Thursday, July 03, 2008
An old constitution
While the USA likes to think of itself as a young country, it has the oldest written constitution in the world. Perhaps uniquely, its framers are seen as demi-gods, its strictures almost immutable. Even though it was merely a development in a long line of documents from the Magna Carta in 1215, and the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the mythology around it is that it sprung fully formed from the mind of Thomas Jefferson. In fact, while he wrote the first draft, about 25% of that was dropped and new material introduced. There is little recognition that circumstances change. A few days ago, on the radio, I heard someone say that the government could ban cars, or the Internet, without any challenge from the Constitution, whereas, it could not ban guns, even though the very nature of a gun and society had changed dramatically since it was written. Only a few centuries will tell whether this view of a Constitution, or the alternative view of one as an ever changing and evolving philosophy will be better.