John Paul Stevens: Should We Have a New Constitutional Convention?

According to opinion polls, over 80 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. Is a new constitutional convention the appropriate remedy for our dysfunctional government? Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens considers the case in his review of Sanford Levinson’s Framed: America’s Fifty-One Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.

Photo: Chief Justice Warren Burger and newly appointed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the steps of the Supreme Court building, Washington, D.C., September 1981 (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

John Paul Stevens: Should We Have a New Constitutional Convention?

According to opinion polls, over 80 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. Is a new constitutional convention the appropriate remedy for our dysfunctional government? Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens considers the case in his review of Sanford Levinson’s Framed: America’s Fifty-One Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance.

Photo: Chief Justice Warren Burger and newly appointed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the steps of the Supreme Court building, Washington, D.C., September 1981 (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Ronald Dworkin, Why the Health Care Challenge Is Wrong

American health care is an unjust and expensive shambles; only a comprehensive national program can even begin to repair it. If the Supreme Court does declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, it will have ruled that Congress lacks the power to adopt what it thought the most effective, efficient, fair, and politically viable remedy—not because that national remedy would violate anybody’s rights, or limit anyone’s liberty in ways a state government could not, or would be otherwise unfair, but for the sole reason that in the Court’s opinion the strict and arbitrary language of an antique Constitution denies our national legislature the power to enact the only politically possible national program.

Photo: Franz Jantzen

Ronald Dworkin, Why the Health Care Challenge Is Wrong

American health care is an unjust and expensive shambles; only a comprehensive national program can even begin to repair it. If the Supreme Court does declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, it will have ruled that Congress lacks the power to adopt what it thought the most effective, efficient, fair, and politically viable remedy—not because that national remedy would violate anybody’s rights, or limit anyone’s liberty in ways a state government could not, or would be otherwise unfair, but for the sole reason that in the Court’s opinion the strict and arbitrary language of an antique Constitution denies our national legislature the power to enact the only politically possible national program.

Photo: Franz Jantzen

The Republican majority in the House now refuses to permit the country to meet debts duly authorized in the past that remain duly authorized now, unless the Democrats and the President agree to a radical reduction in essential public services that they would never otherwise accept. That is playing blackmail with the nation’s honor. It threatens exactly the kind of forced default that the principle behind the debt clause declares it has no authority to inflict. I believe the best, principled, interpretation of the clause gives the president authority to ignore that blackmail and to borrow enough to meet the nation’s standing legal obligations.