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On How Not to Read the Constitution Essay

Lauren H. Tribe and Michael C. Dorf take time to add their two cents worth on the age-old debate of whether our Constitution should be read and interpreted “strictly” or “loosely.” In the end they establish that the constitution will always be subject to different interpretation. They approach the idea that the Framers of the constitution weren’t aware of the effects which the Constitution would have on society, calling their writing of the document a form of “wish projection” whereas the readers view the Constitution as “wish fulfillment.” This idea of fulfillment is mirrored in the language of the document, which they assert; any individual can use to justify his or her political and moral beliefs. However, Tribe and Dorf go on to say that the Constitution simply as mirror for the reader is “empty, and infinitely malleable” and that we must find principles that anchor the Constitution.

They cite that the most obvious problem with the document is the infinite amount of room it leaves for the readers to imagine. To an extent, they blame the appeal of the Preamble and its use of “fluid, but plastic” terms to coax and encourage the reader’s imagination. In a sarcastic move they refer to the “lively” language of the bulk of the document, which they say give more capable support in any legal, political, or ideological spectrum than the Preamble could provide. These spectrums will always provide for “strikingly divergent conclusions” about the Constitution and its practices, and establish open debate over meaning and materials. As both Tribe and Dorf conclude, “Inconsistency-even inconsistency with democracy–is hardly earth shattering.” Indeed, for no one system will ever be perfect as long as people are here to interpret it.

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