From the beginning of our great country, there has been an ongoing debate: how should judges (the Supreme Court in particular) interpret the Constitution? That is, should it be interpreted as a “living” document (the liberal view), or should it be interpreted according to the framer's original intent (the conservative view)?
The Cliff Notes version of the supporting arguments to both positions is as follows. The “living” Constitution theory says that, although the Constitution was created in accordance with the societal norms of that time, society has changed and so, therefore, must the thinking in the Constitution. Consequently, judges must make commensurate changes, ones that will address modern society. On the other hand, the “original intent” group argues that the Constitution has an already-available amendment procedure to accomplish such societal changes, and it is adequate for any needed updates. They also argue that interpreting the Constitution as a “living” document turns the law into a moving target, located wherever the individual whims of justices may take it from time to time. They strongly believe that if true justice for all is to be achieved, the law itself must be addressed, not a judicial interpretation of it.
In the middle of this ongoing and intense debate, however, there is one important point – perhaps the most important point – that is ignored: the assumption that the Constitution was written based on the varying norms of society is simply not correct. Instead, the Constitution was written based on the unchanging condition of human nature. Society changes, but human nature does not, making that great document as valid today as it was the day it was written. Consequently, the original intent of the framers is the only thing we can look to, for guidance. So what do we find?
Liberals often cite the Constitution's original voting requirements as proof of their argument that what was written then is no longer applicable today. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, only male land owners were permitted to vote; women were entirely prohibited. Liberals, therefore, say that although that may have been acceptable in society when the Constitution was written, it is unacceptable today.
The process proscribed within the Constitution allowed the document to be amended, and without the help of any judicial interpretation. The founding fathers believed, as I do, that the long term welfare of our nation is best served by an informed, invested electorate. Thus, I question the assumption that the original intent fails at all – not only for these reasons, but due to the fact that women were not allowed to vote then because they were not regarded as well enough educated or informed, and that only property owners were thought to have enough of an investment in the long term welfare of the state to qualify as voters.
This was the framer’s original intent – they believed that such a requirement to qualify to vote was not unreasonable. Would we not be better off today if that principle were applied? It might have been better if the Constitution were more clear, stating outright that only informed citizens with a vested interest are allowed to vote, but clearly, the idea as it was manifested at the time of the writing is a sound one. If anyone today is regarded as well-informed, and non-land owners as vested, let them vote. But preserve the integrity of the system and erect a bar over which people must climb before voting. We will all be better off.
Instead, it has been determined that anyone should be able to vote, even though too many voters have no earthly idea what policy or party serves them best. National research demonstrates that more people know who Paula Abdul is than who know the three branches of government. This extension of voting rights to anyone and everyone has led to a huge bloc of people voting on emotion and only for their immediate gratification, as opposed to what best serves the country and even themselves in the long run. These voters are like the farmers who eat the seed corn and are therefore unable to plant in the spring.
The popular idea today is that the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy will become, helping everyone to feel he has a role in decision making. But more important for political stability is the economic welfare of the country. Hitler earned just 2% of the vote in the election before the Depression, but with economic hard times as a catalyst, he won outright. Can you think of any modern-day similar situation? Long term economic welfare would be much better served in a system that filtered qualified voters – those with at least a rudimentary knowledge of how our government works. This is not a new or radical idea – we require that vehicle drivers be licensed by passing tests before we allow them behind the wheel. Since the very welfare and viability of our country is at stake, especially our national security, should we tolerate anything less?
Some may say this is unfair, that everyone should vote, but is the system as it is set up today fair? Under our everyone-can-vote current system, one group can vote themselves another group’s private property, something certainly unfair and unlikely to occur if only property owners were voting. In the short run, expropriating private property may benefit a few, but in the long run it is ruinous for everyone.
The constitutional restrictions on voting (as they were written) should have been replaced, not eliminated. I won't speculate on what criteria should be applied, but real standards need to be set.
Our founding fathers were brilliant. They took the selfishness in human nature and, through capitalism and private property, harnessed it so as to do the greatest public good for the greatest number of people. We should listen closely to everything they said. After all, this experiment we call the United States of America has produced the greatest country in the history of mankind.