Our Living (That Is, Amendable) Constitution

Proponents of “living constitutionalism” or other non-originalist theories of constitutional law sometimes argue that our now 230-year-old Constitution wasn’t designed for current social conditions. Prevailing attitudes on a variety of subjects have changed dramatically since 1787, critics of originalism say. Judges must be allowed to augment or update the Constitution to keep it “relevant.”

But the Framers themselves anticipated the need for periodic revision of our national charter, providing, in Article V, a mechanism for its amendment. That mechanism has been invoked 27 times, so far.

In other words, the Constitution is a living document even without fanciful judicial lawmaking. It can, with a sufficient consensus (a two-step process culminating with ratification by three-quarters of the states), be altered to suit the requirements of an evolving polity. Some of the constitutional amendments now seem so elemental that we cannot imagine the document without them, such as the Bill of Rights, the abolition of slavery, full suffrage, and equality before the law for all citizens. Others—such as the federal income tax and direct election of senators—have altered the national government in ways that are subtle but profound. Some, such as the ill-fated experiment with Prohibition, seem foolish in hindsight.

Read More at Law & Liberty

  • “Mark Pulliam is one of the few truly fearless, devastatingly incisive, original and yet deeply learned commentators on the contemporary legal scene.  His new blog is a welcome addition and a splendid and provocative resource.”
    Professor Stephen B. Presser
    Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Law
  • “Mark Pulliam is the Walt Longmire of legal conservatism. You don't want to be on the wrong end of his pen. His commentary on law, politics, and policy is not to be missed.”
    Richard Reinsch II
    Director of Law and Liberty, Liberty Fund, Inc.
  • “Mark's blistering criticism of the foibles of the lawyering class and crackpot judges is a worthy penance for a recovering attorney. And it is our gain.”
    Michael Thompson
    Shareholder, Wright & Greenhill, P.C.
  • “Maybe this man’s degree is written in crayon."
    StupidEvilBastard.com
    StupidEvilBastard.com
  • “With the flourish of a pen, Mark Pulliam makes bad guys rhetorically bleed and weak guys physically cringe. It's awesome.”
    Michael Quinn Sullivan
    President & CEO, Empower Texans
  • "Mark Pulliam, writer and thinker extraordinaire, has a new blog. Make sure to visit and register. Mark Pulliam's new blog is a thing of wit and intelligence."
    Bradley J. Birzer
    Professor of History, Hillsdale College, President of the American Ideas Institute, and editor at large of The Imaginative Conservative
Featured In

Sign up for updates

Get the latest updates, news, and alerts directly from the source.
We promise, we don't spam.

Featured Tweets

Larry Tribe is like a compass, only in reverse. His opinion is the magnetic north of error. Whatever he says, the o… https://t.co/y3ZYDciTs7
- Tuesday Dec 1 - 2:27pm