Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is the purpose of the U.S. Constitution? A Practical Inquiry

Strict constructionists believe that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted exactly as it was written. Even if certain words found in the document have a meaning today that is different from the meaning at the time of ratification, the meaning at the time of ratification should be used. Based on this understanding, society today obviously does not reflect the society that the U.S. Constitution would support. In that case, the U.S. Constitution has failed to function in one of the two manners it could have been intended to function (strict vs. loose interpretation).

On the other hand, loose constructionists suggest that the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution can change over time. Theoretically, the manner in which it is interpreted today could be entirely different from the way it was interpreted yesterday. In that case, the U.S. Constitution is pointless. What is the point of having the Constitution beyond its functioning as a simple procedural tool (since any of the non-procedural sections of it can change at any time and therefore don't have much eternal meaning) whose otherwise grand function is to tell us how to re-interpret the document any which way we desire? That is, not to mention the fact that the procedural sections aren't always followed either. And what makes the procedures in the Constitution (assuming those are the only aspects of it left that remain static, given that all the substantive aspects can be re-interpreted) any better than a different set of procedures we might design today that could also allow us to re-interpret it (or another document for that matter) any which way we desire?

The U.S. Constitution has either failed to achieve its purpose of restricting the government or it has no meaning since it can always be re-interpreted. What is the purpose of the U.S. Constitution?