Interpreting the Constitution, is it necessary?
The Constitution is the framework of our society and over the years it has become a part of lawsuits by individuals and organizations who seek to impose what they believe are the requirements identified within. Interpreting documents is a fabric of society but with regards to our Constitution the question is whether that is necessary. The answer is a yes and a no. The simple fact is that as in the first sentence there are always going to be those who feel they understand the Constitution as it applies to their circumstances and it sometimes takes a court case to set the record straight.
Whether statements by individuals are interpretations or they are just accepting the words written in the Constitution is a matter of opinion in some respects. Laws are written associated with the language of the Constitution or they should be. They are basically an effort by those who write them an interpretation of the requirements/rights identified under the Constitution. This statement may not agree with legislative efforts but they are in fact interpretations. Some laws however show a direct correlation to the responsibilities of Congress as identified in the Constitution. One example is immigration and citizenship requirements. This responsibility is clearly is part of the authority granted to Congress. Even when there is a direct correlation to congressional responsibilities legislation must be defined with regards to the language necessary to address specific responsibilities.
The definition of interpret as provided by dictionary.com is provided below:
- To give or provide the meaning of; explain
- To construe or understand in a particular way
- To bring out the meaning of by performance or execution
- To perform or render according to one’s own understanding or sensitivity
The definition provided above is broad in scope so much so that the act of interpreting any document let alone the Constitution can cause problems. When individuals get together in an office environment what they perceive from language may be clear to one person but vague to another. This is what is occurring in Congress and across the country in state legislatures. Many laws are on the books and if they are not specific as to the requirements according to the applicable Constitution they must be interpreted.
Congress is not the only organization who interprets the meaning of any topic embedded in the Constitution. Today many businesses must have lawyers or sometimes constitutional lawyers to understand the language of legislation as it relates to constitutional documents. Lawyers make a good living providing such service but again interpreting a Constitution should only be necessary when an individual or groups of individuals have a disagreement which must be settled in court.
Our Constitution and the Constitution of states have language which has been changed through a vote of the people. Courts have had to make difficult decisions involving constitutional battles and many are controversial in nature. What have we become as a country where the language of any Constitution must be interpreted rather than taking the words as the requirement. While interpretation may be required in some cases we should in most cases accept the language as it is written. What would our country be like if we accepted the language in a Constitution rather than requiring an interpretation. Constitutional language is not rocket science. If there is a need for interpretation of any document, especially a Constitution our country would be a totally different place with reduced lawsuits and fewer cases within our judicial system. It would free up court time and reduce the cost of a major segment (government) of our society. When cases are backlogged as they are today it costs money. Eliminating or at least reducing the need for interpretation reduces government costs but the cost incurred by individuals and organizations in fighting for their interpretation. It would have a positive effect on business costs throughout the country.