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Our Undemocratic Constitution - Sanford Levinson, 2008

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CSW COLLEGE

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documents in English
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book reviews
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4 pages
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  1. The bicameral legislature and its inefficiencies
  2. The life tenure of Supreme Court justices
  3. The qualifications to become President or a member of Congress
  4. The "Iron cage" created by Article V

In "Our Undemocratic Constitution" by Sanford Levinson, the author argues that the Constitution has become outdated, and that it must be changed. His basic premise is that our nation was not the same as it was during the Constitutional Convention in the late 18th century, and in order to remain effective and democratic, it must be updated to suite the modern needs of our time. In the book, Levinson criticizes the difficulties posed by the structure of the U.S. Senate, the life tenure of Supreme Court Justices, the creation of Second Class Citizens in our nation, the difficulty of passing Constitutional Amendments as a result of Article V, as well as many other issues he considers undemocratic.

[...] I think that if the Constitution is changed, a good idea would be to lessen the number of States that agree to the Amendments, and make the majority of States instead of three fourths of States enough to amend the Constitution. This would make amending the Constitution much more possible, it would more or less eliminate the problem of only small States getting together to block an Amendment, and it would be more in line with the democratic spirit of our country and the ideal of majority rules. With three fourths of States necessary to ratify, it seems as though the minority rules. Levinson makes many excellent points regarding our current Constitution. [...]


[...] He argues that a life tenure is completely unnecessary, and that it is idea whose time has passed? (Levinson, 123). One of the main problems is that life tenure encourages very old and often extremely ?traditional? justices who do not see eye to eye with much of the American public. Many of these justices tend to be very conservative, and given their old age, they value things that were popular during their experiences while growing up rather than looking at modern day experiences. [...]


[...] Removing enormous powers from small State legislatures would be a great victory for a majority of citizens, and it would prevent ear marks and pet projects such as the Alaskan ?Bridge to Nowhere.? If we are to modify our Constitution, we must do so very carefully, and only with the support of the majority of our citizens. If this process does in fact begin and results in chaos and major controversy, it may be best to abandon the idea and settle with a lesser evil. Levinson appreciates this and does not recommend instant, radical change. [...]


[...] I would have to agree with Levinson that this is completely unfair and unnecessary. An 18-year term seems enough for a Supreme Court Justice, and the problems associated with reelection are eliminated if only one term is allowed. In this way, a justice will not serve on the bench for a longer period of time than his body will allow. Levinson points out stories of justices who stayed on the bench despite their deteriorating health and old age, becoming completely incompetent and inefficient in properly analyzing the Constitution. [...]

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