Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book Review: "A More Perfect Constitution"

In his new book A More Perfect Constitution (Walker & Company, 2007) Larry Sabato, the founder and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics lays out a series of twenty-three proposals for constitutional revision. These amendments would, he argues, bring the Constitution into the twenty-first century by making the structures of our government more fair, more representative, and more effective.

Most of us are instinctively leery of major structural changes to the Constitution, and with good reason - it's lasted for more than two centuries, and has served the United States well. At first glance, some if not many of Sabato's proposals seem unnecessary, unpalatable, or both. But after reading his justifications for them, I was convinced by both the desirability and the necessity of nearly all of them.

Since Sabato's stated purpose with his book is to promote a great debate over these ideas, and to prompt what he terms a "generational process of moderate, well-considered change," I've begun a discussion here of his proposals by outlining them in brief and adding my own views as they currently stand (I will admit that some of them changed just in the course of reading this book). I have attempted as much as possible to keep Sabato's proposals separate from my own opinions so as not to influence others' perceptions of his ideas, but I do encourage everyone interested in this discussion to read his book, where he makes his case in much greater and persuasive detail.

I don’t agree with all of Sabato’s proposals; I doubt anyone will. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my views either. But I do think these points are all worth debating, and I agree with Sabato that we shouldn’t simply accept the Constitution as it stands, but should examine how it works and what, if anything, we can do to make it better for the nation. Some of the changes Sabato suggests would, I submit, make our government work better, and I applaud him for putting out this plan for us all to discuss and consider. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen, but certainly nothing will happen if we just ignore the proposals.