The American Constitution’s Popularity is Waning; Other Constitutions No Longer Care What Music it Listens To or What Clothes it Wears

The popularity of the American constitution is apparently on a decline, as indicated by its influence over the drafting of new constitutions (over the last 70 years). At least, that’s what a forthcoming study in the New York University Law Review will argue:

The study, to be published in June in The New York University Law Review, bristles with data. Its authors coded and analyzed the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and they considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them.

“Among the world’s democracies,” Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.

“The turn of the twenty-first century, however, saw the beginning of a steep plunge that continues through the most recent years for which we have data, to the point that the constitutions of the world’s democracies are, on average, less similar to the U.S. Constitution now than they were at the end of World War II.”

Yes, it would seem that the American Constitution is about a decade away from being denied its seat at the cool kids table; no longer will it be invited to the awesome Constitution parties that those South American constitutions are always throwing. And I heard a rumor that no one is going to show up to it’s birthday party this summer, either.

But what constitution shall replace that storied bit of paper scrawled on by the hands of slave-owning oligarchs?

Mr. Barak [a noted legal scholar and former President of the Israeli Supreme Court], for his part, identified a new constitutional superpower: “Canadian law,” he wrote, “serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.” The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Good Lord, Canada? Really? What kind of a sissy constitution guarantees women and criminals equal rights? What is the world coming to? Luckily, noted anthropomorphized horse rectum Antonin Scalia weighed in on this issue:

“The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours,” he said, adding: “We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff!”

“Of course,” Justice Scalia continued, “it’s just words on paper, what our framers would have called a ‘parchment guarantee.’”

Goddamn right! Those other constitutions don’t have the balls to enforce their provisions! You want a constitution with balls? Then you want the American Constitution! What are you gonna do when Constitution-mania runs wild all over you?!

David Brooks Has a Fever, and the Only Prescription is…More Tradition?

It’s Friday, and you know what that means: someone at the New York Times filled up the burlap sack that is David Brooks and then slowly squeezed it until a steady stream of wind, reminiscent of flatulent poetry, escaped and filled the morning air. Today, in a column entitled “How to Fight the Man,” David Brooks regales us with his theory as to why the current ideological demeanor of youthful protestors is philosophically flaccid. Basically, Brooks suggests that you become the Man. Because fighting yourself is just silly.

Brooks starts slow today, however, preferring subtlety to the sledgehammer of stupidity he wielded on Tuesday. He begins by describing this video, which I will link to but not watch because I have no interest in watching a millennial rhyme about Jesus. In any case, this ersatz poet, one Jefferson (you’ve got to be kidding me) Bethke, apparently did not have the courage of his convictions and folded like laundry when confronted with the argumentative weight of a theological blogger. Yes, Mr. Bethke could not even withstand the pressure of someone who writes about Jesus on the Internet.

This impotence, Brooks argues, is significant because it belies a great problem with today’s protesters: namely, their coddled miens and the childish conviction that experience outweighs tradition make it impossible for them to oppose authority for any significant period of time:

Bethke’s passionate polemic and subsequent retreat are symptomatic of a lot of the protest cries we hear these days. This seems to be a moment when many people — in religion, economics and politics — are disgusted by current institutions, but then they are vague about what sorts of institutions should replace them.

This seems to be a moment of fervent protest movements that are ultimately vague and ineffectual.

We can all theorize why the intense desire for change has so far produced relatively few coherent recipes for change. Maybe people today are simply too deferential. Raised to get college recommendations, maybe they lack the oppositional mentality necessary for revolt. Maybe people are too distracted.

What could Brooks possibly be alluding to here? I vaguely recall a recent protest movement that galvanized thousands of individuals and led to occupations of land in major urban areas, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the name of that protest. I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway, because protesting current political or cultural situations is ultimately a waste of time if you haven’t had the honor of choking on the fetid wind of the Enlightenment philosophers. But Brooks, as we all know, has some ideas about what’s going on. And as you probably guessed, it has something to do with tradition:

If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn’t provided you with a good knowledge of countercultural viewpoints — ranging from Thoreau to Maritain— then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.

In other words, stop playing Xbox and smoking weed and read some Thomist philosophy. That will set your whiny, millennial ass straight, because nothing spurs social change like some post-Aquinian metaphysics.

I’ll admit that today’s column is not Brooks’s worst; all he’s really saying is “do your fucking homework.” I can’t disagree with that, as much as it pains me. What I find problematic is the implication that a countercultural ideology is somehow a waste of time unless one has a degree in philosophy. Moreover, I doubt that subservience to tradition is inherently good, especially where tradition is plainly wrong.

Also, I just saw part of that video. Someone needs to slap that wanker in the face.

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