Changes in the Constitution That Experts Would Like to Make

The Constitution's last update was in 1992, is it time for another Amendment?

February 11, 2013, 6:28 PM

Feb. 12, 2013 -- The Constitution has held the United States government together for more than 200 years with remarkably few changes – there have been only 27 ratified amendments in part because it is such a difficult process. That's the whole point, and that's why there haven't been any additions since 1992, well before the new millennium.

But the Constitution is also a document written before asphalt superhighways or the information superhighway, before electricity or flight, much less the predator drones and extended ammunition clips President Obama might mention in tonight's State of the Union address.

Those are in-depth political and policy issues. There are some simpler things that many Constitutional scholars think should be changed – like the ban on natural born citizens becoming president or your rights to online privacy. If they had their way, what else would the people who spend their time reading the Constitution change about the Constitution?

Akhil Reed Amar, Yale law professor and author of America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By, speaks out in favor of constitutional change.

"We need the Constitution to continue to promote liberty and equality," he told ABC News. "The framers of the Constitution thought about what should be addressed in their futures. We should be thinking about how the Constitution will address ours."

The principle of liberty and equality, Amar said, should extend to non-natural born citizens' ability to run for president.

"The ability to run for president feeds into the American Dream ideal," he said. "This will help the Henry Kissingers as well as the Madeleine Albrights. It will benefit both parties."

"The Constitution is imperfect, as every human creation is, but it has served us remarkably well over the centuries," Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe told ABC News. "It contains enough play in the joints and ambiguities to permit it to be 'updated' through a process that involves the people, their elected representatives and the courts."

Tribe is not opposed to the idea of adding another amendment to get America back to the government the founding framers originally envisioned.

"I'd leave [the Constitution's] language alone with the possible exception of an amendment to deal with the terrible problem of money in politics," he said.

That's an issue on which Supreme Court weighed in back in 2010, settling that corporations and nonprofits have the right to free speech by spending money on elections.

Other issues could not have been foreseen by the framers. There was no Facebook in 1789 Philadelphia. Today, websites constantly update their privacy settings, location tracking systems are features on virtually all devices, and individual privacy often comes as an afterthought in the face of high-tech convenience. The popularity of a few specific websites, like Facebook and Google, makes curbing the privacy problem more complicated since it forces the government to butt heads with private companies.

"Right now, Facebook and Google have more power over free speech than any president or Supreme Court justice," George Washington University Law School Professor Jeffrey Rosen told ABC News.

Like Tribe, Rosen has a new amendment in mind, but his proposal would not significantly alter the Constitution. Instead, his idea would add a few clarifying words to the Fourth Amendment in order to tackle the issue of online privacy.

"We could add [to the Fourth Amendment] that people have a right to be protected from surveillance," he suggested. "While the government is not physically spying on us, there is very little protecting people online."

Despite voicing his support for constitutional additions, Rosen admits the process for doing so would be anything but speedy.

"The truth is that the Constitution is very hard to amend, so it may be hard to mobilize the political momentum necessary to pass something like this quickly," Rosen said. "I do think that citizens care enough about privacy to act; Americans will not tolerate the prospect of being spied on 24/7, so I think both federal and state laws will be passed [to address this issue]."

So how do the opinions of these scholars measure up to those of future attorneys and the public? The younger generation appears to feel torn between respecting the pillar of the American legal system, and admitting that our modernity may be out of the scope of the founders' interpretations.

"I firmly believe that you can't–and shouldn't–simply 'update' the constitution to conform to contemporary values," said Wake Forest School of Law student Dal Burton Jr. "The Constitution was meant to be the bedrock of our entire republic."

He added echoing Tribe, "The fact that it has kept its original core elements is a source of strength."

The strength of the rule of the land is definite, but not all future legal experts believe strength and tradition are immune to a periodic update.

"I love that the Constitution and the judicial system function entirely on judicial interpretation," said Indiana University McKinney School of Law student Amelia McClure. "However, in order for the Constitution to survive we can't apply it as it was applied in 1790 when there was no such thing as indoor plumbing."

As most things on the Internet, this debate rages on in online forums. The range of topics and concerns voiced on forums like and show that this debate is not going to reach a consensus any time soon.

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