June 20th, 2011
12:26 PM ET

Is it time to update the U.S. Constitution?

We all know how Americans revere the Constitution, so I was struck by the news that tiny, little Iceland is actually junking its own Constitution and starting anew using an unusual - some would say innovative - mechanism.

The nation decided it needed a new Constitution and it's soliciting ideas from all of Iceland's 320,000 citizens with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This social media method has worked. Ideas have been flowing in. Many have asked for guaranteed, good health care. Others want campaign finance systems that make corporate donations illegal. And some just want the country to make shark finning illegal.

There is a Constitutional Council. It incorporates some of these ideas, rejects others, but everything is done in plain sight on the web. As one member of the Constitutional Council said, the document is basically being drafted on the Internet. 

Now, why do they need a new Constitution anyway? Well, after Iceland was crippled in recent years by the economic crisis, they all wanted a fresh start. And, anyway, they felt the document was old and outdated, drafted all the way back in 1944.

You might be tempted to say that Iceland doesn't have any reasons to be proud of its political traditions in the manner that the United States does. Well, think again.

Iceland is home to the world's oldest parliament still in existence, the Althing, set up in 930 A.D. The rocky ledge on which they gathered represents the beginnings of representative government in the world. So Iceland has reasons to cherish its history, and yet it was willing to revise it.

By contrast, any talk of revising or revisiting the U.S. Constitution is, of course, seen as heresy. The United States Constitution was, as you know, drafted in a cramped room in Philadelphia in 1787 with shades drawn over the windows. It was signed by 39 people.

America at the time consisted of 13 states. Congress had 26 senators and 65 representatives. The entire population was about one percent of today's number - four million people.

America was an agricultural society, with no industry - not even cotton gins. The flush toilet had just been invented.

These were the circumstances under which this document was written.

Let me be very clear here, the U.S. Constitution is an extraordinary work - one of the greatest expressions of liberty and law in human history.

One amazing testament to it is the mere fact that it has survived as the law of the land for 222 years.

But our Constitution has been revised 27 times.  Some of these revisions have been enormous and important, such as the abolition of slavery. Then there are areas that have evolved. For example, the power of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, is barely mentioned in the document. This grew as a fact over history.

But there are surely some issues that still need to be debated and fixed.

The electoral college, for example, is highly undemocratic, allowing for the possibility that someone could get elected as president even if he or she had a smaller share of the total national vote than his opponent.

The structure of the Senate is even more undemocratic, with Wisconsin's six million inhabitants getting the same representation in the Senate as California's 36 million people. That's not exactly one man, one vote.

And we are surely the only modern nation that could be paralyzed as we were in 2000 over an election dispute because we lack a simple national electoral system.

So we could use the ideas of social media that were actually invented in this country to suggest a set of amendments to modernize the Constitution for the 21st Century.

Such a plan is not unheard of in American history.

After all, the delegates in Philadelphia in 1787 initially meant not to create the Constitution as we now know it, but instead to revise the existing document, the Articles of Confederation. But the delegates saw a disconnect between the document that currently governed them and the needs of the nation, so their solution was to start anew.

I'm just suggesting we talk about a few revisions.

Anyway, what do you think? Should we do this? And if we were to revise the U.S. Constitution, what would be the three amendments you would put in?

Let us know in the comment thread and we'll post the best ones on the Global Public Square.

Post by:
Topics: GPS Show • Law • What in the World?

soundoff (2,346 Responses)
  1. Briana Laipple

    I've been searching for a website exactly like this for a long time. Thank you for taking the time to produce this...never easy when you have so much to do.

    December 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  2. Nicki Livigni

    I like this site very much, Its a very nice berth to read and obtain information. "I concede" by Richard Milhous Nixon.

    December 11, 2011 at 5:42 am | Reply
  3. Shanika Kozak

    Thanks for posting these comments! I missed them before. Grazi mille.

    December 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  4. Andre

    1- Split CA, TX into smaller states.
    2- Abolish FED and only USTreasury is allowed to issue currency [EO 11110 from 1963]
    3- Votes in Elections must be counted by American companies only
    4. Mandatory prison sentences for legislators who commit felonies. They can only have the same benefits as the rest of US population.

    January 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Reply
    • 1oftehmany

      @ Andre Agree 100%. This should be a law NOW if not already and if a law it is being totally ignored in to-days environment.

      August 28, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  5. Speedy Bubbles - Bubble Shooter

    Nice writing. I liked reading this article. If you want, please visit my website.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:34 am | Reply
  6. Google

    [...]just beneath, are various absolutely not associated sites to ours, having said that, they're certainly worth going over[...]

    February 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  7. Bud

    Screw voting - let's just "like" candidates on Facebook.

    February 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  8. garmin nuvi 1300

    Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to claim that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your augment or even I success you get right of entry to constantly quickly.

    April 6, 2012 at 3:48 am | Reply
  9. freehold chiropractor

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra of your helpful info. Thank you for the post. I'll definitely return.

    April 12, 2012 at 6:35 am | Reply
  10. Ashville NC Event Photographer

    Its such as you learn my thoughts! You appear to understand so much about this, like you wrote the e book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few % to drive the message house a little bit, however other than that, this is wonderful blog. A fantastic read. I'll certainly be back.

    April 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  11. google pr

    Great weblog right here! Also your website so much up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I am getting your associate link on your host? I want my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

    April 22, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  12. תאורה

    Everyone loves it when people come together and share views. Great site, keep it up!

    May 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  13. condo near mall of asia

    Hi my loved one! I want to say that this post is amazing, nice written and include almost all vital infos. I would like to peer extra posts like this .

    June 6, 2012 at 1:45 am | Reply
  14. SEO

    Wonderful publish, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don't understand this. You should proceed your writing. I'm confident, you have a great readers' base already!|What's Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I've found It positively helpful and it has aided me out loads. I am hoping to give a contribution & help other customers like its helped me. Good job.

    November 6, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply

    I have just lost some brain cells from listening to this.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  16. dish

    You recognize therefore significantly in terms of this subject, produced me for my part imagine it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like men and women aren't involved except it's something to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. All the time care for it up!

    July 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  17. totsudjwayao


    July 15, 2013 at 6:12 am | Reply
  18. Art Crisson

    I am not sure if my subscription info came through to you nor am I clear how to pay the $5.00.
    Thanks this can be a wonderful idea if I can connect! Judy

    July 22, 2013 at 11:49 am | Reply
  19. celebrity cellulite rbc ministries

    I have a little bit of cellulite forming on my inner thigh and I want to get rid of it before it gets worse


    November 2, 2013 at 1:09 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,062 other followers