Taking a constitutional…

Posted: 11 October 2011 in Uncategorized

You know, the older I get, the more I come to the almost inevitable conclusion that the Colonies have it about right: a written constitution is a good idea.

There’s a myth that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. We do have one. We just have it in umpteen (a technical term, you understand) different laws, statutes, statutory instruments, etc.

What we don’t have is a single codified document entitled “The Constitution”. And not only do I think we should have such a single codified document, I think that we could do a lot worse than look at our American cousins’ one as a general guide.

Now, sure enough, I can’t stand the second amendment, or at least the interpretation that’s been put on it ever since the US created a standing army, which never existed at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified. And I still prefer a parliamentary system rather than the entire separation of the executive and legislature…

And yes, I know that for a couple of hundred years, people have been arguing about the precise meanings of not only the second amendment but the entire document. After all, that’s what the Supreme Court spends almost all of its time doing. Well, that and paperwork. And ok, every so often (every hundred years or so) they sometimes have to give the Chief Justice a few days off to supervise a Presidential impeachment.

But I do like a lot of it, particularly the first amendment.

You remember that? It’s the one that goes:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, as fans of Alistair Cooke will recall, he never tired of reminding people of the qualifier “peaceably”.

However, I am long past tired of people, ignorant, [knowingly or unknowingly] stupid people, who – whenever a message board censors something they’ve written, or (as happened fairly recently) Twitter removing what they considered to be an offensive hashtag trend – complain that their first amendment rights have been infringed.

I’d ask if they were so ignorant of their own bloody Constitution that they don’t know that the first amendment does not apply to any private organisation, only Congress, but the answer is obviously, sadly, yes.

  1. I agree with you. Also, the First Amendment does not prohibit consequences either. The government cannot stop you from calling someone a rapist, but if that person isn’t, they can sue you.

    That’s why you call them a shithead. :-) It’s harder to disprove in court.

  2. And then of course, when you’ve got your own country’s constitution spread out across multiple pieces of legal work – a habit mine picked up from yours, apparently – nailing down which piece of paper has priority over which can be a pain in the chair-dock.

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