Dialogues: Shackled to a relic while the world moves on

Two or three hundred years from now, when historians dissect the fall of the American Empire, the consensus will be that the City on a Hill crumbled because of a counterproductive devotion to a superstitious religion.

It’s not Christianity, not free enterprise and not even an insatiable urge to police the world.

No, the fatal religion will have been unyielding faith in a piece of parchment that each night is lowered into a nuclear bomb-proof chamber a hundred feet below the National Archives.

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Langer on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 3:31am
Title: Part 2 of 2

Because of chronic, habitual lack of fidelity probably 99% of what happens in Congress is unconstitutional and I would be quite surprised if very many politicians or even SCOTUS justices were able to identify or even acknowledge the Constitutional limitations on Congressional actions.  What we have now is a perversion of the system set forth in our Constitution.

What many of us would like to see is a restoration of the liberties guaranteed us so we can build our lives and dreams ourselves to be what we want to be, or fail and start anew.

What you, Matt, and what Fareed Zakaria are apparently seeking is what you think would be utopia. Unfortunately you’re unable to envision the enslavement inherent in that utopian government.

Regrettably, because of inconstancy, that enslavement has already consumed much of our nation.

Langer on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 3:43am
Title: Part 1 of 2

No, Matt.  If we fall it will be for precisely the opposite reason you cite; it will be for lack of adherence to that hallowed parchment document.

There would be no question about our credit worthiness if politicians hadn’t been so intent on increasing their individual power and wealth that they ignored their sworn oaths and far exceeded the strict limitations placed on them by our Constitution.

Perhaps I’m in partial agreement with you but for for a different reason. I honestly can’t see that anything in our Constitution allows the government into my underwear or bed.

As for the Patriot Act, it was wrong when it was shoved through but it was wrong as well when our current Vice President drafted a similar measure before 9/11. Once again, though, those sworn oaths were meaningless and it was accepted regardless.

Hereford Steve on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 5:39am


You almost had me going.

brian on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 9:41am

what a tool.  Failed miserably at trying to comment on sports and got promoted to politcal commentary, a job for which he has even less talent or credentials.  But at least his grammar has improved.  Wonder if it ever occured to Professor Hickman that "His Majesty" is is not a single person in history, but the offices of federal govt.  Put in that context, the Consititution no longer is an outdated relic the Constitution is it?

FreeThinker on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 11:05am

"What you, Matt, and what Fareed Zakaria are apparently seeking is what you think would be utopia. Unfortunately you’re unable to envision the enslavement inherent in that utopian governmentt."

That’s because they really believe they will be a member of the Bourgeois class, thus their utopia, everyone else excluded. If they ever achieved this enslavement utopia they dream of, Matt will be rendered obsolete & will find himself, along with the other proletariat’s & useful idiots, playing checkers in the park with the rest of us commoners/serfs/"Desirable Ones". In their eyes they will always believe they are separate from us, but in the eyes of those he helped champion to power, they will be equal to us, and excluded from them, the new Bourgeois class.

Go ahead Matt, surrender you liberties to the elite ruling bourgeois class & you too can enjoy mowing Judge Smells lawn.


FreeThinker on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 11:30am

The fall of the American empire? Being a bit presumptuous with your wishful thinking eh Matt? Has your side finally thrown in the towel with re-writing history & misconstruing the intentions of the founders of this nation? Have you finally tapped out on reciting the Constitution for how you want it to be written?

It’s like a WWE pro wrestling match with you & your ilk. The "Good Guys", a.k.a. "Baby Face" has his opponent, the "Masked Heel", right where he wants him. The crowd is on their feet with excitement & the adrenaline is running wild as their champion, the "Baby Face" is slowly removing the mask from the "Heel" 

Has the mask finally been removed for all of us to see who you really are?

Langer on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 7:43pm

Thank you, Free Thinker.

Peter on Sun, 09/04/2011 - 8:08pm
Title: 2nd Amendment

Whatever the original intent was for the 2nd Amendment, it certainly was not "to keep His Majesty from taking your stuff". The 2nd Amendment was written in 1789 and ratified in 1791. America had long since declared its independence and defeated His Majesty, King George, in the revolutionary war.

But if Mr. Hickman meant "His Majesty" to be a metaphor for any head of government who threatens to take away the people’s freedom (which is "stuff" of great value), he might be right.

Matt Hickman on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 12:23am

his majesty was not beaten in the revolutionary war, just beaten back… what do you think the war of 1812, from whence we get pur star spangled banner was all about? as late as the civil war, when it seemed apparent america couldn’t function on its own there was a grave concern the british would come back to clean up the carcass.

abninf on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 6:09am

your POV has been rebutted rather succinctly.  Your commentary does have the potential to be a decent discussion. Will you reply to further clarify your position? 

mpjatvtcdotnet on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 6:22am

There are too many errors in this editorial. It says 4 presidents have died
on July 4; fact, it’s 3. It imagines asking about the 4th Amendment in 1787;
fact, the Amendments weren’t proposed until 1789. It says the 2nd & 4th
Amendments protect us against His Majesty; fact, we won independence from His
Majesty six years before the Amendments came along. It says Bush “just up and
created” the Department of Homeland Security just days after 9/11; fact, Bush
organized an Office of H.S. quickly, but the Department wasn’t created by
Bush snapping his fingers, it was created by a vote of Congress in November
2002. The author says he sees Constitutional scholars as mothers treating
their toddlers’ letters like “Finnegan’s Wake;” actually, it’s Finnegans, no
apostrophe). With all due respect, the author doesn’t appear schooled enough
to look down on scholars, or call the Constitution “a corpse we are all
shackled to.” Our present problems aren’t as bad as what we faced in the
Civil War,

davidmmorgan on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 8:57am

 If the American Empire is declining then we can place the blame squarely on thinking like nationalistic imperialists, not on inadequate constitutions. - We needn’t think of Constitution(s) as sacred documents in order to understand the value of reliable rulebooks that are carefully crafted and modified only occasionally, slowly and with great effort.  We plan careers, make investments, take out 30-year mortgages based on assumptions that the rules won’t change too drastically or too quickly. - Constitutions and rulebooks aren’t designed to decide in advance how to handle every conceivable, and inconceivable, situation.  For that we have "local rules" that are more rapidly enabled and modified (and sometimes rescinded when it becomes clear that they conflict with the more basic rulebook). <

davidmmorgan on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 8:59am

 Certainly the original writers of our Constitutions could not know what would happen in the future and anticipate every condition.  They were not clairvoyant and did not need to be. - For the most part our Constitutions attempt to protect the individual from fellow citizens who would use the power of government to restrict him if deviating from the norm. But if we, as individuals, or as a society, are not more productive, innovative, and competitive we will decline in importance and influence and be comparatively less affluent.  - Ignoring, changing or eliminating our Constitution(s) won’t change that equation.

mpjatvtcdotnet on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 9:16am

Our present problems aren’t as bad as what we faced in the Civil War, or the Great Depression, or the Cold War, which we muddled through without dumping the Constitution.

mpjatvtcdotnet on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 10:34am

Matt’s argument isn’t getting stronger.  Matt may not think His Majesty was beaten, but George knew he was.  George almost abdicated over losing America, and when he met America’s first ambassador to England, George said "the separation having been made … I have always said … that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power."  And does Matt seriously think that people were talking in 1787 about the War Of 1812? — a war, by the way, in which Britain raided America but had no hopes of re-conquering it.  Nor, in our Civil War, was there any concern about Britain "coming back" and re-taking territory; Britain hoped only to weaken America’s economic power.  And what’s this "from whence" comment?  That kind of English should go back to from whence it came.

Langer on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 10:51am

It’s a common error but you’re writing for the public, Matt, don’t cause your English teachers to wince.  The useage is either "from where" or simply "whence," not "from whence" which mean from wherefrom.

arclighter on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 11:17am

"Take for instance, abortion…
The argument against it is that we need greater native-born population in order to be less dependent on immigration in the work force. Or, less pragmatically, abortions make God angry."

What?  The argument made by 99.9 percent of anti-abortionists is that abortion is murder.   Haven’t seen any signs in front of abortion clinics agruing for a larger domistic work force.

Seriously?  This guy can make a living writing this? 


iare on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 12:20pm

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

Matt let me say WOW! kind of when big here but a great surprise this AM. As I read the comments I’m reluctant to pile on but them cottage industries is mostly pork truth be told but I was also struck by this:


If you are able to set aside your personal feelings about near and dear things like the Constitution, the flag, mom, apple pie and all the men who died to protect our freedom; and look at the matter coldly and calculatingly, can you honestly say he’s wrong?”


The fact that we can no longer look “coldly and calculatingly” at any issue is what I find amazing I hate to point out the comments being directed at you now but hey. I mean this is a strange time in America FACTS are treated as opinion and opinion offered as fact. How do you have a emotional Vs. fact debate? You kind of tried to split the middle offering up Mr. Bush as an idiot for his stance on abortion and not any of the lasting policies and you can pick your own my pet peeve is how the heck do you classify everything? See from my point of view is if you classify everything nothing is safe but thats me.

Matt Hickman on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 2:48pm

abortion is murder’ is neither an untenable nor foolish argument against abortion, but it is less pragmatic and can fall under the penumbra of ‘abortions make god angry.’

pat buchanan, among others, has made the argument against legalized abortion based on a diminished native-born work force. that is a pragmatic argument.

Knight Rider on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 3:54pm
Title: Wow...

Can someone translate this nonsensical rambling for me?

S.V. Fire House Cat on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 4:31pm

K.R., Lets meet at the Olive Garden or Applebees and figue it out!

Matt Hickman on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 5:14pm
Title: off track

i figured there would be some rabble over this but i didn’t think it would be so much about the logistics of a british re-invasion after the revolutionary war… in fact, i was merely citing that as a means of showing the imminent fears that were driving the mindset of the authors… if you’d prefer, i could say contempt for the british and a desire to be not like them (for example, the third amendment as a reaction against british soldiers commandeering american homes) were a driving motivation. either way, my point would stand that the founding fathers were not thinking as long-term as we like to imagine they were.

it really wasn’t my central point, rather just a device to get from point a to point b. as a writer, you’ve failed whenever readers are more interested in your devices than your thesis… so… my bad.

i was hoping the discussion would be more about the future and how the u.s. and its gridlock can continue to compete with other major countries whose governments, while not necessarily totalitarian, can get things done much more quickly.


iare on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 6:17pm

Too bad KR!

Knight Rider on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 9:11pm

We might have to make it Denny’s or some other 24 hour place, this is some incoherent garbage.

Knight Rider on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 9:17pm
Title: I got it...

You are a tea partier aren’t you? It would explain everything.

Ran Talbott on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 10:01pm

It might’ve helped if you’d laid a better foundation.

I went looking for the Zakaria piece on “Why America Needs a Prime
Minister” that was supposed to be a cornerstone, but all I got back from
google is the pirated copies of your column on freerepublic and glocktalk.

Then there’s your revisionist history of the Bush years. Bush didn’t “just up
and created the Department of Homeland Security”: it was a Democratic idea
that he resisted until his handlers decided it was good PR to be seen to be
Doing Something About the Crisis (tm).

Nor did he “cram through” USAPATRIOT: while it was largely crafted by the
heavy hands of Republican neo-monarchists, it was eagerly snatched from those
hands by a Congress desperate to show that they, too, were Mighty Macho
Turrist Fahhters.

And Bush didn’t start the Iraq War single-handedly, it took a huge selling
job to bring it off.

mpjatvtcdotnet on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 10:32pm

Matt, what do you mean by saying you figured there would "some rabble over this"?  Do you mean to call your readers rabble, or do you think that "rabble" means "argument"?  Your misuse of the word "rabble" is another example of the problem:  you had a fascinating thesis, and a clear one — but way too many "facts" you offered in support were simply wrong.  It wasn’t your devices that were wrong — historical examples are always a good device — you were simply wrong in substance, and no fancy "device" could save that.  The best structure in the world means nothing if it’s built on sand.  Why not try making your argument using better history?  I’m sure everyone will want to see if you can make that work.

boxerjam on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 3:32am

Exactly how would a parlimentary system help?  Also if we didn’t vote in the most naive, uneducated, low IQ people like the tea party we wouldn’t need the discussion. 

iare on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 9:38am

"You are a tea partier aren’t you?" It would explain everything." Nope I believe in Science and cold hard facts, kind of means I can’t be in the tea party.

iare on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 10:54am

The key to Know Nothing success in 1854 was the collapse of the second party system, brought about primarily by the demise of the Whig party. The Whig party, weakened for years by internal dissent and chronic factionalism, was nearly destroyed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Growing anti-party sentiment, fueled by anti-slavery as well as temperance and nativism, also contributed to the disintegration of the party system. The collapsing second party system gave the Know Nothings a much larger pool of potential converts than was available to previous nativist organizations, allowing the Order to succeed where older nativist groups had failed.

– Tyler G. Anbinder, Nativism and Slavery, p. 95

Just a Little History Repeating!


Matt Hickman on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 12:00pm
Title: 19 days

 tom ridge was named the first head of homeland security 19 days afrter sept. 11, and 19 days after that the patriot act, which many members of congress admitted to never actually reading, was passed… if thats not just up and ramming through, i dont know what is.

5280 on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 4:18pm
Title: Wrong

Tom ridge was named Secratary of Homeland Security on January 2003.  Source: dhs.Gov.

Doesnt anyone ever check anything anymore?

5280 on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 4:25pm
Title: Uh duh

Never mind my bad, I double checked myself. He was sworn in as DIRECTOR of the Office of Homeland Security October 8th 2001.  He was sworn in as SECRATARY of Department of Homeland security in 2003.


At least I correct myself rather than double down like some on here.

Matt Hickman on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 5:12pm

Tom Ridge was sworn in as the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security in October 2001, following the tragic events of September 11.


- from dhs.gov… see link


Ran Talbott on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 10:32pm

Ridge was brought in as a staff advisor to Bush, not as a manager with any
executive authority. That had to wait until Congress did the re-organization
a year later.

And USAPATRIOT was presented to a Congress already falling all over itself
trying to come up with anti-terror legislation. There was no
parliamentary-style party discipline, none of the strong-arming that, e.g.,
LBJ did to “cram through” civil rights and other legislation, or even any
whipping of votes. It would be more apt to say it was “sucked” through

But, in any case, those are hardly shining examples of How Things Ought to

Yes, that pesky Constitution sometimes slows things down. The processes it
created sometimes get abused.

But, overall, those abuses are less harmful than the ones that happen in
other systems.

Just ask those Chinese peasants.

Myron Jaworsky on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 10:58pm

Although I strongly disagree with your hyperbolic comment that the Constitution is a relic, it’s gratifying to read something that hasn’t been reflexively liberal or conservative.  Clearly, our country is facing a major crisis in political economy.  That’s the real message of the Standard & Poor downgrade of US sovereign debt, not the nonsense about deficits.  Anyone with a basic knowledge of the bond markets knows this because, even with the downgrade, long-term interest rates on US long-term Treasuries has gone down, not up.  The only reason it’s not worse is that we still are the last best hope of the world.  There’s no place else to go.  But the problems will only get worse, no matter who is elected to what office if all that’s offered are old bromides.

The Constitution is supple enough to support a parliamentary-style government, American-style.  Apart from remedying its biggest shortcoming, the lifetime appointment of Supreme Court

Whetstone Green on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 10:59pm

"I went looking for the Zakaria piece on “Why America Needs a Prime Minister” that was supposed to be a cornerstone, but all I got back from google is the pirated copies of your column on freerepublic and glocktalk."

RT, it took me less than 5 minutes to find the subject blog…


Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 9:32am

Matt you are clueless. The constitution was put in place to protect us from government. You want to get rid of it so that government can take more freedom from you. It has worked for over 200 years now and had somewhat kept the government in check. The problem we have today is the government doing more than what it was supposed to do. If we went back to exactly what the government was supposed to be then we would not be in this financial mess we are in today….

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 9:37am

I think you mean Democrats and Liberals. Their voter base seems to be the most uneducated and ignorant I have ever seen.

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 9:40am

Typical Congress for you. They don’t read anything they pass. Just look at the aweful heathcare law that we have now thanks to them not reading it.

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 9:42am

Matt you should sum up your whole story in one line. Obama should be king and have absolute power. That is essentially what you are saying here.

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 9:50am

Matt you really need to go back and read your history. The war of 1812 was about the British raiding our merchant ships on the high seas. It was not about retaking the colonies. The constitution was written to prevent any future leader of the USA becoming a king. It was based on the crimes that the British inflicted on us when the monarchy was in power. It amazes me that they actually let your report with this paper but because this paper is so liberal it really isn’t a suprise.

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 10:02am

FT you hit the nail on the head. Too bad Matt doesn’t and won’t get it.

Matt Hickman on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 12:54pm

 in much the same way the 20th century was the american century and those countries that followed our lead tended to flourish, the 21st century is china’s century.

that doesn’t mean communism, in fact it can’t mean communism, that’s a 19th century idea that wore out its welcome in the 20th. the 21st century model will be government-driven capitalism, the kind china is using to rise to power today.

major countries like france, germany, england, japan, canada, brazil, turkey and india are in much better position to follow this model than the u.s. whose constitution won’t allow its government to operate with such dexterity.

you can dislike this or be offended by it all you want, but look around, is it not the obvious global trend?

Hereford Resident on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 1:51pm

"major countries like france, germany, england, japan, canada, brazil, turkey and india are in much better position to follow this model than the u.s. whose constitution won’t allow its government to operate with such dexterity."

Are you just ignorant or just dumb? Or maybe both. The reason why we have the constitution is to limit what the government can and can’t do. When you give government free reign you give up a lot of freedom. All the countries you list here have a lot of freedoms suppressed that we don’t here in the US. What you want is a dictatorship that can do what it wants when it wants regardless of what the people want. If you like that so much then move to one of those countries you mention.

Here is a great quote from Thomas Jefferson that you should take to heart.

I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.

BTW learn to capitalize countries names.

FreeWill on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 2:33pm

hey bro lets take a quick peak at china’s history and see where they are
headed. Ok they are doomed for another catastrophic failure because they will
not be able to provide the basic needs for all those people. Food shortage
anyone?… Sure it seems that as of right now China is doing all the right
things like building fancy colleges and infrastructure and injecting money
into corporations that the government thinks it needs and it is really easy
to say the grass is greener over there because ours is brown right now. Truth
be told I am pleased that our government is for the most part staying out of
the economy. It breeds competitiveness, and that my friend is what will truly
propel the united states economy forward now and for decades to come.

FreeWill on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 2:34pm

The US is a mixing pot of all races(thus a lot of unique and innovative ideas) and I’ll be darned if you think that we need help from our government to do our business.  If there is something so terribly wrong with the constitution, please, by all means give us the next best thing.  On another point, do you have enough faith to let the U.S. government pour money into a corporation it deems fit?  Talk about conflict of interest and I sure believe we have enough of those.  We also have laws against monopolies and other situations of that nature, now why would we want to lean more toward a monoply with gov help?  Can you say bad for the consumer? All that comes from your brain is recycled garbage that you pick up off the internet, you can dislike or be offended all you want but I think you can just pack your things and head on over to China. I think it would do you good to read more and study up on topics before you write them, tha

5280 on Thu, 09/08/2011 - 12:41pm
Title: however

Correct, however more than 27 days from sept 11th to october 8th not 19.   

Matt Hickman on Fri, 09/09/2011 - 5:12pm

 china’s staring down the barrel of some problems, some big problems.. but so did the u.s. in the 20th century.. didn’t stop us from setting the tone worldwide.

Lifelongresident on Sat, 09/10/2011 - 8:34am

Hereford, stop calling people dumb and ignorant because they have a different view from you. You can attack the argument but not the person and if you keep doing it, I will be the first to flag your responses. Speak your mind and your view, but stop attacking the person.

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