Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A little late for the 4th of July

There is a constitutional theory held in the United States called "Original Intent" or "Originalism" which puts a very high value on what the founding fathers of the United States said and meant when they wrote the Constitution back in the 1780s and 90s. In other words, if you can figure out exactly what their words meant back then, this should be your guide to what the Constitution means today. (I usually don't refer to that will o' the wisp Wikipedia, but the Originalism article has some interesting external links.) In a response to this, and to a more general reverence for the revolutionary generation, Mark Kurlansky in the LA Times writes an article opining that maybe the founding fathers (or more usually "the Founding Fathers") didn't know everything.

A point Kurlansky doesn't bring up, but is worth thinking about, is that the US Constitution is the oldest governing document in the world. Some argue for Britain's constitution (not a single document), which some date to 1689, but that hardly holds up when you look at the vast changes it has undergone in the 19th and 20th centuries and even since 1999 (huge changes in the structure of the House of Lords).

Anyone have another suggestion for an older constitution? San Marino?

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