A constitution for 21st Century America

This is not a political blog, but there are some truths that are self-evident or exposed by scientific research. With that in mind, here are some thoughts about how the United States Constitution needs to be changed.

The bold green text could be inserted, with amendment, into a new constitution. The text below that green text explains the reasoning.

Minority protection

All persons are born with equal opportunity, and should retain equality of opportunity as far as nature allows.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of several very important pieces of legislation passed by the United States Congress to protect minorities. This legislation should not be necessary, though, in a country where “all men humans are created equal”. If we genuinely believe that sentiment, then men, women, gay, straight, religious, irreligious, genetically modified, non-cisgendered, et cetera should be protected automatically. The Constitution should protect all humans and other intelligent life and non-life.

Another decision that should not have been necessary was a recent decision by the Supreme Court which banned firing a staff member based on their sexuality. This was done despite a conservative Supreme Court because of some generous reading of the law about gender discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision read:

When an employer fires an employee for being homosexual or transgender, it necessarily intentionally discriminates against that individual in part because of sex.

Supreme Court, 2020

Voting Rights

All people legally entitled to live and work in the United States must have the right to vote, easily and safely.

All votes should have the same value. Gerrymandering is explicitly not permissible. All considerations surrounding voting should be overseen by an independent, non-partisan commission.

This means that property ownership, skin color, ability to register in person, and any other conditions dreamed up by those with ulterior motives should be unconstitutional.

Republicans, especially, but also Democrats, should not be able to draw voting lines to include or exclude people based on any measure that has the result that a vote loses or gains value relative to others. Gerrymandering has been used to advance and diminish minority voices (FACTruth, 2020).

Religious expression

Humans may believe in a God, many Gods, or none. They must not be discriminated against for those beliefs. This right is the lowest-ranked right, and cannot override any other right in the Constitution.

The right to freedom of religion seems like a great thing in the First Amendment. It has largely worked well, but there are two gaps in the coverage:

  • It does not protect people of no religion; and
  • It does not properly protect people from your religion.

In terms of the first bullet: In order to perform many tasks in civic life, one must swear an oath. At the moment, the oath is flawed. It requires swearing on a religious book in which the swearer may not believe. If you ask a Christian to swear on a copy of the Koran, or ask an atheist to swear on a Bible, the swear has no value, symbolic or otherwise.

There are seven States in the United States where it is not possible to hold office if you do not believe in a God or Gods. Judges have ruled against custody for irreligious parents citing morality concerns. These decisions should not be legal in a secular nation.

The power of police

Police must only use such force as is necessary to protect those humans that might be in danger.

All actions taken by police must be recorded by whatever technology can reasonably be used. If a body-camera or similar device is switched off, all doubt falls upon the police.

So-called “no-knock” warrants are banned, even if that inhibits law enforcement or investigatory opportunity.

This is a timely thing to write about as police brutality and murders by police of innocent people such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are in the news.

Breonna Taylor was murdered by police who invaded a person’s home without warning, and without considering the likely deadly response of the inhabitants.

Life is the one thing that we all have, and that we cannot have back if it is taken away. Our time on Earth – whether you believe it is followed by an eternity in heaven, reincarnation, or by infinite nothingness – is precious.

The police should not carry guns routinely, they should not fire their guns unless they believe that it is the only solution to a criminal situation, and they should be suspended while a non-partisan, independent, investigation is completed following every use of a firearm.

The role of police and contract clarity

Laws and contracts must be written in plain English so that their implications, consequences and requirements can be understood by a normal person who has completed the mandatory eighteen years of education.

Laws must only be enacted that protect a person, animal or the wider environment from specific harm. Laws against, for example, cursing, public nudity, and limiting or prohibiting adults from drinking alcohol or taking drugs are unconstitutional.

Laws and contracts have become so complex that they cannot be understood by a lay person. This complicates law enforcement such that only crimes that are prominent in law enforcement’s psyche are typically enforced.

Law enforcement should be separated from investigation. Investigating a crime requires research, and a thorough understanding of the law.

Prosecuting a crime is done by lawyers, investigating crime is done by police. Law enforcement should be done by a separate branch with no connection to investigators, and with a thorough education in sociology, psychology and adverse childhood experiences, in particular.

Technological law-enforcement

A person accused of a crime has a right to face their accuser except in cases where it could cause trauma to the accuser, or where the law was enforced by a robot, machine, computer or similar automation.

Innocent until proven guilty means that the accused may not be named by the media more prominently than the result of their trial.

The United States Constitution’s sixth amendment allows an accused person to “face their accuser”. This means that robots and other technology cannot easily be used to give evidence against an accused.

It seems extremely unlikely that the people who wrote the Constitution could have foreseen speed cameras. Speed cameras, though a blunt instrument, can be used to improve the safety of all road-users.

The most recent data for road safety is from 2018 when 11.18 people died per 100,000 while using roads (NHTSA, 2018). This is compared to 2.9 per 100,000 in the UK, and 3.7 in Germany, with its infamous autobahns. Even if we compare miles-traveled, US roads are still twice as dangerous as UK roads (WHO, 2015). Road safety can be improved by non-human monitoring of road rules, and it should be.

Legal punishment by the State

The state should not be able to “punish” its citizens.

Enforcement of laws must be done through persuasion (fines, education), rehabilitation, or physical control. But the State should not have the power to deprive a person of life, imprison them in inhumane conditions, or deprive them of their right to vote.

Life is the one thing that we all have, and that we cannot have back if it is taken away. Our time on Earth – whether you believe it is followed by an eternity in heaven, reincarnation, or by infinite nothingness – is precious.

People do not commit crimes unless they are desperate, mentally ill, or suffering from negative environmental influences. It is incumbent on society to ensure equality of opportunity for all, especially in light of the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences study:

Compared with a normative group of adult male subjects, we found among our group of criminals much higher rates of traumatic events. That is, four times as many subjects in our sample endorsed four or more adverse experiences in their early lives. Every negative event queried by the ACE Questionnaire, with the exception of a history of neglect, was found at significantly higher rates in the histories of our offenders.

National Institutes of Health

Protection of the planet, its animals and resources

With reference to prevailing scientific consensus, proportional consideration must be given to the environment including, but not limited to, the Earth (and other celestial bodies), its animals, plants and fungi, and the long-term viability of its atmosphere to sustain life.

The United States Constitution should reflect the greater understanding humanity now has about the complexity of the natural environment, but also humanity’s reliance upon it.

Emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from non-atmospheric sources changes the balance of gases in the atmosphere leading to climate change. The damage this has caused already has cost billions of dollars and that cost is continuing to rise. The cost of environmental damage should be incorporated into the financial cost of people’s use of planetary resources.

Education

Education is not just important for the economic prospects of a person, but also for equality of opportunity, the outcomes of a nation, and for an understanding about how life can be lived. Therefore all people must have a minimum of eighteen years of education at a common standard, including a standard curriculum designed by a non-partisan commission of experts in education and science.

The quality of education of young people in the United States varies by the wealth of the local area. This ensures that someone who is born in a poor area has much lower equality of opportunity than does someone born in a wealthy area.

Education is much more important than most of us realize. Without it, men believe that they are less likely to get an illness than a woman (Ogden, 2017). Culture has not stopped evolving and improving (Pinker, 2012) since some glorious point in the past. It is important that children learn about mathematics, English, psychology, physics, technology, and biology. Some religious groups object to the education of people in various of these areas, but that is all the more reason for those things to be taught to all.

Some beliefs are dangerous: anti-vaxxers, creationists, and conspiracy theorists’ beliefs impact equality of opportunity or even the ability to live at all. Deaths from vaccinated diseases such as, for example, measles should be considered a national tragedy (CDC, n.d.).

About the author

Code and Copy is a career, travel and general information website written by Gavin Ayling.
Gavin is a copywriter, software coder, and board gamer living in beautiful New Hampshire. He has been blogging since 2002 and has been a celiac since the early 1980s.
Gavin has traveled to over 40 countries and has lived in three countries on different continents.

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