Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said, “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally [should expire] at the end of nineteen years.” His reasoning is that the laws written by one generation don’t necessarily correspond to the next. Although it may have functioned effectively two hundred years ago, the United States Constitution is no longer fit to run this country. Many problems plague our government today, and in order to fix them, we need to identify their root causes.

One of the foremost problems with the Constitution is that it is outdated. The Constitution was originally written to limit and distribute power across a large number of people. This is because, back in the late 18th century, communication was slow, and the Founding Fathers didn’t want one person to be able to take over the country and make rapid changes before the rest of the states would find out.

This limitation of power manifests itself in the long process it takes for a bill to be enacted into law. A bill has to be proposed in one of the houses of Congress, passed through both in the same form (it can’t be modified or amended without being voted on again), and then signed by the President. The main problem is that the President generally does not share the same political ideologies as the majority of Congress. This is in contrast to parliamentary democracy, which exists in countries like England and Australia. In Parliament, the prime minister (executive officer of parliamentary democracy) is elected by the majority party or coalition. As a result, if the majority party wants to create and pass a bill, they can do so rather easily and effectively, because they control both houses in the legislature as well as the executive officer.

Another way the Constitution controls power is by limiting the actions the President can take. The President’s limited power and four-year term is on one side of the spectrum of how democracy can prevent autocracy. The solution on the other side of the spectrum is to give ultimate power, but to limit the amount of time that a person can serve in office. The Roman Republic is a prime example of this, where two consuls had ultimate power, but only served for one year. Although the United States has not had power struggles like Rome did, Rome was able to adjust and adapt to minor problems and crises much more quickly than the U.S. can now. For instance, given the multitude of legislative options to deal with global warming, wouldn’t the U.S. government already have dealt with the crisis if it were able to govern effectively and efficiently?

We live in the Information Age, with the greatest amount of communication and distribution of information ever. The Constitution’s intentional delays are simply no longer necessary. In fact, as shown with the lack of action on global warming, they damage the ability for the government to function in the modern world.

In the same vein as Thomas Jefferson’s warning, John Adams once wrote that he feared a two-party system under the Constitution. In a letter to Jonathan Jackson in 1780, he wrote, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.” The most chilling part of what Adams wrote is how it resembles our modern political scene. The leaders of both the Democrats and Republicans spend all their time opposing each other and trying to prevent government action from taking place. With Obama as President, the agenda of the Republican leaders is not to push forward a specific political ideology, or to cooperate with the Democrats in an attempt to pass legislation. Instead, they function as obstructionists. Each day that Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, does not receive a nomination hearing in the Senate is a day that the Republicans consider a victory. And this is what Adams was warning about. These political grudges now matter more in Washington than passing legislation and effecting change for the better.

The reason this situation exists is not solely due to the political culture in Washington (although that certainly has a role). Instead, the first-past-the-post voting system (FPTP) shelters a large portion of the responsibility. FPTP is the voting system where voters select one candidate on their ballot, and the candidate with the most votes wins. This allows for pluralities, where one candidate may not have a majority of all votes, but does have more votes than any of his opponents. For instance, Donald Trump won a plurality, 44.95 percent of the popular vote, during the primaries en route to becoming the Republican nominee.

The problem with FPTP is that it often results in a winner that the majority did not vote for, as mentioned above, and it encourages voters to vote strategically. If they believe that their fringe candidate (e.g. Green Party candidate) is unlikely to win, then voters will vote for a mainstream candidate (Democrat or Republican candidate) instead, because although one of the mainstream candidates may be acceptable to them, they may be unable to stomach the thought of the other winning. With usually only a couple of mainstream candidates, FPTP inevitably results in a two-party system. However, there are alternatives to this system which fix these problems.

One of the best alternatives is called the Alternative Vote (AV). In AV, voters rank all the candidates preferentially. A voter’s favorite candidate is ranked first, their second favorite second, and so on. If a voter does not find any redeeming qualities in a certain candidate (who may be orange-haired and small-handed), the voter just does not assign that candidate a rank. When the votes are counted up, the votes for the candidate who was last in the initial counting are transferred to the voters’ second-favorite candidate. The numbers are tallied up again, the same process happens, where the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated, and the votes are transferred. The process continues until a candidate has a majority of votes (greater than 50 percent). AV is a great solution as it avoids a two-party system, since voters don’t have to vote strategically. And there is empirical proof that it works: The Australian House of Representatives, Ireland’s presidential election, and India’s presidential election all use AV effectively. All this is not to disavow AV of any faults, but what is clear is that AV is a superior system to FPVP.

The U.S. government is ultimately flawed in many ways through its outdatedness, inefficiency, and its voting system. I don’t pretend that I have all or even any of the solutions to the problems that plague the Constitution, but the political adherence to the Constitution is absurd. Politicians praise the document, acting as if it is the most perfect piece of writing they have ever encountered. They are not only deceiving themselves, but the entire country. Failing to recognize the significant problems that exist within the foundation of our current government will only inhibit change and progress. Unless we want sea levels to rise dramatically and humanity to go extinct, something has to change.

  • Man with Axe

    If you are worried about sea-level rise I suggest that you look up how much it actually has been rising in the last century. You should certainly know that datum before you jettison the Constitution because of it. The actual figure might surprise you.

    The reason for separation of powers isn’t because of slow communication, but to avoid tyranny. If you think that an all-powerful executive would be preferable, consider how you would feel about that notion if Trump were elected.

    The federal (central) government was only intended to concern itself with commerce and the military, and a few ancillary issues, such as patents, for which national uniformity was desirable. All the rest of government’s powers were designed to be left to the states. Before you start agitating for a national rule on, say, marriage, or on education, or on gay rights, consider what it would be like if the rule that obtained was conservative. Where would one go to escape and find a progressive paradise?

    • Arafat

      Man with Axe,

      I wish you would quit raining reality on Comac’s parade. It seems unreasonable of you to interject truth, reasonableness and wisdom on a small elitist liberal arts college student.

    • Ralphiec88

      You’re engaging in some sleight of hand there. It’s true that Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches in the last century. However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years. Acceleration matters.

      • Man with Axe

        It’s lately been about 1/8 inch per year. That is a rate that the world could easily adapt to over the next century.

        Here’s a thought experiment. Would you want to solve today’s problems with the technology that existed in 1916? Aren’t you glad that they didn’t move in those days to reverse the industrial revolution, and instead allowed us to develop the technology we have today to work on our current problems? Now, going forward, does it make sense to reverse or severely retard the industrial revolution today, or to allow the people of 2116 to solve their problems with the much more advance technology they will have, in addition to having much better information about what, exactly, those problems will be?

      • Ralphiec88

        That logic would be reasonable if the effects were linear. But by that logic you can jump of the Empire State Building as safely as you can jump off a curb. Acceleration matters.

      • Man with Axe

        You are adopting the assumption that what has happened for the last few years (a very slight acceleration) is going to persist into the distant future. Why should we believe that? There are all kinds of feedback systems in the climate that we don’t understand. For example, the sun is weakening, and scientists differ on the effect that will have on the climate.

      • Ralphiec88

        That is an appeal to ignorance that seems like an odd fallback from your previous argument.
        Regardless, I believe conservation is a conservative value, made all the sweeter by the fact that conservation in our country disproportionately hits countries like Venezuela, Russia, and Middle Eastern nations who are hardly our friends.

      • Man with Axe

        What you call an appeal to ignorance is, to my way of thinking, an acknowledgement of actual ignorance in the face of the hubris of those who claim to know with virtual certainty what will happen 100 years into the future, a hubris that is unshaken by literally hundreds of failed predictions about what would happen with the climate in the previous 20 years, as well as a virtually complete failure to consider that what to do about the climate is really an economic and political problem more than a scientific one, and a failure to consider that reducing carbon emissions is one of many approaches to the issue, and, by my way of thinking, possibly the most costly and least effective. (Try to diagram that sentence.)

      • Ralphiec88

        The problem though is with the notion that there Is uncertainty so we should do nothing. If the situation were a medical diagnosis, investment, or just about any other decision in our lives, the answer is to proceed sensibly based on the best information available. But somehow on climate we are to kick the san down the road. The data that temperature and sea level rise have accelerated is irrefutable. Responsibility says “wait and see” is not sufficient.

      • Man with Axe

        Granting arguendo that the temperature is rising, what, exactly, should be done? I don’t accept the syllogism: a) something must be done, b) this is something, 3) therefore, we must do it.

        Cutting carbon emissions will have a negligible effect on temperature increases but will cost dearly in economic growth. This will be especially hard on the currently poor who are desperate to escape their $1 per day existence.

        I go back to my assertion that we don’t know what form the problems, if any, will take, and we don’t know what technology the people of 2116 will have at their disposal.

        This is a digression, but I am especially aggrieved by the constant refrain that every current weather event (Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Matthew, drought, floods, etc.) is the result of climate change. It just isn’t so.

      • Ralphiec88

        I’m not making any claims about events. But sensibly cutting carbon emissions can be valuable politically and environmentally while preserving resources for future generations.

      • Man with Axe

        Which resources? Oil?

        Is there any reason to believe that oil will be an essential resource in 100 years? Or if it is, that we won’t have plenty? We were supposed to have reached peak oil in 1970, and then in 2007, and now some say 2020, but we keep finding more, a lot more. Why not use it now when it’s use helps to bring billions (literally) of people out of poverty? Who knows if we’ll need it at all in 100 years? By then we might have solar powered cars and windmills will blot every scenic view.

      • Man with Axe

        I agree completely on the issue of conservation, so long as it is not more extreme than it needs to be.

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  • Millions will fight before being enslaved under any constitution this picaroon approves.