Last year's bicentennial of the Constitution prompted countless pages of misty-eyed praise and celebration. We can expect more of the same next year for the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights.
But before we offer the Framers yet another toast we should look at the results of their handiwork and give serious consideration to convening a new constitutional convention.The United States today has the highest crime rate of any industrial society, a homeless crisis, an unparalleled illegal drug problem and a perpetually unbalanced budget.
Now wait a minute, you say, how can we blame all of this on men who lived 200 years ago? Aren't we the ones who got into this mess? Aren't we all to blame?
Absolutely. And that's the problem. Our Constitution doesn't allow us to hold anyone, political leader or branch of government, accountable.
Try taking the president to task for the crime problem or infant mortality, and he'll say those are local or state concerns. Make your mayor or city council answer for the same mess and they'll wail the problem is national in scope.
Everyone blames someone else.
And why not? The Constitution not only allows and encourages them to do it, it has all of us handcuffed.
The Constitution makes an irrational division of responsibilities between federal and state; executive; legislative and judicial. It misallocates resources and responsibilities. For example, taxing powers go to the federal government, police power to the states.
Moreover, it forces politicians to engage in perpetual, expensive campaigns, making them hostages to special interests and PACs. And the Constitution enshrines arcane procedural roadblocks that allow special-interest groups to push for the veto of any decisive action.
Can't we fix these problems without rewriting the Constitution? Well, we've tried. Intelligent, hard-working congressmen have recognized the problems and exhausted themselves on them for years without success.
Can we start fooling around with the Constitution, though? Isn't it the only bulwark of our freedom, the only safety net between us and despotism? Hardly.
The Framers created the largest republic in the history of mankind. They designed a system that would both protect civil liberties and deal effectively with the massive economic and social dislocations left behind by the Revolutionary War and the Continental Congress. And they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
But their handiwork is suffering from terminal arteriosclerosis. Just because our Founding Fathers were inspired doesn't mean we have to worship their 18th century mechanism until it strangles us.
Just 14 years after they conceived the Continental Congress the Framers saw its problems and scrapped it. After 201 years let's have the courage to follow their example.