I’ve been sick for the last few days, with an odd sort of illness that induces lethargy more than anything else. I spent today, for example, lying around my house alone, trying to figure out how dumb holes emit Hawking radiation in spite of the fact that sound isn’t a quantum mechanical phenomenon*; I am, in short, very bored and have very little to blog about.
I did, however, read this interesting article about the waning international influence of the US constitution. Though the US constitution was the original basis of liberal democracy, it seems that, in much the same way no one really cares about Superman anymore due to the rise of more nuanced variations upon the same archetype, democracies these days are much more likely to base their own constitutions upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which might instructively be though of as the “Spider-Man” of the constitutional world).
As a Canadian, I find this more than a little funny. That’s not to say that I dislike the Charter; in fact, I am great supporter of it (it has so far been the only effective check– other than widespread public outrage– upon the power of the Harper Regime, though I don’t necessarily think that it goes far enough in terms of guarantees for things like the welfare state). But reading through it, it sounds an awful lot like it was drafted by a committee of lawyers in order to be as non-offensive as possible (which, of course, it was), and the notwithstanding clause that allows governments to simply opt-out of any rights they happen to be trampling may be more generally appealing than the absolutism of the US constitution, but I still think it’s reprehensible**. And I couldn’t help but chuckle when the article claimed that the US constitution was the hardest in the world to amend; Canada, for its part, nearly tore itself to pieces the last time we tried to amend our Constitution in the early 90s.
That’s not to say, mind you, that I think that the US constitution is better; I wouldn’t trade for it. But it certainly is more epic; it has the resounding cadence of a foundational document, written in that lovely 18th-century prose-poetry. You must admit that “We the People” is a stronger opening statement than “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God*** and the rule of law.”I understand that there is a bizarre group of conservative fanatics in the United States who honestly believe that their constitution is the divinely-inspired word of God; to me, this claim rather misses the point, since in my opinion the real strength of the US constitution is not its divinity, but its profound Humanism. My point, however, is that I sincerely doubt (in spite of my occasional attempts to get Trudeauism recognized as a religion) that anyone short of stone-age level mutants in a post-atomic hellscape would ever make the same claim about the Charter.
However, one cannot select their constitution based on its legendary power; they are profoundly practical documents, and if the Charter is better in practice, than who am I to argue?
*As near as I can figure, it needs to be in a Bose-Einstein condensate in order to get quantized phonons. In the unlikely event that anyone has any information, please don’t hesitate to share.
**Although it has only been used once, and doing so is considered politically toxic.
***Yes, Canada, unlike the US, actually is a Christian country. The fact that things tend to be reversed in practice has always struck me as ironic.