A Perfect Constitution

This one comes courtesy of a man named John Rawls.

It’s your job, perhaps along with a few others, to write up a new constitution. Cool, huh?

Well, you better be careful, because as soon as you, every one else among you on the council, sign their name on the new bill laying down the laws of the land, you all die… everyone. Perhaps by wood chipper, I dunno… but you die immediately.

Now, this is the cool part. You are reborn, under the very constitution you just formed. You’re not just reborn, you are shuffled randomly within that society. You could be a man or a woman. Rich or poor. Fat or skinny. Smart or stupid. Ugly or pretty. Straight or gay. Healthy or sick. Godless or with faith. Of any race, nationality, culture or religion. You get the idea.

Now, how would you cover your ass in such a scenario, and/or how close (or far off) does the current U.S. Constitution fit?

Drag out the writing of the constitution for several decades?

Funny guy!

First, I would allow the freedom to practice any religion that allows other religions to exist alongside it.

I know it’s a nitpick, but a constitution shouldn’t “allow” people to have rights; it should assume the people already have rights.

The only valid purpose of a constitution is to limit the government, not the people. People are free, and are born with rights. The government is not free, and does not have rights; it only has duties, powers, and responsibilities.

What if I change “allow” to “acknowledge”?

The notion that people have innate rights - that they are “born free” - is only made true by government fiat. “Natural rights” don’t really exist. It has a superficially intuitive persuasive power to it, but it’s really just a faith-based presupposition with nothing empirical behind it.

Having said all that, the best way to ensure a decent re-birth would be to try to secure some kind of reasonable econonic and class equity within the Constitution. Corporations would have to be tightly controlled, equal opportunity guaranteed, social services like health care and education free and universal, and a tax system progressive enough to prevent the kind of plutocratic oligarchy that is threatening the US.

You would also have to do your best to make civil rights and liberties as liberal and equitable as possible, of course, and that includes GLBT rights.

That’s an opinion, not a fact. I happen to believe every person is born with certain rights.

Okay, but rights you’re innately born with are useless to you. It’s only human-constructed rights that are worth anything, because those are the ones that actually get protected.

That’s like saying you believe every person is born with an invisible tail, and that anyone who says people aren’t born with invisible tails is expressing an opinion, not a fact. The default assumption is that X does not exist unless there is some reason to believe it does exist.

The fact also remaimns that wahetever rights people possess under a Constitution are granted by government fiat, unless you can demonstrate that governments have some ability to determine exactly what natural rights exist.

I really like this distinction. I’ve never really heard it put like this, but it is exactly how I feel.

For the sake of this thread, can we just say every human is assumed to have certain inalienable rights. Any government must be established first to protect them and not inhibit them.

What might these inalienable rights be?

I offer one:

  1. This government does not recognize racial, cultural, sexual, religious (or any metaphysical/faith) based distinction held by the People; only in so far that these distinctions, held by the People, do not inhibit or interfere with any or all inalienable rights held by this government body.

Shouldn’t this be in a separate thread?

I dunno? Wouldn’t determining rights be the very foundation of drawing up a new constitution?

No, that’s a straw man argument. No one has ever argued that every person is born with an invisible tail because it is factually false. By contrast, many men smarter than you and me, including a number of our Founding Fathers, have argued for the existence of inalienable rights. Our constitution is based on this belief.

You are free to not believe in the existence of natural rights. But you cannot factually say they don’t exist. Likewise, I cannot prove they exist. It’s simply a belief.

I do admit than in my first post I should have prefaced my statement with “IMHO”. :wink:

…and now the thread goes completely sideways. :slight_smile:

Shouldn’t a perfect constitution be in readable English? :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, shouldn’t a democratic constitution be in terms of what The People recognise, assert, permit, etc…?

Also, before getting into even the relatively abstract details of “rights”, I think an even more abstract (but more fundamental) point needs to be agreed upon: the basis of how the constitution is interpreted. Is the language of the constitution to be interpreted in a hundred years’ time according to the intent of the original writers of the constitution, or according to the lights of the times in a hundred years’ time?

And one other point to consider:
Do all/some/none of the constitutional rights extend to non-citizens?

Intangible tail then. But until you can demonstrate to me that inalienable rights exist empirically, I see no reason to assume that your supposition is true.

But what do you mean by a natural right? What does that mean in a practical sense? They clearly aren’t enforced by nature, the existence of people living under despotic regimes disproves that. The only reason you have any rights at all, and don’t live in a place where it is okay for someone to blow your brains out because they don’t like your face, is because you live in a society with laws and a constitution that says so, and has the ability to enforce this. That was written by men, and accepted by society. I think claiming natural rights is worse then something that can be shown to be either false or true: I think it is a meaningless statement.

Whatever rights we have are there because we can enforce them, either personally or because we live in a larger society that enforces them on our behalf. I think the founding fathers activity was less a commentary on the existence on unalienable rights, and more a declaration of unalienable rights that the country would be founded on. They’re more like mathematical axioms then real physical items: the country is defined on certain principles that are assumed to be true. That doesn’t mean that rights exist in the natural world, but they do exist in our society because we specifically structured it so they would.