The legend of Kurt Gödel’s “lost discovery” of a loophole or logical flaw in the US Constitution has been told and retold many times before. After Gödel had applied to become a US citizen in 1947, he prepared for his citizenship exam by making a close study of the Constitution. On the eve of his citizenship hearing, Gödel, the greatest logician since Aristotle, found a fatal contradiction in the Constitution (“Gödel’s Loophole”). What was it? The author offers the following conjecture: the problem with the constitution is the amending power in Article V. In brief, if the amending clause of the US constitution can amend itself, then all express and implied substantive limitations on the amending power might be overcome through a constitutional amendment. This paper is divided into five parts. Following this brief introduction, Part 2 retells the story of Gödel’s lost discovery in greater detail and tries to answer a subsidiary question: why is there no formal record of Gödel’s constitutional loophole? Part 3 then presents the author’s reconstruction of Gödel’s loophole in four logical steps. (Step 1: the constitution contains a finite number of legal provisions or “constitutional statements.” Step 2: one of these statements contains an amending power statement, which permits amendments to the Constitution when certain conditions or procedural steps are met. Step 3: the amending power can be used to amend itself. Step 4: if the amending clause can amend itself, then all express and implied limitations on the amending power might be overcome through a constitutional amendment.) Next, Part 4 identifies other serious flaws or “design defects” in the Constitution and explains why these alternatives are probably not what Gödel’s had in mind. (In summary, these alternative theories of Gödel’s loophole are off the mark because they ignore Gödel’s interest in logical contradictions and the problem of self-reference.) Part 5 concludes.
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