So writes Adam Liptak of The New York Times, in an article entitled “‘We The People’ Loses Its Appeal With People Around The World.”
In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”
A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.
… “Among the world’s democracies,” Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.”
… There are lots of possible reasons. The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights. The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation. And the Constitution’s waning influence may be part of a general decline in American power and prestige.
In an interview, Professor Law identified a central reason for the trend: the availability of newer, sexier and more powerful operating systems in the constitutional marketplace. “Nobody wants to copy Windows 3.1,” he said.
… These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.
Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.
… The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.
The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Ah, Canadian law … the same law that has been so easily twisted by discontented Islamists and gay rights activists into a tool of persecution and censorship. Maybe not the best example. Let’s try again.
What about the European Convention on Human Rights? Sure, it “guarantees” a much broader array of rights than the US Constitution but each of those enumerated rights also contains a conditional clause similar to this: “… subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Given the current battle between the Roman Catholic church and the Obama Administration over HHS’s contraception/abortifactant mandate, is it really a good idea to explicitly give government the power to rescind either the right to privacy or religious freedom in the interest of “public health”?
Still, I suppose it’s nice to see liberals occasionally admit in public just how inadequate they believe our Constitution is. Consider Barack Obama’s infamous 2001 radio interview:
[During the Civil Rights era] the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you. It says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf … the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.
On the other hand I (and most other conservatives) have a different view. The primary objective of our Constitution’s authors was to protect the citizens of the United States from tyranny, oppression, and manipulation at the hands of the Federal Government; or more specifically, to prevent political factions (socioeconomic classes, religious groups, etc.) from using the Federal Government as a tool to terrorize, oppress, or manipulate their enemies. They had no interest in central economic planning or organizing the confiscation and redistribution of wealth. Perhaps they were smart enough to realize that a government cannot accomplish either of these things without threatening or manipulating its citizens.
The simplicity and straightforwardness of our Constitution is its greatest strength. It doesn’t need to be endlessly amended because our courts have established legal precedent for virtually every right that is considered “essential” by contemporary standards yet is not explicitly included in the Constitution. And whatever the courts haven’t covered via judicial rulings, the Legislative branch has enshrined into law through its various Federal discrimination laws and entitlement programs.
I’ll leave you with this exit question: How can anyone argue that a new “progressive” US Constitution consisting largely of post-modern/utopian “fairness” and “equality” gobbledygook will create anything other than the most expensive, extensive, and intrusive government bureaucracy ever seen by man? I ask this considering the dedication with which modern-day liberals and progressives have searched our existing Constitution in order to uncover “emanations” and “penumbras” that always seem to serve their own political interests. How much more fodder will they find in a Constitution that they themselves will have largely crafted?
Maybe Bill Whittle can explain this better than I can: