The Constitution Is Great, Check Your Premise, Dan

The Constitution Is Great, Check Your Premise, Dan

The Constitution Is Great, Check Your Premise, Dan

Slate Magazine published a piece by a Computer Science Professor by the name of Dan Rockmore. The article argues that you can mathematically prove that there is a Logical Inconsistency in The Constitution of the United States of America. The problem is: Dan’s premise is wrong, so the whole argument is invalid. Read on. I promise I won’t bore the snot out of you.

I argue that because Professor Rockmore has at least two problems in his opening paragraph, we don’t have to bother ourselves with anything else he thinks. If he has errors in his opening paragraph, everything that follows is pure bunk. Here is the first paragraph:

We hear a lot about American “exceptionalism”—the idea that the United States is different from all other nations, and that, by virtue of its democracy, any of its actions assumes a priori the moral high ground. This is in part grounded in our belief in our Constitution, a document, practically sacred, that we hold up as some kind of insurance policy to the world and ourselves, as a guarantee that our effort to “form a more perfect Union” and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” will always be a moral guidepost for our actions and with that a benefit to all humankind. Fascism? It Can’t Happen Here, famously wrote novelist and social critic Sinclair Lewis in 1935—except it was as the title of a novel suggesting that, with the right combination of charismatic demagogue, dire economic conditions, and savvy use of the media, it might.*

Yep, this computer wanker is one of those tortured, educated, but ignorant types who really doesn’t know what “American exceptionalism” really is. American exceptionalism really means that because we are a free people, each individual by dint of intellectual firepower, sweat of the brow and ingenuity may fulfill his own dream. One need not be “to the manor born” or of a favored caste, race or religion. American exceptionalism is about the individual in a land of individuals. Free people in pursuit of their own individual goals.

Mr. Rockmore has a bigger problem (well, several, but…). His second sentence in ruins his premise. “…by virtue of its democracy.” Oops, sorry, you are wrong. Perhaps Mr. Rockmore was fantasizing about second-generation languages when they taught civics in high school, because we live in a Constitutional Republic. There are some who argue that we live in a Representative Democracy, but I prefer original sources. Like say, Ole Ben Franklin.

From Our Republic:

The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Professor Rockmore goes on and on and on with his tedious argument. He drags in Mathematician Kurt Godel and his Incompleteness Theorems and blathers on so much that I am sure the mouthbreathers who read “Slate” all lay drooling on their devices. Cheap trick, baby, and I am not talking about the rock band. Godel, the mathematician who worried that his theorems were a cheap trick.

Here is really all you need to know about why this computer wanker went through this mental masturbation: Mr. Rockmore has a clinical case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. The evidence is in the article:

Fast forward to today and Donald Trump’s relentless attack on the Constitution and seemingly complete misunderstanding of its basic tenets are forcing us to rethink that insurance policy. Many of us—myself included—held on to the hope that our institutions and the processes would be able to safeguard the democratic process. But the walls between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches have perhaps never felt less solid. This leaves more than a few of us wondering about the foundations of our “great experiment,” about whether our country could actually be otherwise, given the constitutional system of rules that we claim must legally bind us and guide us.

See what I mean? Yes. It’s clinical Trump Derangement Syndrome. I hope I didn’t bore any of you. Always check your premise. Love and kisses to Ayn Rand.

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18 Comments
  • Doug Purdie says:

    Accusations that Mr. Trump is a facist, or that he threatens democracy, is trying to abolish the free press or attacks The Constitution, and they are abundant, are never accompanied by evidence. I always look . . . and look and look, but can never find any. You might think that university professors know how to bolster their claims.

    And, BTW, I do view The Constitution as sacred, not because of the genius of the government structure outlined therein, but because of its amendability. Anti-constitutionalists cry that a 200+ year old document cannot possibly address all of today’s issues. It can if properly amended and has been 27 times (Or, maybe I should say 26 times, since one bad amendment was subsequently repealed).

    • Toni S Williams says:

      I forgot the line that I do consider our founding documents sacred.

    • GWB says:

      You might think that university professors know how to bolster their claims.
      Not if you’ve paid any attention to modern academia.

    • scott says:

      Doug, I would suggest that at least a couple more Amendments were a huge mistake (the 17th.. it totally upended the Founders intentions… the original intent being to ensure states rights- also, the 14th, or at least the mis-interpretation that anyone who happens to get popped out on our soil is a citizen, regardless of the status of their parents)… depending on your particular leanings, there are one or two others that could be added to the list…

      Second, this window licking clown is a couple years too late in his accusations / concerns… everything he mentions in the last quote you cite could be VERY accurately attributed to the FORMER president obama (GOD i never get tired of saying that)…. he hits ever single point in the “professors” screed dead on… to try and link such things to President Trump, as you point out, is a classic, textbook example of Trump Derangement Syndrome…

    • Billy Hollis says:

      “Accusations that Mr. Trump is a facist, or that he threatens democracy, … are never accompanied by evidence.”

      That’s because, in the mind of people such as the author of that Slate piece, those things are axioms. To them, “Trump is a fascist” is self evident, and needs no proof of any kind. They expect anyone they regard as a thinking person to accept it without evidence.

      Just as geometry experts spend centuries unable to conceive of any alternatives to the Parallel Postulate, these people can’t conceive of a world in which any rational person doesn’t hate Trump.

      But unlike mathematical axioms, such convictions are arrived at purely by emotion, not by logic or objective observation. They are repulsed by Trump, and then find reasons to justify their repulsion.

      I’ve talked to some of these people in person. Evidence means nothing to them. The old saying applies: “you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into”.

      The real problem for them is that Trump is an existential threat to a philosophy they’ve staked their whole adult lives upon. That’s where much of the emotional revulsion comes from. It’s not about Trump; it’s about their own unwillingness to face the possibility they are simply wrong about how the world works. Trump is just the symbol of this problem.

  • GWB says:

    mathematically prove that there is a Logical Inconsistency in The Constitution
    WTF? That’s idiotic, right from the get-go.

    this computer wanker
    Hey now! Don’t toss those two words so casually adjacent to each other!

    by virtue of its democracy, any of its actions assumes a priori the moral high ground
    Well, no, Skippy Dan, you’re stating a conclusion with the entirely wrong premise. The moral high ground is because we were founded on principles with a moral underpinning (Judeo-Christian morality, to be EXACT). Democracy is not only NOT the virtue that leads to the moral high ground, but – as Toni alludes to – specifically rejected BECAUSE it would lead to something other than the moral high ground.

    a guarantee that … It Can’t Happen Here
    Well, yes, a great many people ignorantly believe that. However, none of them were our Founding Fathers. Instead, we have quotes like “A Republic, if you can keep it” and “The tree of Liberty must, from time to time, be renewed with the blood of patriots and tyrants” and “Our Constitution was made for a moral and educated people, it will suit no other.” **

    And, Toni, we do live in a representative democracy in the sense of our legislatures. But they aren’t the only pieces of our gov’t – not even the only piece in the lawmaking process (unless you can get 2/3 of each house to agree). And, of course, a republic is a form of representative democracy on steroids – where the states and their citizens get represented in the houses of Congress.
    You want American Exceptionalism? Look at our friggin’ federal gov’t! It’s diced six ways to Sunday just to make us different from all the failed democracies. ‘Cause, as a favorite author of mine has said “Americans don’t listen well.” 🙂

    relentless attack on the Constitution
    Where was this wanker from January 2009 until January 2017?
    I do think Trump has made some attacks on the Constitution in some of his … ‘moments’. But “relentless?! Pfft.
    0bama’s attacks were constant and dire, including his abuse of executive authority.
    (However, I have to point way back to Woodrow Wilson, or so – and especially FDR – for most of the problems we face today with anti-Constitutional policies, organizations, justices, and laws. And probably back before the Civil War on justices.)

    seemingly complete misunderstanding of its basic tenets
    I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess that yours are not “seemingly” complete. Just “complete”.

    Many of us—myself included—held on to the hope that our institutions and the processes would be able to safeguard the democratic process.
    Dan, Dan, Dan…. The institutions and processes in which you placed your trust are un-constitutional in, and of, themselves! The courts have no mandate within the Constitution to do the things for which you have drafted them, Organizations like the EPA and the Dept. of Ed. are unconstitutional by their very natures (with the possible exception of cleaning up actually navigable waterways).

    But the walls between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches have perhaps never felt less solid. This leaves more than a few of us wondering about the foundations of our “great experiment,”
    Well, now, I won’t disagree there. But, again, it isn’t Trump undermining the walls or the foundation. Look to Congress over the past 100 years. Look to most Presidents since Wilson. Look to the people who ruled without Constitutional authority from the bench.Most importantly, look to the citizens who have lost their zealous desire for Liberty unmarred, and who have voted more for safety and comfort than for Liberty; the citizens who don’t even know what’s in the 1st Amendment – or any of the others; who allowed the 16th and 17th Amendments to be passed; who, to this day, still think there is ANY authorization within the Constitution to take from one citizen and give to another.

    (** Those are off the top of my head. They may not be precise quotes. And I note you snagged the Franklin one.)

  • Scott says:

    “a guarantee that … It Can’t Happen Here
    Well, yes, a great many people ignorantly believe that. However, none of them were our Founding Fathers. Instead, we have quotes like “A Republic, if you can keep it” and “The tree of Liberty must, from time to time, be renewed with the blood of patriots and tyrants” and “Our Constitution was made for a moral and educated people, it will suit no other.” **” hence the need for, and reasoning behind the 2nd Amendment… regardless of the idiotic leftist protestations to the contrary…
    “0bama’s attacks were constant and dire, including his abuse of executive authority.
    (However, I have to point way back to Woodrow Wilson, or so – and especially FDR – for most of the problems we face today with anti-Constitutional policies, organizations, justices, and laws. And probably back before the Civil War on justices.)”…. Hmm, just for the sake of completeness, and transparency, what was the political affiliation of all the individuals you mentioned / implied???? +1000 to anyone that says DEMONRAT!!!cott

  • Rick Caird says:

    “But the walls between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches have perhaps never felt less solid.”

    I assume that good ol’ Dan had no problem with the walls when Barack “I have a pen and a phone” Obama kept implementing his newly created legislation and treating without even a tip of the hat of Congress. I also suspect Dan likes the Federal judge who claims it is unconstitutional to eliminate DACA when DACA was created.

    As far as Goedel goes, the US Constitution is not a closed system. We have two ways to amend the Constitution, so if Dan thinks it is deficient, he can get together with his fellow citizens and change it.

  • Eric S says:

    I read the article Mr. Rockmore wrote. I saw no coherent use of the predicate calculus, or predicate logic if you prefer that term, with respect to Prof. Godel’s theorems. To invoke the “Incompleteness Theorem” in a discussion about something which does NOT depend on self-reference is absolutely mind numbing. I despair of the lack of logic from someone who claims to understand math/computer science or logic. This is truly sad. A rambling set of paragraphs with history and conjecture and assumptions but nothing more. I was tempted to answer on Slate that he was wrong because Avogadro’s number is 6.022140857 x 10 to the 23rd but I fear he wouldn’t get the jest.

  • RebeccaH says:

    It’s pretty rich when these lefty types complain about Trump dissolving the walls between executive, legislative, and judicial. He’s not, but he is using some of the same tactics Barack Obama set precedence for to undo some of the damage Obama did. If Dan wants to complain about that, he’s one election too late to the party.

  • David Longfellow says:

    I’m going to guess that this guy also writes lousy code since his logic skills appear to be completely lacking.

  • Voyager says:

    To his thing about Godel’s contention that it was possible within the Constitution to create a dictatorship, the most direct method is to simply amend one into the Constitution. It’s a contract, and one that can be changed with a sufficient vote. I’m not sure it would take a large vote, either, if enough people stayed home, though under current systems it would need to be a very widespread negligence to permit it.

    The simplest method would likely be to systematically ignore and fail to enforce it’s rules to a point that no-one gives them any regard, and then simply impose a dictatorship.

    • GWB says:

      The simplest method would likely be to systematically ignore and fail to enforce it’s rules to a point that no-one gives them any regard, and then simply impose a dictatorship.
      But that could NEVER happen! /snark

  • As many have shown here, Dan Rockmore is completely ignorant on basics of political economy and the Constitution. But he is also deeply confused and self-contradictory. If it’s so that all systems are necessarily incomplete, then it’s not a flaw. He’s committing what we economists call the Nirvana fallacy – comparing reality to an impossible hypothetical ideal. (I have a PhD in Economics from a top-10 Economics department, and I have taken graduate level mathematics; Rockford’s kind of illogic would get him roasted in an economics seminar.)

    And frankly every sane person from the Founding Fathers on has understood that for the Constitution to work, people have to actually follow it. The constraints and checks in the Constitution are crucial, but so are the choices people make. (Wilson, FDR, and Obama are good examples of presidents who ignored the Constitution for political convenience.)

    Labeling Donald Trump a fascist is simply the icing on the cake of Rockmore’s inanity.

    • GWB says:

      The constraints and checks in the Constitution are crucial, but so are the choices people make.
      For one, the people have to choose to enforce the Constitution’s limits.

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