554. Deliverance (XI)
The American left lauds what it calls “a living Constitution” and as with so many suggestions from the left it is an excellent idea; except that what the left has in mind is more a zombie constitution, a constitution suitably under the spells of a voodoo priest—of a judge or an expert; perhaps even a judge or expert who is unable to define “a woman” in simple common-sense terms. What does a constitution look like when it is alive? It looks like English common law. The common law—when it was in operation, it is not today—represents the legal equivalent to the Grimm fairytales; just as with the tales it was pruned and trimmed over the generations—it embodies decades of upon decades of knowledge. This is what makes the English common law deep, just as the Grimm tales are deep—it is alive, it is an organism; it represents collective wisdom from thousands of judges and fireside storytellers.
You cannot fake this wisdom: no writer, no judge, no statesman can spontaneously generate the depth found in a trans-generational organism. They can add to it, either through a minor embellishment or invention—or more likely by pruning out a silly bit, a twist in the tale that falls flat or a niggle in the law. As with evolution by natural selection itself, it is always better to prune out. Addition is easy, subtraction is hard—really, addition usually amounts to entropy.
Unfortunately, the American Constitution was bad from the start: the rational project—somewhat connected with the romantic cult of genius—holds that we can start again from year zero with a neatly written document. Nerdy people—constitution-bores—love this idea because they think that if everything is written down in one place, numbered with Roman numerals I-XX, then it is more rational; it is, therefore, good law. This feminine attitude, the attitude that makes endless lists for a trip abroad, remains deeply unwise. No individual can match inherited wisdom: this is the lie behind the Napoleonic Code, a bad legal system—and the basis for the EU. No committee, as drafted the American Constitution, can match inherited knowledge. Indeed, a committee is worse than an individual; everything produced by committee stinks, and remains tainted by compromise.
The American Constitution is a false God, a golden calf worshipped by the greedy and the ignorant. In Britain, constitution-bores maintain we need a fully written, codified constitution as in America. Behind this assertion lies an idea from sympathetic magic: if we have this document that the Americans obviously worship as a God we will be rich and powerful like the Americans—and this is why we now have a “Supreme Court” too. The same people, like schoolgirl swots, venerate the EU because it has many neatly laid out laws on crisp paper. These people are superstitious women.
What works in the US Constitution is the inherited wisdom that had to slip in from common law—unfortunately, in its codified form it was killed dead. It is pickled law, pickled like an 18th-century scientist’s glass jar specimens. The cult around the US Constitution and its framers is exactly the same as the weirdo North Korean cult around “the inherent genius” of the Kim family or old the scientific cult around Lenin’s body—these spring from the same conceit.
In its inflexibility, the US Constitution contributed to the Civil War; and it is only worth a defence because the people who would tear it down would replace it with Lenin-style rule by fiat and are so high on their own supply that they cannot provide a common-sense definition as to what constitutes “a woman”. Yet they cannot define a woman because the Founding Fathers decided to pull everything down and write it out rationally—just like those dead blocks that constitute rational American streets—and when you pull everything down and start from reason it turns out, in the end, you cannot even agree what constitutes “a woman”.