't, of course, but that's not the issue.

The issue is whether the current system in the US went "astray" from the Constitution as it was originally formulated. That has nothing to do with what the electorate thinks or wants.

Kaa

John Smith
10-21-2009, 10:42 AM
'I don't want to turn this into a second amendment thread, but "arms" back then had a meaning which is totally different than it has today."

No, they didn't. It's still a bullet coming out the end of a gun. More sophistication these days, but the same thing.

"Whether we've gone in a good direction is debatable, but 'faithfulness to the original intent" is a profoundly silly idea."

This is where the Right and Left today part ways. The US Constitution is special. Its writers were profoundly aware of human foible. As such it's not a document aimed at a particular time which can be cast off because it doesn't fit today's pique. While it does have provision for amendment, the provisions are pretty restrictive. It's not easy to amend it, for good reason.

Good of you to show your true colors, Mr. Wilson.
Were you responding to me with the "arms" part?

Arms = weapons. Weapons do not = only guns. "Arms" includes nuclear weapons.

Constitution does not say "guns", it says "arms'.

George.
10-21-2009, 10:42 AM
Pseudo-religious idolatry.


Probably the US Constitution's strongest trait.

Those who don't worship their constitutions are all too prone to discard them, or recklessly alter them. It usually leads to trouble.

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 10:44 AM
So, you think that stuff is all wrong? Great! Campaign to change it.

Ohh, wait... only about 3% of the country agree with your rather extremist views. That DOES present a problem, all right.

Oh, so now you want to talk about how 90% of all media is controlled by six corporations?

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 10:44 AM
Were you responding to me with the "arms" part?

Arms = weapons. Weapons do not = only guns. "Arms" includes nuclear weapons.

Constitution does not say "guns", it says "arms'.


Your going to stick with that?

John Smith
10-21-2009, 10:46 AM
What I find interesting is those who wave the constitution, like it's their bible, and, I suspect, haven't read it.

It would be interesting to develop a test on that document, and see how many pass it.

ishmael
10-21-2009, 10:53 AM
Keith,

Unless my reading skills have deteriorated, you did advocate just that when you said, "'faithfulness to the original intent" is a profoundly silly idea."

How else am I to read that except as thinking that the Constitution doesn't mean much?

Kaa
10-21-2009, 10:59 AM
Oh, I think it has EVERYTHING to do with it... because the electorate is empowered (indirectly, via representation) to change the Constitution.

Then the question become meaningless. The electorate might change the Constitution to make the US a constitutional monarchy with five tri-cameral legislative bodies and you still would say that nothing went astray.


However, the very notion that somehow, the country went 'astray' from the Constitution presumes the biggest hubris of all: that the precise meaning of the Constitution is beyond question... and more specifically, what YOU believe it means is beyond question.

Nope. You don't need "precise" meaning or "beyond question". Some things are plain as day. Are you really going to tell me the Constitution envisaged the federal government to have the reach and the scope it has today?


...and even THEY can't often agree on it's meaning.

Well, of course, because they legally define it. They make the meaning. The first sentence of all constitutional law courses is "The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means".

You don't claim the Supremes' rulings should put limits on what people think the Constitution does mean or should mean, do you?

Kaa

Kaa
10-21-2009, 11:05 AM
Regardless, the decisions of the court are the final arbitration on the meaning of the Constitution.

The are the final arbitration on the meaning of the Constitution for legal purposes. There are lots of reasons to think about the Constitution of the United States besides determining what does the law say and the Supremes have no special powers there.

Kaa

Keith Wilson
10-21-2009, 11:08 AM
They are the final arbitration on the meaning of the Constitution for legal purposes. This may be a bit too obvious, but the Constitution is a law. That's what it's for.

ishmael
10-21-2009, 11:16 AM
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, US Constitution

Good words. We've often fallen short of them. But I submit that with all our failings they are as sound today as they were as the ink dried. What follows, in the body of the text, equally as sound.

Kaa
10-21-2009, 11:19 AM
And if they did, by passing a Constitutional Ammendment with 3/4's of the states consenting, the Constitution will have worked exactly as intended.... nothing would have gone astray

Oh. OK, then :D


See what I mean? It's 'plain as day' to you... too bad it isn't even remotely as clear to the Supreme Court justices.

Sure it is. They are not stupid. And you are being silly.


You need really big brass ones to think that you always know the absolute truth.

Well, that's not a problem :D but as I said, some things are very plain. The Supreme Court may have decided that these things no longer work so they need to be changed but I can assure you they knew they were changing things.


...my response is that they coudn't envisage anything at ALL about how the world has changed in 200 years.

Then why bother at all with what they thought and what they wrote down? They are *completely* irrelevant to our days, right? So why not rewrite the Constitution from scratch, in a way appropriate to contemporary times?

Kaa

Bruce Taylor
10-21-2009, 11:32 AM
I've always admired the 21st amendment.

John Smith
10-21-2009, 11:37 AM
I'd like to make another observation. Those who raise the flag highest, and wave the constitution most vigorously, are the ones most willing to give some of it up when they feel we cannot follow it and still be safe.

Milo Christensen
10-21-2009, 11:39 AM
. . . At which point in American history do you believe the constitutional ideal started to go astray? . . .

Well since you said "do you believe". And I do believe the following:

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The ever broadening ability of the Federal Government to reach into every aspect of the people's private and personal lives. The continuous non stop usurpation of State's Rights. It really all starts in 1887.

htom
10-21-2009, 11:44 AM
I've always blamed a lot of the ills -- especially the expansionist tendencies -- on the 17th Amendment.

switters
10-21-2009, 11:53 AM
Popularly elected senators and expansionist tendencies. I'm afraid I'm not smart enough to get the connection, would you please explain?

ishmael
10-21-2009, 12:03 PM
"I've always admired the 21st amendment."

You're laughing at us, Bruce, and rightly so. National prohibition of alcohol, the 18th? was about as silly as people get. No one said the system was perfect. I credit prohibition with a rise in a gang/outlaw mentality that remains with us with our idiot prohibition of drugs usage. Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are sanctioned, but we mustn't have people smoking pot, or snorting cocaine. The former are good drugs, the latter verboten. Further silliness that some in power must like or we'd be rid of these idiot laws.

Keith Wilson
10-21-2009, 12:06 PM
Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara_County_v._Southern_Pacific_Railroad)

Tom Montgomery
10-21-2009, 12:23 PM
Did someone say something about promoting the general welfare? The damned leftist Bilge rats can't resist sticking their noses into a perfectly good thread to push their socialist agenda.

George.
10-21-2009, 01:23 PM
Welfare? That's socialism - it's un-American.

htom
10-21-2009, 01:31 PM
Popularly elected senators and expansionist tendencies. I'm afraid I'm not smart enough to get the connection, would you please explain?

Old Senator facing federal expansion "D'oh, if I vote for that, the governor and my state legislature will see me as taking away their powers. I'll refrain, to keep my reappointment safe."

New Senator facing federal expansion "D'oh, if I vote for that, it will improve my re-election chances, I might get funding from some of those groups over there. Shut up, Gov, you're only one voter."

It changes the continue-in-office calculations, makes the Senate as sensitive to popular concerns as the House.

switters
10-21-2009, 01:36 PM
Thanks, when I read "expansionist" I was thinking of something else, but now I understand what you were saying.

htom
10-21-2009, 01:56 PM
I, at least, see a difference between "promote the general welfare" and "provide general welfare". Teaching people to fish vs handing out fish others have caught.

isla
10-21-2009, 02:37 PM
I'm probably trying to punch above my weight in this thread, although I have read through your constitution as a part-time history student, it is a lot for a layman to take on board. In the year or so that I have been on this forum I have looked upon it as a sort of microcosm of American thinking. I have also been made aware of the extreme polarisation of socio-political opinion that exists in your country, probably more so than in my own. So I have been wondering..what is the glue that holds America together? Is the constitution all that is required to provide a sense of nationhood and patriotism, or is there more, perhaps less obvious, glue which bonds you together and gives you your national identity?

High C
10-21-2009, 02:41 PM
I, at least, see a difference between "promote the general welfare" and "provide general welfare". Teaching people to fish vs handing out fish others have caught.

There is also a great difference between "promote the general welfare" and "provide for individual welfare".

htom
10-21-2009, 03:04 PM
The happy liberals are glad to sweep any and all opposition into a basket and call it names ascribing such beliefs as they project. There are lots of conservatives who think that the Republican party has, itself, become RINO -- Republican In Name Only -- being just another face for the Parental Party (that is, the MommyCrats and DaddyCans.)

Kaa
10-21-2009, 03:43 PM
I have also been made aware of the extreme polarisation of socio-political opinion that exists in your country, probably more so than in my own.

I don't thinks so at all. There's a lot of noise and hyperbole and hysterics, but the actual political variety available to an American voter is very, very limited. I would probably go as far as to say that the noise and hysterics are there at least partially to hide that fact.

There's surely more political diversity in the UK. Less grandiose pronouncements how the opposition is the spawn of evil, perhaps, but a more varied and rich political ecosystem, certainly.

Kaa

MiddleAgesMan
10-21-2009, 04:01 PM
The Constitution?

If we can believe G. W. Bush "it's just a g-d piece of paper."

John Smith
10-21-2009, 04:05 PM
I, at least, see a difference between "promote the general welfare" and "provide general welfare". Teaching people to fish vs handing out fish others have caught.
First, you'd have to teach them how to build a boat to fish from. Meanwhile, they have to eat.

I would offer a compromise. Feed them AND teach them to feed themselves.

John Smith
10-21-2009, 04:06 PM
I'm probably trying to punch above my weight in this thread, although I have read through your constitution as a part-time history student, it is a lot for a layman to take on board. In the year or so that I have been on this forum I have looked upon it as a sort of microcosm of American thinking. I have also been made aware of the extreme polarisation of socio-political opinion that exists in your country, probably more so than in my own. So I have been wondering..what is the glue that holds America together? Is the constitution all that is required to provide a sense of nationhood and patriotism, or is there more, perhaps less obvious, glue which bonds you together and gives you your national identity?
We're being held together?

Kaa
10-21-2009, 04:07 PM
I would offer a compromise. Feed them AND teach them to feed themselves.

There is little incentive to learn to fish when fish is provided for free.

Kaa

John Smith
10-21-2009, 04:12 PM
There is little incentive to learn to fish when fish is provided for free.

Kaa
Not necessarily.

Doesn't do much good to teach one to fish if he's 100 miles from any water with fish in it. You could teach him to farm, but he's got to eat while he awaits his garden.

The incentive can be to simply eat better.

Kaa
10-21-2009, 04:19 PM
Doesn't do much good to teach one to fish if he's 100 miles from any water with fish in it.

Ah, I see we agree about the usefulness of government programs :D Remember, we're are talking about the role of the government in the "teach to fish" vs. "give fish" framework...


You could teach him to farm, but he's got to eat while he awaits his garden.

What did he eat before you appeared on the scene..?

Kaa

Tylerdurden
10-21-2009, 06:42 PM
The national identity IS very strong, isla, so don't take what you see here as any sort of paradigm for general American thinking.

I can give you my opinion, however.

The extreme fringe right wing noise that you're seeing here is a relatively recent phenomenon, and doesn't reflect broad conservative thought... which has been in the decline, anyhow; only 20% of Americans identify with the Republican party these days.

Similarly, any extreme left wing views you might see here are also marginal, in terms of thier impact on US politcs. The center of mass of US politics wavers between slightly left of center, and slightly right of center..... a bit more to the right, in recent years, I'd say, but nowhere near as far right as the leaders of the Republican party.

Ys, there is a cultural mindset, or 'glue' which binds us together, regardless of the carping you see here. It's best observed in moments of national crisis, like just after 9/11, for example, when political gaps narrow for the commn good. If you want the flavor and essence of the American culture and mindset, I think you'd find it best expressed in the classic movies of the 1940's, especially those directed by Frank Capra... when patriotism was the thing which bound us together, rather than tearing us apart. I think that sentiment still exists, and strongly.

Well we can see how twisted you really are.
This country was led into liberty by 3% of the actual population at the time. 10 % if you count the whole of the revolutionary's in all parts. The rest stood by with a large group of those loyal to the king.
I think that has something to do with "Land of the free, Home of the brave" Except knowing the above facts it becomes crystal that the majority did nothing, contributed nothing or fought or preached against the radicals. Those same then after it was done then rode the backs of that small number of brave souls as to claim it as their own. Same situation today. 3% with maybe 10% commited overall. The rest will go along to get along same as it ever was.
Now again its up to those small numbers, as before the majority does nothing as the tyrants take over but make speeches and maybe vote for more of the same.
We can easily tell here who belongs to what percentage now just as in the revolution.

As far as what binds us, I would say that the Constitution for even the weak souled amongst us understand what it represents.
But liberty will always and forever be up to the 3%.

Those are the facts, there is no question no matter how raw the truth is. We are surrounded by cowards who think that they have a say because they can call on authority to fight for them.
Some of us know that is the case. But it never lasts forever.

John Smith
10-21-2009, 06:44 PM
Ah, I see we agree about the usefulness of government programs :D Remember, we're are talking about the role of the government in the "teach to fish" vs. "give fish" framework...



What did he eat before you appeared on the scene..?

Kaa
What he could find or kill, no?

Over the years, much has been learned about proper growing techniques, like crop rotation.

Many a farm, today, relies of water coming from government built systems, no?

Cuyahoga Chuck
10-21-2009, 11:37 PM
There is a temptation to treat the US Constitution as a piece of holy writ. That overlooks one important factor which is duely noted in history. The Framers were only unanimous in accepting it. Many of them offered ideas that were not included or they disliked ideas that were. For instance, James Madison was holy hell on separtaion of church and state. He wanted an across the board separation. States included. He couldn't make it stick. He had to accept that only the federal government was prohibited from having an official religion. Numerous states had and maintained official state religions and they weren't outlawed until an amendment was adopted many decades later.
The US Constitution was the result of numerous compromizes made by men who were doing the best they could at the time. It is possible that some good stuff dribbled away in the process.

Bob (oh, THAT Bob)
10-22-2009, 01:41 AM
I believe that the constitution became better and better, as freedoms were increased, as the courts began to interpret it to do so. When the constitution says "All men are created equal", even though they meant white men when it was written, but then when a black man in Mississippi wears a sign that says "I am a man", it was pretty easy to say, yes, he is a man, and deserving of full rights. The court agreed.

The more freedoms that were granted, equal rights for women, homosexuals, minorities, the disabled, etc, the better life became for all of those, at no cost to anyone else.

I believe we have taken a step backward when freedoms are reduced, such as protections from search and seizure, speech, right to assemble, own firearms, and travel. These have all been under assault in the past decades.

I think it is reasonable to enact a law where if violated, it causes certain harm to all. An example is dumping mercury and other poisons into the environment.

I think it is unreasonable to enact a law which excessively restricts something because a minority abuses that right, but the majority do not abuse the right. Examples are alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, firearms.

George.
10-22-2009, 07:03 AM
Lessee, give fish or teach to fish...

A) most people capable of learning can figure it out for themselves;

B) a minority would not learn without help but will become self-sufficient and productive if taught;

C) another minority would learn, but will become freeloaders if given fish;

D) a larger minority is unable or unwilling to learn: to teach them is a waste of money; if left unaided, they will go hungry or resort to petty crime.

Given that group D cannot be eliminated from society - even if they are rounded up and shot, a new generation of incompetents will appear shortly - it's a tough call. I tend to say that it's better to teach and give away fish, low quality and not too much. This strategy will spoil group C, but that's the price to elevate group B and keep group D off the streets.

What we should not do is pretend that the giving away of fish is temporary, and that everyone can be redeemed by supplying education and means.