The American constitution isn't very complicated

By on October 10, 2013 9:06:16 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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In recent discussions, it's become clear that many people aren't really that familiar with the US constitution.  This is a shame because it's actually not very long.

The constitution is broken into two parts.  The first part lists the explicit powers the government has.  The second part are the amendments, two of which are designed to make it bloody clear that only the explicitly named powers listed are things the federal government can do.

The recently passed ACA was held as constitutional only because the court narrowly decided that the government had the power to tax people based on whether they have insurance or not.  

Most of the runaway government comes from the 3rd item below known also as the "commerce clause". It's amazing at how one little chink in the armor has been exploited so massively. The word "regulate" has been tortured into all kinds of things.

Similarly, the 16th amendment has been tortured to give the federal government all kinds of weird powers.  If you look through the constitution, the only amendment that gives the government more power is the 16th. The rest have been put in to reduce federal power. And two of the amendments were put in there as a "We aren't kidding, seriously, No joking, only the 16 enumerated powers are things the feds can do. Really!"

Since some people seem to be confused as to what the federal government is legally allowed to do here is a list:

  1. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
  2. To borrow on the credit of the United States;
  3. To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
  4. To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  5. To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
  6. To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
  7. To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
  8. To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
  9. To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
  10. To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
  11. To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  12. To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  13. To provide and maintain a Navy;
  14. To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
  15. To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
  16. To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
In addition, 27 amendments were added to the constitution to further clarify any remaining question on what the federal government is allowed to do. They are:
  1. The federal government may not pass laws limiting your speech or establish an official religion.
  2. The federal government may not prevent you from buying a gun.
  3. The "" may not quarter troops in your house.
  4. The "" may may not search and seize things on a whim but only through search warrants based on probably cause.
  5. The "" may  not force you to incriminate yourself.
  6. The people have a right to a trial by jury.
  7. The people also can demand a jury in civil cases.
  8. No cruel or unnsual punishment allowed.
  9. Restates, for future progressives, that the federal government can only perform the ENUMERATED rights (we had a whole amendment dedicated to this and it still gets forgotten)
  10. Restates, for future progressives, again, seriously, NO KIDDING, that the federal government only has those 16 previously enumerated rights and everything else is left to the states. Clear enough? 2 of the 10 bill of rights designed to make sure no future progressive will think that "promote the general welfare" suddenly is a cart blanche new power. Only those 16 powers.
  11. States are immune from suits from foreigners.
  12. The Prez and Vice President are no longer the 1st and 2nd place finishers in elections.
  13. Slavery is now illegal.
  14. Equal protection of the law and everyone is gauranteed due process.
  15. All men can vote, regardless of color.
  16. The government can now collect money via an income tax.
  17. Senators are now elected by popular vote.
  18. Alcohol is now illegal. 
  19. Women can now vote too.
  20. Changes the date when congress and the president come into office.
  21. Just kidding on the booze, alcohol is legal again.
  22. You can only serve two terms as President.
  23. Washington DC gets to have a vote in presidential elections.
  24. You can't charge people to vote (i.e. no poll taxes).
  25. Clarifies succession for the presidency.
  26. 18 year olds can now vote.
  27. Salary increases for congress dont' go into affect until after the next election

See? Is this really that complicated? The federal government has 16 things it is allowed to do. But for future dumb people, the bill of rights has 2 amendments to emphasize that yes, and truly, only those 16 things are allowed.

So next time someone tells you that the federal government can do anything it wants if it passes congress or if it's popular with the people show them this. Because no, unless they can get the constitution amended to allow whatever their progressive dream they're having, if it's not listed here, it isn't legal unless they can manage to torture the 3rd enumerated power (commerce clause) or the 16th amendment further.

That said, for the most part, your STATE can go nuts.

 
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October 15, 2013 8:50:35 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Kantok,

So what I want to know is:  Where can I buy my warship and who wants to be on my crew? 

Me! Sounds like fun. I'll grab my guns 

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October 15, 2013 9:03:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ZombiesRus5,


Me! Sounds like fun. I'll grab my guns 

Well... I may have over-promised.  

Hey Brad:  You're rich.  Buy us a warship.  You should, because you're rich and we want one so you should feel obligated.  Or something.  

Barring that, I'll grab my 2 person kayak and we can both bring our guns.  Then we just need to find someone to declare war on and it's technically a "war" "ship".  

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October 15, 2013 9:08:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Seriously though, in regards to the 2nd in particular and all other amendments in general, to properly understand what was meant by the phrasing we have to understand how the words were used at a given time.  You can't possible expect that the founders were able to predict how our language would evolve and then they wrote the amendments in that regard. 

The idea of a well regulated militia for example, means exactly what Psychoak has said repeatedly.  Regulated meant regular, or practiced.  In order for citizens to form a practiced militia they must be allowed to own guns.  The well regulated militia portion is the reason for the right, not a restriction on the right.  

That's why the idea of a "living constitution" is such crap.  The document does not change just because our language and our perspective changes.  The framers foresaw a need to make changes to the document when circumstances changed.  That's the reason the amendment process exists.  Don't think people should be allowed to own guns?  Change the constitution.  Don't pretend that the framers somehow meant the words to have meanings that they didn't actually have 250 ago years. 

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October 15, 2013 9:35:47 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Hey Brad:  You're rich.  Buy us a warship.  You should, because you're rich and we want one so you should feel obligated.  Or something. 

 

He can't.  You'd have to engage in black market arms trading just to get such weaponry, and then the first country to catch you with it would either sink it before they boarded and arrested you, or after.

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October 15, 2013 9:47:37 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting psychoak,

Hey Brad:  You're rich.  Buy us a warship.  You should, because you're rich and we want one so you should feel obligated.  Or something. 

 

He can't.  You'd have to engage in black market arms trading just to get such weaponry, and then the first country to catch you with it would either sink it before they boarded and arrested you, or after.

 

I would recommend a carrier.  We all know bombers are overpowered.

 

The Constitution is a fairly simple read.  But the legislative process, that's confusing.  Filibuster, cloture votes, all that stuff is very confusing.

 

Although my class's Mock Congress was fun.  Also, note that the Elasticity Clause allows Congress to give itself powers that it thinks are needed.  The last clause is the one of which I speak of.

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October 15, 2013 10:30:07 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting Chibiabos,


Quoting Frogboy, reply 55
Alstein brought up why we don't paAs more amendments. Part of the problem, IMO, is the incorporation doctrine that came out in the 40s where federal law now trumps state law due to the 14th amendment. As a result, people are wary of giving or taking power from the federal government because it will apply to the states. Incorporation isa n abominable policy.

 
40s, 14th amendment ... do you make yourself take drug tests, Frogboy?  

Federal laws have always superceded state laws, from the very founding of the nation, long before the 40s (presuming you mean the 1940s).  There were fights regarding this throughout the 1700s when we first founded to the 1800s.  Probably one of the most notorious amendments smiting "state rights" was the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, in direct defiance of several states refusing to accede to this "tyranny" perpetuated by the "evil" federal government ... and the 13th Amendment was officially incorporated into the U.S. constitution in 1865; the 14th amendment was related (essentially forcing states, affirmatively, to recognize the citizenship of all Americans including former slaves) and was officially adopted in 1868.  Where in the heck did you get the idea the 14th amendment was adopted in the 1940s?  You are off by a whopping 8 decades.


Your "knowledge" of American politics and history is appalling bad, Frogboy ... while it could be academically laughable, the sad reality is the vast majority of people on the "right," including yourself, operate politically on the same false premises.  You vote for candidates who feed you false information you agree with, and so you perpetuate the false information.  The nation tried to found as a confederacy with little or no central interstate power, but it failed as a fledgeling.  The founding fathers agreed:  the federal government needs to have power, including the power to protect citizens of states from state governments, to keep interstate commerce fair and prevent one state from undermining another economically.  The union of states must operate coherently in international affairs, including war, treaties, trade agreements and the like.

If you want to troll, do it elsewhere. It's pretty obvious from what you just wrote that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Read up on the incorporation doctrine and some American history. Your understanding of it...has failed.

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October 15, 2013 10:32:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting psychoak,


He can't.  You'd have to engage in black market arms trading just to get such weaponry, and then the first country to catch you with it would either sink it before they boarded and arrested you, or after.

I've seen his prepper posts.  I'm sure he knows a guy.

As for getting sunk, well that's my problem. 

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October 15, 2013 10:52:55 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
If you want to troll, do it elsewhere. It's pretty obvious from what you just wrote that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Hence my comment #59 ...

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October 15, 2013 10:53:54 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

As a practical matter, the founders would have been appalled at the idea of the federal government making the purchase or acquisition of anything illegal.  Even Hamilton would wonder what business it is of the the government what I purchase with my money.

And yet today, we have mayors trying to outlaw soda for our own good. 

Most people seem to have no idea just how well armed Americans can still get. To say I'm well armed would be a massive understatement and it's all legal. I occasionally get some Internet tough guy threatening to come to my house "teach me a lesson". Talk about a potentially fatal mistake.

Yet we have these ignoramuses in government who try to pass these symbolic laws to appease the ignoramuses they represent.

Despite what some people may believe, I'm no Randian libertarian. I do believe strongly in regulation when it comes to "the commons" (as in, finite resources that we all commonly benefit from).  That's something the founders wouldn't have agreed with me on.  But I think we could/should have passed a lot of these things via a constitutional amendment.

For example...

  • Social Security is arguably unconstitutional. It should have been made an amendment. I'd support it.
  • Same with Medicare.
  • Same with Medicaid or any federal charity program.  
  • I'm pro-choice on abortion but Roe vs. Wade is an abominable ruling and really speaks the argument that today, the constitution is whatever the politically charged supreme court says it is.

It is true that history is replete with examples of the government defying the constitution and getting away with it. That doesn't mean that those exceptions were the rule.  The Louisiana Purchase was unconstitutional. The Central Bank is probably unconstitutional (the federal reserve almost certainly is).

But by and large, even today, on the day to day business of the supreme court, the rules of the constitution are upheld. That means the United States has a number of unusual elements to its code of law. 

For example...

  • There is no federal law against murder (murder is a state issue)
  • Same with rape
  • Same with burglary
  • Same with many many other types of felonies and misdemeanors

The feds usually only get involved if the matter involves civil rights or crosses a state line.

Similarly, as I stated earlier, most gun laws are state laws. Yes, there is some federal meddling just like there is federal meddling in zoning, education, and pretty much everything else but overwhelmingly, those things are handled at the state level.

I'm not against the federal government. I just know how incompetent big corporations are and the federal government is the biggest corporation of them all and it's allowed to have guns.

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October 16, 2013 12:35:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Krazikarl,


Quoting Chibiabos, reply 5840s, 14th amendment ... do you make yourself take drug tests, Frogboy?  Federal laws have always superceded state laws, from the very founding of the nation, long before the 40s (presuming you mean the 1940s).  There were fights regarding this throughout the 1700s when we first founded to the 1800s.

His post is admittedly somewhat awkwardly phrased, but you are off base here.

I suggest that you go plug "Incorporation Doctrine" into wikipedia and give it a read.  Basically, there were a series of court rulings in the first half of the 20th Century that cited the 14th Amendment.  He is referencing those.

 

Its factually incorrect.  There have been numerous significant pushes, and never was there a more serious push of federal over state power than during the time of the Civil War and the "evil" federal intervention to abolish slavery.  There was also a big push in the 1950s and 1960s when federal troops were sent in to enforce de-segregation and the end of Jim Crow.

Do these events simply not exist in the history books you or Brad had in school?

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October 16, 2013 12:37:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

As a practical matter, the founders would have been appalled at the idea of the federal government making the purchase or acquisition of anything illegal.  Even Hamilton would wonder what business it is of the the government what I purchase with my money.

 

Several founding fathers wanted to outlaw the purchase of people (slavery).  How evil of them!  And incorrect of you.

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October 16, 2013 12:48:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

If you want to troll, do it elsewhere. It's pretty obvious from what you just wrote that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Read up on the incorporation doctrine and some American history. Your understanding of it...has failed.

 

Its your forum, so you can troll as you wish, but completely ignoring an active massive war fought over federal versus state rights eight decades before the 1940s is obsecenely dishonest, Brad.  You declare the federal government "evil" and thus you completely ignore two of the strongest cases of the federal government imposing itself over states -- the civil war and desegregation -- to focus on a, yes, significant event but nothing on the order of federal troops taking up arms against rebel states.

You have repeated, over and over again, the 1940s events to be first and strongest push of federal over state power and in doing so, you blatantly demean the fight to end slavery and Jim Crow as insignificant or, indeed, non-existent since you deem the 1940s to be the first 'push' completely ignoring the 1860s and other historic events dating back to 1789.

I don't know what revisionist rewrite of American history doesn't include the federal over state push of the 1860s, but no, I don't care to read such trash any more than I would care to read about a holocaust denier's revisionism of World War II history.

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October 16, 2013 1:23:02 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Wow. There is so much fail those 3 responses I don't know what to say.

I do like he part where the word evil is quoted, implying that I had actually said or implied thst the federal government was evil. Then there's the strawman about slavery.

 

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October 16, 2013 1:48:42 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

I'll leave this one to the boss....

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October 16, 2013 1:56:13 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

 ************************** [admin]

The Incorporation Doctrine was a series of legal rulings that restrictions specifically on the Federal Government, imposed by the Bill of Rights, applied equally to state legislatures.  This started in 1925.

 

This isn't complicated.

 

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October 16, 2013 5:19:20 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

A polite reminder to ALL.

Personal attack is not acceptable, period.

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October 16, 2013 5:35:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

Wow. There is so much fail those 3 responses I don't know what to say.

I do like he part where the word evil is quoted, implying that I had actually said or implied thst the federal government was evil. Then there's the strawman about slavery.

 

 

Strawman?  So slavery didn't actually exist?  Or Lincoln and the abolitionists at the federal level weren't trying to push over state's rights which was exactly what you said started in the 1940s?

Where in the U.S. did you go to school where they taught slavery didn't actually exist?

 

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October 16, 2013 6:55:32 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A more recent example that could be used was the 24th Amendment in the 1960's, which is how Southern Dems became Dixiecrats, then Republicans, then Tea Partiers.

 

That said, in that case, the other 39 or so states did have the votes.   That was a more modern example of the majority imposing its will on the minority, for a good reason.   (It can be for bad reasons as well- see Egypt and what the Muslim Brotherhood tried to do over there, or Erdogan and Turkey)

 

Minority obstructionism can be good or bad as well.  This is one reason why there is no real perfect system for democracy.

 

That said, we do have some problems with our current system- the electoral college, gerrymandering, filibustering department heads and judges just to keep an office unfilled-  being the three big structural ones,

 

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October 16, 2013 10:33:50 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Quoting Jafo,
Ooh....and when was the last time 18th century man drove his hundred gun warship into a primary school and killed all the kids?

When was the last time a bunch of idiots drove planes into buildings?

 

Just because it has not happened does not mean it never will.

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October 16, 2013 6:55:45 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I'm really not sure how your condescending rant has anything do to with my questioning your statement that the 2nd amendment gives us the right to own bazookas and SAMs.

Is there a point to your ramblings that actually reflect my attitudes, I think not.

I'm not against the 2nd amendment, which I think you think I am. I didn't allude to a desire to change the constitution. Should I thank you for the unnecessary civics lesson, I think not.

I stand by my statement that when the 2nd amendment was written the definition of "arms" is much different than what is it today. I also think the ATF would disagree with you as well,

Here's a piece of friendly advice back to you; oh, I don't have any, I'm not your friend.

Most of the information is for the kids reading these posts, not for you.  The information I was giving you wasn't a lesson in civics, it was a lesson in natural rights.  Since you are obviously ignorant of this, I'll inform you that Civics replaced Natural Rights as a part of the core curriculum in the 1800's and after a lot of research I believe that this change is one of the main reasons that the founding principles of this country have become thrown out.

We don't have to be friends, neighbor, it's a free country.

As a practical matter, the founders would have been appalled at the idea of the federal government making the purchase or acquisition of anything illegal.  Even Hamilton would wonder what business it is of the the government what I purchase with my money.

I consider taking the perspective of the founding fathers to be a red herring on the modern understanding of constitutional law.

Here is why:

1. The founding fathers are dead and therefore not around to make their real opinion known and there is no one alive today that can remember them.  This creates an implicit understanding of the constitution because there are no primary sources.

2. Historical documents are what was written down, not necessarily what actually was, tainted by their bias and possible exclusions.  This creates an implicit understanding of the constitution because the writers of the documents aren't around to interpret them properly.

3. The idea of a living constitution comes from the lawyers and historians that try to interpret the writings of the constitution so that new regimes can exploit cultural ignorance(media) so that they can gain more power.  In this way the constitution is subverted, as a legal document it should be explicitly read, because one of the defining qualities of a constitution is that it is an explicit document and cannot therefore be read honorably with an implicit interpretation.  Constitutions are written knowing full well that they are explicit documents.  Please look up the meanings of implicit and explicit if you don't know them, it will be painfully obvious if you respond without knowing this.

A living constitution is subversive and not law.



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October 16, 2013 9:46:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting sareth01,

The idea of a living constitution comes from the lawyers and historians that try to interpret the writings of the constitution so that new regimes can exploit cultural ignorance(media) so that they can gain more power.  In this way the constitution is subverted, as a legal document it should be explicitly read, because one of the defining qualities of a constitution is that it is an explicit document and cannot therefore be read honorably with an implicit interpretation.  Constitutions are written knowing full well that they are explicit documents.  Please look up the meanings of implicit and explicit if you don't know them, it will be painfully obvious if you respond without knowing this.

A living constitution is subversive and not law.

This thread could live on for another 10 years and this point will still be its high water mark. 

+1 to you sir. 

This is the entire reason they added a formal process to change the document as times warranted.  That they made the process difficult was because they didn't trust the whims of majority.

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October 16, 2013 9:47:41 PM from Galactic Civilizations III Forums Galactic Civilizations III Forums

Quoting sareth01,

A living constitution is subversive and not law.

 

The founding fathers gave implicit acceptance of slavery, and regarded women and ethnic minorities as property.  If it is subversive to find aspects of the original constitution, before adoption of amendmends, as having been in any way evil -- such as slavery -- then I am proud to be subversive.

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October 16, 2013 9:59:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Chibiabos,

The founding fathers gave implicit acceptance of slavery, and regarded women and ethnic minorities as property.  If it is subversive to find aspects of the original constitution, before adoption of amendmends, as having been in any way evil -- such as slavery -- then I am proud to be subversive.

The founding fathers knew that the document would need to change.  That's the reason for the amendment process in the first place.  

If the words in the document don't have concrete meaning, which the theory of a "living" constitution says they do not, then the document is useless. It's just another vehicle to impose the ruling class's will on the people and it has in fact been subverted entirely from it's original place in our society. 

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October 16, 2013 11:54:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That's why we have case law.  Living constitution does not supposedly allow you to contravene previous SC decisions on the same amendment unless you can come up with another argument.  (though this gets ignored on occasion by the SC)

There are limits on the living constitution.

 

 

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October 17, 2013 12:06:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,

That's why we have case law.  Living constitution does not supposedly allow you to contravene previous SC decisions on the same amendment unless you can come up with another argument.  (though this gets ignored on occasion by the SC)

There are limits on the living constitution.
 

That's not what a living constitution means though.  Living constitution has nothing to do with case law per se.  As a concept it is saying that the meaning of the phrases within the document should be interpreted through current context in order to keep the document relevant with modern society.  Simplified somewhat it is saying that the meaning of each clause changes as society changes.  

Which defeats the purpose of a constitution.  It is no longer an explicit set of rules to govern ourselves with.  It is something fungible based upon "modern interpretation".  

The founders knew the document would need to be changed and updated.  That's why the amendment process exists.  The entire doctrine of "living constitution" is just a method to replace the meaning of clauses that a particular group doesn't like with a meaning that they prefer  while avoiding the debate around amendments all together.  It's a way to underhandedly avoid the checks on amendments that the framers purposefully wrote into the system. 

 

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