Is the Constitution Outdated?
Disclaimer: In this blog post, I discuss emotionally charged topics, such as gay marriage and abortion. I do not express my personal beliefs or opinions on the subjects – instead, I question the process by which we evaluate them in the United States. I don’t intend to start a political debate about the topics themselves. Rather, I use them as examples of modern debates that are being analyzed using traditional methods and examine the relevance of those methods.
After studying and discussing Mill, I started thinking about the importance and effect of tradition. Mill says that we shouldn’t take what has worked before as our guide for what will work now or in the future, and we should instead figure out what works for ourselves through reason. This made me wonder how tradition affects – both positively and negatively – our ability to change society. More specifically, I thought about the U.S. Constitution and the laws that have been guiding our society for more than 200 years. Obviously, life is much different now than it was when the Constitution was written. However, we’re still using the same documents to evaluate modern scenarios. I think it’s worth it to ask: is this appropriate, or do laws promote tradition and limit change? Societies change through time – that is irrefutable. While I do think it’s important to have a default guide of societal rules (like the Constitution) in order to maintain social and political order, is there a point where it simply becomes outdated?
Below is a video of a Fox News segment discussion whether the Constitution is relevant to terrorism – something that wasn’t an issue when it was written:
Other politically, socially, religiously, and emotionally charged subjects like abortion and gay marriage are two more examples that come to mind. Policies concerning both topics are not explicitly written in the constitution – most likely because they simply weren’t hot topics back then like they are now. So how do we adapt? Do we try to justify one decision or the other by using words in the Constitution – that likely were not written to specifically address these issues – or do we write new laws?
Of course, this brings into question the ease of writing new laws. Needless to say, it’s not the easiest task, and for good reason. If writing new laws and changing what’s written in traditional documents like the U.S. Constitution were simple, there could be tons of crazy and detrimental laws in place. However, is it such a lengthy and difficult process that the formation of new laws can’t keep up with the rate of change in society?
What do you think? Are using traditional documents (such as the Constitution) and traditional ideas (such as marriage being solely between a man and a woman) relevant to modern issues that were irrelevant when the documents were written?