The Constitution Writers

When I was a teenager, I played in various text-based roleplaying games, and one of the interests I had both in and out of character was the writing of constitutions. This may seem to be an odd interest, as most Americans are used to constitutions having been written clearly and often a long time ago and generally without frequently being re-written. It may seem even more odd for Brits, for whom a constitution is largely unwritten and organic, changing gradually but often deeply profoundly over time. In the role-playing games that I played, however, there were frequent changes in the composition of imaginary realms, often based on the union between separate realms in the attempt to increase mutual power with regards to the world as a whole, and this change in the composition of realms often meant the writing of constitutions to show shared values and create a common structure to help further mutual goals. This task was often done skillfully and with a great deal of flair, as well as helping out the ability that those of us who were the constitution writers in discussing and articulating our vision and worldview, a task that is useful (if somewhat rare) in one’s larger life.

As a constitution writer myself, albeit of a particularly unusual kind, I am generally intrigued when the chance comes to critique the constitution-writing skills of other people. I tend to have a high regard, with certain reservations, for the constitution-writing skills of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. Despite the fact that I disagree with the concessions made to slavery and the continuance of the slave trade, I am in agreement with Harold Jaffa and other political philosophers that our Constitution was the best possible outcome in dealing with a variety of concerns and attempting to balance the needs of present unity with the potential for future progress. The passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in particular represent the victory of the ideal of freedom as opposed to the lasting vestiges of feudal domination, despite the fact that the ideals of our founding are immensely difficult (if not impossible) to achieve apart from a deeply moral and biblical worldview, and even then they are far from straightforward in achieving [1]. Even in my own country, I see a great deal of backsliding from these ideals as opposed to a mistaken belief in the efficacy and legitimacy of increased government bloat, especially on the federal level, as well as the bankrupting of states as a result of a lack of restraint and a failure of general societal standards of morality and fair play.

That said, I am a lot more critical of those real life realms who re-write their constitutions with the frequency of my fellow role-playing buddies and I [2]. The United States has had, in its history as an independent Republic, two federal constitutions. The first was written in the exigencies of our fierce war of independence, and it was quickly found lacking. The second, written less than a decade after the first had been ratified, has endured for more than two centuries, and only occasionally amended in the time since then (most notably with the initial ten amendments that we call the Bill of Rights that addressed the concerns of early opponents of the constitution regarding the threat of tyrannical overreach by the federal government against the rights of the people and of the constituent states of our Republic, concerns that on the whole appear to have been reasonable in light of our recent history). Some nations, however, have not been so fortunate. Thailand stands as one of the most sorry examples of a nation that simply fails to get the point of a constitution, having put into effect seventeen constitutions or charters since 1932, with an 18th on the way [3]. A nation that cannot go a decade without a new constitution is a nation that does not know what it is doing.

In the United States, and other similarly well-developed nations, constitutions are the means by which people control their governments. The fact that Americans can point to the endurance of a single constitutional order going all the way back to our early days as an independent nation, and the fact that nations like Iceland and the United Kingdom can look back many centuries for their constitutional order as well is a sign of stability and viability as a nation. Constitutions are supposed to be, on the fundamental level, an expression of the cultural and moral worldview of the people and the structures and boundaries of government behavior in light of those foundations. As foundational documents, they are not supposed to change frequently, as a nation that has a firm idea of who it is does not change rapidly or profoundly. In contrast, those nations where constitutions represent the temporary imposition of force, like Thailand or the 19th century French nation, with its oscillation between Empires and Kingdoms and Republics tend to see a variety of charters resulting from these dramatic but temporary shifts in power. The fact that so many Thai constitutions have been written after coups suggests that the Thai monarchy has never learned the fundamental lesson of 1932, and that was that the monarch was no longer the sovereign will of the Thai people, but rather the servant of his nation. The frequent and futile attempts of the Thai monarchy and its military allies to endlessly overthrow elected governments [4] that continually produce hostile majorities, suggests that the biblical ethic of servant leadership has not taken root in Thailand, whatever the fatuous statements of some in considering this relentless bullying of the people to be examples of a “good and kind coup” [5].

What then, can we expect out of Thailand’s next constitution. For one, we cannot expect it to last for long, given their history and the fact that the coup will be pushed from above from an out-of-touch and out-of-control military leadership. There will probably be a lot of spots guaranteed in government for unelected ammart [that is, elites], and probably an attempt to criminalize any kind of criticism of the military and monarchy, preventing much-needed civil control over the military (in order to overcome the threat of future coups) as well as much-needed discussion about the future of the Thai monarchy and its need to become more like a servant and less like a putative ‘father.’ After this, we can expect elections to be held in which some political party that represents the North and Northeastern sections of Thailand to win either a plurality or even an outright majority, only to deal with continued hostility and the threat of future coups, leading to further instability in the result of an inability of Thailand to seek the best interests of all of its people and to act in ways that lead to internal growth and development. Until the will to power is diminished on the part of threatened and vulnerable and insecure elites, then all the constitution writing in the world is not going to make Thailand less of a disgrace to the world at large.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/common-core-and-the-politics-of-math-education/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/book-review-american-nations/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/book-review-the-panic-of-1857-and-the-coming-of-the-civil-war/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/great-moderate-victories/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/book-review-divided-they-fell/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/book-review-what-works/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/book-review-the-empire-of-necessity/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/brother-against-brother-a-civil-war-story/

[2] http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-06-27/news/50912397_1_thai-coup-leader-interim-constitution-new-constitution

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Thailand

[4] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/today-in-history-on-june-24-1932-the-thai-military-developed-an-unfortunate-coup-addiction/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-good-coup/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/why-thailand-is-a-third-world-country/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/a-non-book-review-thaistory/

[5] http://legacyinstitute.org/wordpress/2014/06/the-good-and-kind-coup/

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About Nathan Albright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Christianity, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Constitution Writers

  1. Pingback: Yacht Rock, Or, The Incestuousness Of Cultural Elites | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Five Thousand Year Leap | Edge Induced Cohesion

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