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Article
Running Cars, Constitutions and Metaphors into the Ground
Faculty Scholarship
  • Mark A. Graber, University of Maryland School of Law
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-1-2009
Keywords
  • United States Constitution
Comments

The publisher does not permit posting of the final published version. See: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/good_society/toc/gso.18.1.html

Abstract
Professor Sanford Levinson frequently analogizes the Constitution of the United States to a vehicle that desperately needs repairs. “[R]elying on the present Constitution.” he writes, “is similar to driving a car with very bad brakes and slick tires.” Much commentary on Our Undemocratic Constitution implicitly challenges the automotive metaphor. The Constitution of the United States, supporters profess, is not really as bad as Levinson would have us believe. The following pages take a road less traveled. Ancient constitutional institutions in the United States are suffering from severe wear and tear. Nevertheless, decisions to drive a comparatively unsafe car are often grounded in reasons that might justify decisions to forego repairing or replacing an analogously flawed constitution. Servicing is rational only when persons can afford the costs, trust their mechanic or dealer, and have reason to believe performance will be substantially improved. Replacing or repairing constitutions and cars are not costless. Citizens with other pressing personal or political needs might be best off spending scare resources on food or other social issues. Constitutional and car mechanics are not perfect. Persons may conclude that the persons most likely to perform needed repairs will be more interested in lining their pockets than improving the product. Constitutions and cars may not be susceptible of long term improvement. Brake and constitutional jobs may prove so temporary a fix that persons are better off using the constitutions and cars they have than attempting to obtain newer product lines.
Disciplines
Citation Information
18 The Good Society 35 (2009).