argument top image

< Back to question Is an unamendable constitution undemocratic? Show more Show less

Unamendability is a growing constitutional trend. But is it compatible with democratic values? Does unamendability force future generations into a necrocracy, the ‘dead hand’ grip of those that wrote the constitution? Does it place too much power in the hands of the judiciary? Can institutions face modern democratic challenges without the flexibility to amend the nation's constitution?

No, an unamendable constitution is democratic Show more Show less

Unamendable constitutions strengthen democracy by protecting citizens from a bad political actor in government.
< (2 of 3) Next position >

Reduces social divisions

Unamendable constitutional elements reduce social tensions and political division.
< (4 of 4) Next argument >

Vote

Not sure yet? Read more before voting ↓


Context

When thoughtfully employed, constitutional unamendability can reduce divisions in society by silencing debate on potentially contentious issues.

The Argument

Once a constitutional provision is made unamendable, it silences constitutional debate surrounding that issue, reducing divisions in society and promoting harmony. One example of this can be seen in the US Constitution. At the insistence of the Southern States of South Carolina and Georgia, Article V of the Constitution explicitly prohibited the abolishment of the African slave trade before 1808. In guaranteeing the survival of the slave trade through an unamendable constitutional article, the founding fathers of the American nation were able to remove this bone of contention from public debate. As a result, they were able to reduce rifts within the young nation and avoid a potential breakup of the union.[1]

Counter arguments

This may have been the case in the past when a largely underinformed electorate had limited access to information and was politically disengaged. But today, when everyone can access information from across the globe at the click of a button, constitutionally unamendable provisions do not silence debate, they fuel it. If aspects of the US Constitution were made unamendable today, like the right to bear arms, for example, rather than stifling public discussion and reducing divisions, it would ignite debate and result in a more deeply entrenched public.

Premises

[P1] When a constitutional article is unamendable for a set period of time, it stymies political debate on that article. [P2] Intense political debate fuels social division. [P3] Therefore, an unamendable constitutional provision can reduce social and political division.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Unamendable constitutional elements do not silence debates, they fuel them.

References

  1. http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/915/1/Roznai_Unconstitutional-constitutional-amendments.pdf

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 22 Jan 2020 at 15:26 UTC

Explore related arguments