James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, June 27, 2005

Why the Constitution Ain't So Great

An incomplete list, but a start...


PART I: What is THAT Supposed to Mean?

1. Preamble: "promote the general welfare."
2. Art I, sec 8: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States. (is this in addition to or a preamble to the following enumerated powers?)
3.Art II, sec 4:The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" (what is a "high crime?")
4. Article 3, section 1: The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior... (is "bad" behavior a "high crime" or does "bad" behavior include incompetence or reckless judgment?)
5. Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (The use, of commas, in this sentence, is quite annoying.)
6. Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (according to whom?)
7. Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. (WHICH others?)
8. Amendment XIII: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude... (what kind of involuntary servitude is there besides slavery? Compulsory schooling? Conscription?)
9. Amendment XIV:No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; (what the hell are "privileges and immunities?")
10. Amendment XIV: nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (does that mean equal state-granted benefits? Equal funding for schools? Roads?)

Part II: Dumb Ideas

1. Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union... (why was that necessary? So that merchants could bribe just one legislature - Congress - instead of 13?)
2. Article I, Section 7: All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.(Better to have the House propose all bills and the Senate to veto or amend. Also, the Senate should have been able to overrule the Supreme Court on Constitutional questions. Should have been the republican equivalent of the House of Lords.)
3. Article I, section 8: [Congress shall have power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; (hello, monopoly!)
4. Art III, sec 1 (yes, the same as above): The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior. (as opposed to limited terms.)
5. Amendment XIV. (All of Article I is either poorly written or badly interpreted. If it was meant to have the states respect the entire Bill of Rights, it should have said so).
6. Amendment XVI: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. (Hello socialism; hello empire.)
7. Amendment XVII: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures. (bye, bye, statesmen: hello crooks, demagogues, and party hacks)
8. Amendment XXII: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice. (lame ducks invite scandals: Lewinsky, Iran-Contra, Watergate.)
9. Amendment XXIII: Presidential vote for District of Columbia. (If they went to all the trouble of amending, why didn't they do something about statehood or ceding areas back to VA and MD?)
10.Democratization amendments: nothing wrong in principle with expanding suffrage to ex-slaves, women, 18 year-olds, and poor people. The cumulative effect of mass representative democracy, however, is lowest-common-denominator, short-sighted, irresponsible government.


  1. Isn't article 1, Section 8 referring to patents and copyrights rather than granting monopolies?

  2. Good post, just wanted to let you know that it inspired a post of my at Democratic Freedom. Consider this a manual trackback.

  3. An exclusive right of ownership is a monopoly. Getting to the patent office first shouldn't qualify one to corner the market for x number of years.

    As to copyrights, now they're being extended for decades beyond the lifetime of the author. As to the nature of the artist in a market economy, it seems to me that other forms of profit could exist beyond exclusive rights of a work and its reproduction.

  4. If you hate America so much, why don't you move? I mean, that Constitution you hate so much is the one that gives you the freedom to hate it, but you also have the freedom to leave.

    If libertarians ruled the world, there would be nothing but anarchy.

  5. Sorry, I was joking a bit. I should have made that more obvious. I was playing around with the rightwing criticism of liberals, just forgot to show it.

  6. p.s. I mean, rightwing criticism of anyone who finds fault with anything American.

  7. ragnar_rahl10:39 PM PST


    An exclusive right of ownership is a monopoly. Getting to the patent office first shouldn't qualify one to corner the market for x number of years."

    By that argument, the exclusive right of ownership to your own body is a monopoly, your neural signals getting to your body first shouldn't qualify you to corner the market on it for x number of years.

    I don't like it when libertarians say things that open the door to communism. Either people own what they have created or they do not.

  8. People own what they create, so they can set the terms and conditions when they sell or distribute their creation.

    If the government defines how long someone should own what they create, that's actually closer to communism. So is using government agents to enforce such arbitrary laws.

  9. Anonymous12:01 AM PDT

    I believe the distinction between slavery and involuntary servitude is that one works against his will for free, and the other just works against his will (e.g., a paid apprentice to an unchosen master).