The Constitution

From Reinhardt’s Events Page:

Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell to Speak

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Those words are familiar to most Americans as the Preamble to our Constitution, and community members are invited to hear Justice Keith R. Blackwell of the Supreme Court of Georgia speak on the nature of this important document during Reinhardt’s Constitution Day on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, at 2 p.m. in the Bannister Glasshouse, Hasty Student Life Center on the University’s main campus in Waleska, Ga.

Blackwell, a native of Ball Ground, Ga., will be introduced by another long-time Cherokee County resident, S. Jeffrey Rusbridge, a principal with the law firm of Dyer & Rusbridge, P.C. of Canton, Ga. Rusbridge and Blackwell, who were college roommates and law school classmates, have been friends for many years.

Dr. Karen P. Owen, program director for the University’s Master of Public Administration program, has helped plan this event and hopes community members will take this opportunity to help celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

September 17 is the day when the original Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, and has been designated Constitution Day since 2004. All universities that receive federal funds (i.e., all of them) must by law provide Constitution-themed educational programming on that day. I’m pleased that Reinhardt is doing something this notable.

I have always been impressed by the place of the Constitution in this country. The US is one of the oldest constitutional democracies on earth; as Mark Steyn once put it:

We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany’s constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy’s only to the 1940s, and Belgium’s goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it’s not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France’s, Germany’s, Italy’s or Spain’s constitution, it’s older than all of them put together.

But how could it be otherwise? When you’ve got a “proposition nation” like the U.S. is, the Constitution takes on an outsized importance – it quite literally constitutes the country. (France might change constitutions, but no one doubts that France, with its historic language, cuisine, and culture, will still be there.)

Alas, the Constitution is deliberately difficult to change. In some ways this is a good thing, in accord with how seriously we take it. In some ways it is a bad thing, because some changes should not require constitutional amendments. This has led to the whole tradition of the Living Constitution, which to my mind is a worse situation. As Jonah Goldberg once put it:

The idea is simple. Al Gore summed it up pretty well when he was asked during the 2000 campaign what kind of judges he’d appoint. “I would look for justices of the Supreme Court who understand that our Constitution is a living and breathing document, that it was intended by our founders to be interpreted in the light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people.”

The most popular argument against a “living Constitution” is also pretty simple. Once you accept the proposition that the words on the page can mean what you want them to mean, well, then the words on the page matter less than the views of those we select to interpret them. Once this happens, the Court in effect becomes an unelected and unaccountable legislature.


The only good constitution is a dead constitution… The rules of the dead keep us free. Imagine you’re playing baseball and all the rules can be changed mid-game.

Technically you’d be more “free.” After all, you could vote to eliminate strikes and balls. You could choose to run to third base first or extend the innings indefinitely until you win. But then again, so could everyone else. In other words, if you don’t set the rules in advance you don’t get freedom, you get anarchy. You don’t get a baseball game, you get a bunch of guys running around in funny clothes with clubs.

I do not think, though, that Jesus bestowed the Constitution on us.