The Instigator
BilllyMayes
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Brenavia
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points

The Constiution of the United States should be interpreted as a living document, not as a fixed one.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/14/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,445 times Debate No: 15941
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

BilllyMayes

Pro

To start off, this is obviously my first debate on here and I have no experience "formally" debating subjects, so please stick with me.

I will argue that the United States Constitution (now to be called the Constitution) should be interpreted as a living document rather than as a fixed document. I will provide different reasons as to why it should be interpreted as a living document, my primary argument being that technological advances and time have changed our society.

The con side should debate that the Constitution should be interpreted as a fixed document.

In case you were wondering:
-A living document is (a definition that I will "create" as I have not found a good definition from a credible site): A document that should be interpreted differently as society advances.
-A fixed document it: A document thats meaning should only be interpreted word for word and its meaning should always be literal.

If you have any other questions that I haven't answered, you may post in the comments and I will do my best to answer. Good luck to whoever accepts this one.

Set up:
Round 1- Acceptance/any questions
Round 2- Debate
Round 3- Debate
Round 4- Closing arguments
Brenavia

Con

I would like to accept this debate, its intresting and I like this view point, though it is not mine personal one. Im up for a challenge!

I will create my own definition of fixed document since you wrote yours for living document.
-A fixed document is one where the wording cannot be changed through any means but by the way the document states.
-A living document is one that constantly evolves and shifts according to society and its needs.

My questions:
-Will our definitions contradict each other or should we establish a set definition? I dont want this to be a debate of a definition, I want a simple debate over this topic.
-What is your definition of a changing society? Is it by what the people want or by what the people need?

That's all. Good luck to my opponent and judges please but all bias aside and clear your mind of all preconcieved notions. I hope to have a good debate!
Debate Round No. 1
BilllyMayes

Pro

I appreciate the challenge, and hope to answer your questions and then present my points.

Question 1) Will our definitions contradict each other or should we establish a set definition? I dont want this to be a debate of a definition, I want a simple debate over this topic.

Answer: I believe our definitions will not contradict, so it should not turn into a debate of definitions.

Question 2) What is your definition of a changing society? Is it by what the people want or by what the people need?

Answer: I will define a changing society as a society that's core values have been changed either by wants or needs. In other words, when the general consensus of the people changes, society changes.

-My Arguments-

1) It is impossible to keep any document from 200 years ago and apply it to current issues. There is no way that the founding fathers could have expected mass communication, currency that is based more on stocks than a gold/silver standard, the automobile, etc. Technological advances have created a serious problem with interpreting the Constitution.
The prime example I would like to bring up here is tax on the Internet. Currently, if there is no physical building in the state in which you are purchasing, there is no tax collected at all. This has been a constant argument because they can't decide how to split up the taxes. This comes from a time in 1992 when the Supreme court decided that mail-order customers didn't have to pay sales tax if there was no physical presence in that state. [1]
I believe that part of the reason that the government is having a problem with this is because of that court decision in which the Constitution was read a way that made it impossible for states to collect taxes on Internet purchases, possibly because the Internet was not existent in that time.

2) The second argument I would like to bring up is that society is constantly changing. Our values, our beliefs, everything changes. We all know the debate over abortion and gay marriage. The Supreme court has basically made a "no-decision" on gay marriage mainly because they really can't do anything in my opinion. In no place in the Constitution does it say what marriage is considered [2]. 53% of Americans are ok with gay marriage, 44% are not. The majority of people are ok with gay marriage! [3]

3) My third argument is that our policies have greatly changed. We have greatly moved from isolation to being a player on the world stage, from being more about "make your own money" to welfare programs, from being a smaller country to a world power. All of these are things that the founders might not have expected which is why it is so important that we not just think of what the founders said, rather that we bring in some of our own values and beliefs to make things more current to our society.

I look forward to the arguments my opponent will present and look forward to a great debate.

[1]http://www.nolo.com...
[2]http://www.usconstitution.net...
[3]http://www.metroweekly.com...
Brenavia

Con

Since you stated our definitions won't contradict, I'll use my definition to start. A fixed document is one where the wording cannot be changed through any means but by the way the document states. In the comments page, when I questioned my opponent about his definitions, he stated when referring to our definitions, "If you want to provide a definition of fixed document, that would be good. I'm thinking something along the lines of what you are thinking that it should be that the founding fathers intent should be allowed through to a point,".

The Founding Fathers intent to allowed through, TO A POINT. I believe these three words could decide the debate. What is my opponent suggesting? He is suggesting that if the Founding Father's intent does not meet the needs of the people, the Constitution should be allowed to conform to meet those needs. It sounds good, but this argument is fundamentally flawed. Who decides the needs of the people? Who decides if the Constitution meets those needs? The Supreme Court cannot be allowed to decide this, for they cannot amend the Constitution and have to uphold the document as a whole, no matter what it says. Congress cannot, for they don't interpret the Constitution, they can only change it. The Executive branch can't decide the needs of the people, nor can it decide if the Constitution meets the needs of America, its job is defend the Constitution and make sure all programs are run effectively.

This fundamental flaw is a major issue that Pro has to solve. Please, in your next speech, give me your solution to who decides the needs of the people, and who decides if the Constitution meets those needs.

Now on to my contentions:

Contention 1: The definition of a Fixed Document and a Living Document

In my opening speech, I was allowed to give my definitions, and in my opponent's second speech, he said our definitions wouldn't contradict. My definition was as follows: A fixed document is one where the wording cannot be changed through any means but by the way the document states. My definition for a living document was as follows: A living document is one that constantly evolves and shifts according to society and its needs.

The Constitution fulfils this definition as a Fixed Document. It cannot change by any means except but what states is the way to change its wording. The Constitution meets this definition, for it can change its wording through an amendment. Article V of the U.S. Constitution states, "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution,". Congress does not interpret the Constitution and, if they decide to do so on their own extra constitutional accord, decide to try to interpret the needs of the people and amend the Constitution to fit what they deem as needs and wants, they could inherently push their own agenda.

Look to Amendment 27. This allows Congress to set their own paycheck. Who voted on this amendment? Congress did, and they are allowed to fit their 'needs' in a higher paycheck if they so deem right. The Constitution, if interpreted as a fixed document, should not allow Congress to set their own paycheck, for that could disrupt a check on Congress. Would the Founding Father's want Congress to set their own paycheck and thus allow Congressmen to have a slight advantage of the rest of the population of the U.S.? No, Amendment 27 is an example of the Constitution being interpreted loosely in accordance to what Congress said, and it met a so called 'need' and a 'want' for Congressmen. Do Congressmen constitute for all of society, and thus meet the definition of a Living Document? No, and Amendment 27 is an example of the Constitution being used as a fixed document, and Congressmen take advantage of this fact.

But the Constitution also meets the definition of a Living Document. Through Article V of the Constitution, a fixed document, at times, is allowed to be a Living document through the amendment process. Unfortunately for my opponents case, the Constitution cannot be interpreted as a Living Document unless Pro concedes that the Constitution is a fixed document, and thus proving my Contention.

http://www.usconstitution.net...

Contention 2: Relevance Today

Through the Amendment Process, the Constitution is allowed to be changed to fit society's needs and wants. Yes, its true that the Founding Father's could not predict society's changes, but that's why Article V was written, so that the Constitution COULD change to meet society's needs and wants.

In conclusion, Con wins this debate. I succeed in proving that the Constitution meets both definitions of a Living and a Fixed Document. Unfortunately for Pros case, he cannot prove that the Constitution meets the definition of a Living Document unless he concedes that the Constitution is a Fixed Document. Thus, I urge voters to realize this fact, and agree that the Constitution is first a Fixed Document, then a Living Document.

VOTE CON!
Debate Round No. 2
BilllyMayes

Pro

BilllyMayes forfeited this round.
Brenavia

Con

Unfortunatly for my opponent, he has missed the deadline to make his next speech. I ask that voters not count this against him, and allow the debate to continue. I will restate my main points and then I'll be done.

1. Pro suggests allowing the intent of the Founding Fathers to shine through in the Constitution TO A POINT, but no one in government has the legal authority to go against what the Constitution says.

2. Pro said that our definitions wouldn't contradict, and thus I will be using my to support the my case

3. My wording of Fixed Document allows for the Amendement Process to take place, and this allows the Consitution to shift along with the needs and wants of American society, and thus become a Living Document. However, to do this Pro must first admit the Constitution is a Fixed Document to allow it to become a Living Document. This makes the Consitution both types of documents, but first a Fixed one.

4. Amendment 27 is an example of the Constitution being used as a Fixed Document, and not being used as a Living one.

5. Yes, the Founding Fathers couldn't predict the needs and wants of future America, but that's why they included Article V of the Constitution, the Amendment Process, so that America's ruling documnet COULD shift to meet the needs and wants of the people.

So thus, the Constitution of the United States is both a Living and a Fixed Document, which is as it was wanted by the Founding Fathers. But unfortunatley for Pro's case, he must concede that the Constitution is first a Fixed Document, and then a Livng Document. Thus, I strongly believe that Con wins this debate, and that the Constitution of the United States is first a Fixed Document, and then a Living one.

VOTE CON!
Debate Round No. 3
BilllyMayes

Pro

BilllyMayes forfeited this round.
Brenavia

Con

Alright, this is a little disappointing and unexpected. I was hoping for a good debate, and failed to recieve one.

Carry over all of my previous arguments, and vote Con due to forfeit.

Thanks,

Brenavia
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by BilllyMayes 5 years ago
BilllyMayes
I would be making the argument that having a starting point is a good idea, mostly for a clear definition of powers.

For example, the founders obviously wanted the Legislative branch to be the most powerful. That should be kept.

The other argument is that the Supreme Court should bring current issues into context when considering declaring something (un)constitutional.
Posted by cameronalbrecht 5 years ago
cameronalbrecht
I'm curious to see the how the instigator makes an argument for a "living" document, as in what is the point of even having a written constitution if it can be interpreted and thus essentially changed at will?
Posted by BilllyMayes 5 years ago
BilllyMayes
If you want to provide a definition of fixed document, that would be good. I'm thinking something along the lines of what you are thinking that it should be that the founding fathers intent should be allowed through to a point.
Posted by Brenavia 5 years ago
Brenavia
I would like to accept this debate, but I have one question: Are you meaning, in the context of the word "Fixed Document", that the words not ever be changed in the Constitution, or that the Fiunding Father's intent be allowed to show through the Constitution.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
BilllyMayesBrenaviaTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Easy win for Con, as Pro forfeited and left arguments unanswered. Con correctly pointed to the amendment process; Pro would have to have argued that the Supreme Court was a better route than amendment.
Vote Placed by boredinclass 5 years ago
boredinclass
BilllyMayesBrenaviaTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: via forfeit