How Democratic is the U. S Constitution?
by Shane Goodrich
The U.S Constitution is often regarding as a milestone in human history in regards to fair and just treatment of a group of people, a great success of the enlightenment period, an example of democracy in action to the rest of the world, but how democratic is the U.S Constitution? For the purposes of this short paper I will use democratic in the more general sense of people having some control and legitimate ability to participate in the affairs of government.
Today I think it could be argue that the Constitution is not particularly democratic simply by virtue of it being written over 200 years ago, no one currently alive had any say in this form of government. But let us put that aside for the moment. What I want to focus on is the birth of the document. Remember this was shortly after the American Revolution. This was a time of kings & nobility, of classes enshrined in law. For much of the western world at this time, the idea of participation in government was accorded to only those of a very small elite minority. Some places such Great Britain did have a slightly larger group that could participate (via the House of Commons) but even this was very restricted.
The colonist, having lived under the rule of a king, under a system they largely had no say in wanted to create a more open system. The founder fathers tried to set up a system that would allow for both more participation in government for a wider group (though still quite restricted as we will soon see) but also a system to prevent the accumulation of power in a small minority’s or even individual’s hand.
I think in this they did succeed in creating at the time a more democratic document, one that enfranchised more people. But certainly they did not create a true democratic system. Women could not vote and slavery was in half the nation. Those were harsh realities of the times the U.S Constitution was written, women simply were 2nd class citizens, and slaves were just property all around the world.
When we think about the era the Constitution was created in I think it’s important to try to place ourselves in lives of the people who lived during those times. So I do think The U.S Constitution was a step toward a freer and more democratic society but do I think it really was democratic? No, still compared to the rest of the world in 1787 it really was a step in the right direction, away from the power of a small elite ruling classes.
-Shane Goodrich, co-host & video editor of Local Liberty