The Atlantic Monthly currently perched on a newstand near you features "Founders Chic," an article by H.W. Brand warning against what he considers our current infatuation with the Founders. I confess to having not yet plunked down $4.95 for the privilege of reading the piece (and it’s not available at Atlantic Online); but the online edition does provide an interview with Brand from August 7th that’s worth a look.
I’m no history scholar, but I think some of what Brand offers is misguided. For example, his answer to the question "What do you think should be the mechanism for rewriting the Constitution?" includes:
If we were really in the spirit of the Founders, people would just get together and call an utterly extra-legal convention, because that’s what the convention of 1787 was. . . . For people to say, for example, that we can’t do anything about gun control because the Second Amendment prevents it--well, let’s just rewrite the Second Amendment. If the First Amendment says we can’t control political spending, let’s rewrite the First Amendment.
Earlier, Brand argued that "if we want to be in the spirit of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin and all, we ought to have a constitutional convention about every twenty or thirty years. Times change." To my knowledge, and others like Dr. Craig can correct me, but thats not Madison’s spirit, thats his poltergeist.
As if unaware of what such frequent conventions would mean, Brand concludes the interview with an appreciation of the
validity of the argument that says don’t tamper lightly with the Constitution. And in fact the arithmetic of amending the Constitution strongly favors the status quo. I think that if constitutions could be rewritten willy-nilly then there would be an important and critical loss of stability. . . . So I wouldn’t be in favor of allowing a sixty percent majority, for example, to amend the Constitution. Let’s keep it the way it is. Let’s make it hard.
Have a convention every twenty years, rewrite the first two amendments and keep the Constitution largely the same for stabilitys sake. Ahh, I see. Oh, wait, no I dont.
Id be interested in other impressions of Brands points though.