In the most recent publication of the Texas Exes’ Alcade, I found there to be a particularly interesting article written by Sanford Levinson called “Reframing the Constitution”. The article is extremely well written and I encourage everyone to read it for themselves, but the main point of the article is that the people of the United States should consider re-vamping the Constitution in a new constitutional convention. His argument is that “there are some truly serious deficiencies with the Constitution that are highly detrimental to our ability to meet the challenges that we face as a nation”.
Levinson also raises some very interesting points in relation to what the framers of the constitution believed. When the Constitution was drafted in 1787-88, the world was a very different place and the issues facing our country were less complex. The founders couldn’t have predicted the exponential increases in complexity and non-linearity of events that would emerge as a result of globalization and technological innovations.
A good way to look at how complex the world has gotten from the 18th century is by looking at an excerpt describing the brief history of the global economy from Eric Beinhocker’s book The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics:
To summarize 2.5 million years of economic history in brief: for a very, very, very long time not much happened; then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. It took 99.4 percent of economic history to reach the wealth levels of the Yanomamo, 0.59 percent to double that level by 1750, and then 0.01 percent for global wealth to leap to the levels of the modern world. Another way to think of it is that over 97 percent of humanity’s wealth was created in just the last 0.01 percent of our history. As the economic historian David Landes describes it, “the Englishman of 1750 were closer in material things to Caesar’s legionnaires than to his own great-grand-children.”
Why are we requiring ourselves to be governed by a document written and based in principles and mental models of how the world works from a period in time that has more in common with Caesar than with the complex world we are living in?
Levinson’s smoking gun (in my very humble opinion) in the article is a quote from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816 to his friend Samuel Kercheval:
“Some men look at Constitutions with reverence and deem them too scared to be touched. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes… but I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.”