Constitution 101

Last week I signed up for the Hillsdale online course called Constitution 101 and purchased a copy of the The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. One of the commenters on the Powerline Blog mentioned the course and considering my recent fascination with our founders arguments in the process of writing the Constitution. Over the last two years this curiosity has led me to listen to audiobooks on the Anti-Federalist and Federalist papers and to purchase a pocket copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What I found so fascinating about these documents and their authors is that the language and the factions may have changed but the problems they faced are very similar to the problems we face today. We are still arguing over the definition of equality, what is the scope of federal power, and how to a form of government that works for the people. To further my understanding of our Constitution, I am hoping to stretch myself mentally and try to imagine what the constitution writers in Iraq and Egypt are facing.

Here is the comment I made on the Powerline Blog called Liberals and the Constitution.

Since I recently finished listening to the audio-book version of "The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century", I was surprised with Justice Ginsburg’s comments. She starts out her interview congratulating Egypt on deposing Hosni Mubarak and then she immediately jumps to promoting human rights in the new Egyptian constitution. Since I doubt Egyptians and Justice Ginsburg agree on the definition of human rights, this was a curious effort on her part.
I was also surprised that she so quickly wrote off the constitutional efforts of our founding fathers at forming a stable government and balancing the political powers. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison tried to incorporate the best parts of existing governments at that time when they put together the Constitution. They also tried to balance the expectations of the various political factions. I expect the Egyptians will do the same  unless they suddenly have a change of heart toward Mubarak and the competing political interests. Egypt does not need to follow our constitutional model but they absolutely must find an appropriate balance of political power and safeguards to prevent the next dictator from attaining power. If they can show the world that they have a stable, workable government then they can start making some progress knocking down the unemployment and defusing the widespread distrust. Human rights issues are important but like the United States, this balance of power issue must be solved or there will blood in the streets.