Poll: 55% Say Supreme Court Should 'Interpret' Constitution to Modern Meanings, Not Original Intent

P. Gardner Goldsmith | May 17, 2018
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Imagine you make a contract with someone for protection services. You both sign it, and then, a few weeks later, the other party tells you he’s going to take more of your money than what was originally agreed. He tells you he’s “interpreting” the word “protection” in a new, modern, way, and that also means that he’s “protecting” you from your own choices.

Some might liken that situation to government breaching the Constitution, and, in days past, a majority of Americans polled found such a prospect offensive and unwarranted.

Not any more.

According to a new poll from the liberal Pew Research Center, 55% of those surveyed believe that the rules to their supposed political machine should be conjured through modern interpretation by the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS), while just 46% believe the Constitution should be read as intended. This is a new majority, and a big change from the 2016 version, which stood at a tie of 46% for “modern interpretation” and 46% for original meaning.

Ready for the absolute stunner? The bulk of those who think the rules should be reimagined as “times change”, rather than read as the people who wrote them intended are…


Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) now say rulings should be based on the Constitution’s meaning in current times, higher than at any previous point on record and up 9 percentage points from 2016 (69%). Just three-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners now say the same, an 11-point increase from 2016 but little changed from GOP views in the years prior.

Color me surprised.

This is typical of many leftist conceptualizations of things with meanings. The meanings can be changed at their whim, be they the meanings of fiction -- “interpreted” through “Literary Critical Theory”, despite the fact that authors might have had explicitly expressed alternative meanings -- or the supposed rules of the US Constitution. If there is a way to change the agreement to give them an advantage and expand the power of the state over the individual, leftists seem to be more inclined to utilize it.

But there are a few problems with that kind of approach.

First, let’s say one believes the Constitution is the “law of the land”. Well, the people who wrote it spent a lot of time contemplating and agreeing to every word. They explicitly said that those things not expressly provided in the “rules” were not allowed for the feds to do, and were reserved to the States and the people therein to exercise. They also provided an amendment process, so if people of that generation or their progeny didn’t like the Constitution, they could amend it.

If the Constitution can be “interpreted” without amending it, then why bother having a written constitution, including an amendment process, in the first place?

If you have your contract with the protection service, and you agree that upon mutual consent, the agreement can be changed, yet the man running the “service” does whatever he wants, would you call that contract valid, or null and void?

Seems pretty clear.

Poor Aristotle. Long ago, he advised that any government should have a written constitution to constrain the powers of the state and protect natural rights.

Looks like 55% of respondents (78% of dems) to the Pew poll disagree.

And that is only if one accepts the comparison between the Constitution and a pair of people making an agreement about protection services. In fact, you have no choice. The “service” company is not a company at all. It is the state, and it is not voluntary. With a real contract, you can withdraw your consent, especially if the other side breaches the agreement. But you and I never signed the Constitution. It was signed for us, and foist on us. The only people who say they will abide by it and protect it are the politicians who breach it as a matter of course, the justices who often do the same, and the bureaucrats whose salaries we are forced to pay on the threat of imprisonment and loss of our homes.

Do you call that a contract?

The least we could ask is that the thugs running this protection racket bother to stick by their original promises, even if we didn’t have a choice about it all.

One of the greatest minds of American political thought was the 19th Century philosopher, entrepreneur, scholar, and self-trained attorney, Lysander Spooner, and in his trenchant essay, “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority”, Spooner correctly explained that no one can force a contract on you. A grandparent cannot sign a contract that binds you to some obligation without your consent. No one can ethically enslave you with a “legal document” to which you have not been a willing party.

Likewise, the Constitution was signed by a small group of people more than two hundred years ago. Neither you nor I have any legal obligation to abide by it. This is simply a fact, and our presence here in the US does not mean that we give our “consent” to it, or to any of the fanciful “interpretations” of it modern leftists demand.

If we do not flee a slave plantation, that does not mean we agree to be slaves.

But the least we can do is ask that those who purport to swear oaths to abide by the rules of the plantation do as they promise.

This is a troubling turn of events, but not unexpected. After all, politicians and their judicial appointees have been “reading” things into the explicit wording of the Constitution for years. Alexander Hamilton was one of the first culprits of this crime. Yet he’s celebrated as a hero in contemporary America.

Don’t expect it to get any better unless one challenges these slippery people at every turn. Even then, we may end up losing even more ground.

But at least we can know we tried to do the right thing by calling them on their lack of integrity.