Tuesday, January 22, 2013

But George Washington says...

"People can, as they will have the advantage of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alteration(s) and amendment(s) which are necessary." "I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or posess more virtue, than those who will come after us." --George Washington, 1787

Now, this is a lovely quote, and the Constitution has been amended many times on this very principle. Indeed, it was barely out the door before the Bill of Rights added the first ten amendments. Even the repeal of an amendment has happened, so we can take it as generally agreed that not every amendment is a good idea, even though the vast majority of people thought so at the time.

It amuses me to no end, though, when people take this very general statement as some form of "proof" or "evidence" that their own specific position is correct. It's positively funny when they fall into logical fallacy and suggest that they themselves (rather than their opponents, or some third party ignored by both sides) must therefore be the ones possessed of more wisdom and virtue than the founding fathers.

Let's be clear. George Washington didn't know you or the rest of your generation. Any reasonable man could completely change his mind due to experience; we can only guess at what the result would be were President Washington to visit this century. The only thing that's certain is that this is not a magic prophecy endorsing your position, whatever it might be.

So... nice try. Nevertheless, the arguments still have to be made and evaluated on their own virtues; and if the Constitution is amended, it must be done through established means. And that means clearing a very high bar. It's absolutely intended to pose an inconvenience to those with the hubris to shove their ideology down your throat. Even when we've passed a bad amendment such as the 18th (Prohibition), the repeal has to clear the very same high bar (the 21st amendment did so).

The Constitution is absolutely intended to trump every law and edict, because the rights within are considered basic, and all of them have cleared that very high bar that mere laws and decrees (styled as "Executive Orders") have not. So anytime you imagine yourself or your chosen White Knight to be smarter or wiser than those who came before, and decry the fact that it is so very difficult impose your genius on the world due to this roadblock of a dusty old document, remember that your parents and grandparents managed to have the civil discourse and patience necessary to clear the high bar that your own argument has not even faced. Then it's time to perhaps re-evaluate your approach, as well as your opinion of yourself.


Note: I've been presented with this quote a number of times, from different sources, and was reminded of it today. If you've PERSONALLY SPOKEN to me on this subject, then this post may be for you.

Another Note: For some time now I've found myself posting rather long missives on Facebook and ignoring my blog. I'm going to stop that.