… well suited for the early 19th century.
The New York Times reports today that the United States Supreme Court
… late Wednesday night barred restrictions on religious services in New York that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had imposed to combat the coronavirus.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s three liberal members in dissent. The order was the first in which the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, played a decisive role.
Accordingly, both because of this decision, and decisions of the federal judiciary with respect to Juliana vs United States, I’ve concluded that the U.S. Constitution is well-suited for the early 19th century, and even the late 18th, but has no ability to deal with important 21st century problems.
And if anything underscores this it is that the U.S. Constitution leaves the composition, length of tenure, size, and qualifications of justices to the U.S. Supreme Court entirely within the hands of Congress. Moreover, it has an amending mechanism, one which hobbled and slowed with ponderous and maladroit criteria of process and agreement.
And, more than ever, this demonstrates now critical it is for a modern country to utterly and fundamentally sever its governance and discourse from considerations of religion. As noted by Professor Christian Robert at his blog, Xi’an’s Og, a model for government that purports to be universalist must necessarily be secularist. Otherwise there is preference and, so, some religions and religious views are more preferred and acceptable than others, simply because of tyranny of the minority in a society which gives individuals too much power. This inflicts upon society a gross social and policy price of anarchy.
Update 2020-11-27 00:01
Adam Shatz at the London Review of Books wrote “Why go high? … on America’s defective democracy” in 42(22). In addition to much clear analysis of how useful an illusion of power can be to a political party, Mr Shatz quotes Daniel Lazare from his The Frozen Republic (1996), notably:
… [T]he Founders created a deliberately unresponsive system in order to narrow the governmental options and force us to seek alternative routes. Politics were dangerous; therefore, politics had to be limited and constrained. But America cannot expect to survive much longer with a government that is inefficient and none too democratic by design. It is impossible to forge ahead in the late 20th century using governmental machinery dating from the late 18th. Urban conditions can only worsen, race relations can only grow more alienated and embittered. Politics will grow more irrational and self-defeating, while the price of the good life … can only continue its upward climb beyond the reach of all but the most affluent.
Mr Lazare anticipated our present situation or at least had the pleasant audacity to describe it. If not his, my concern is fixing climate disruption. Whatever the longstanding issue, the Constitution in its present form is very much getting in the way.
As I’ve written and stated publicly elsewhere, it isn’t that climate disruption won’t be fixed. It will be fixed, but those doing the fixing will pursue it for their own interests, not those of the general public or the world. Most pertinent, however, such success will relegate the U.S. Constitution more to the status of a historical relic than an active, living guide, increasingly interpreted to mean other things than it actually did, out of necessity. And if that is not done, governance will fall upon other powerful actors. That won’t be the class of billionaires, not directly. Most do not care. It will fall to multinational corporations. They won’t like it, but a world without their leadership will definitely be against their interests. So they will. Who will lose out? The public, of course.