Why is the US Constitution so hard to amend? – Peter Paccone

When it was ratified in 1789, the U.S. Constitution didn’t just
institute a government by the people. It provided a way for the people to alter
the constitution itself. And yet, of the nearly 11,000 amendments
proposed in the centuries since, only 27 have succeeded as of 2016. So what is it that makes the Constitution
so hard to change? In short, its creators. The founders of the United States
were trying to create a unified country from thirteen different colonies, which needed assurance that their
agreements couldn’t be easily undone. So here’s what they decided. For an amendment to even be proposed, it must receive
a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress, or a request from two-thirds
of state legislatures to call a national convention, and that’s just the first step. To actually change the Constitution, the amendment must be ratified
by three-quarters of all states. To do this, each state can either have
its legislature vote on the amendment, or it can hold a separate
ratification convention with delegates elected by voters. The result of such high thresholds is that, today,
the American Constitution is quite static. Most other democracies pass amendments
every couple of years. The U.S., on the other hand,
hasn’t passed one since 1992. At this point, you may wonder how any
amendments managed to pass at all. The first ten,
known as the Bill of Rights, includes some of America’s
most well-known freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, and the right to a fair trial. These were passed all at once to resolve some conflicts from
the original Constitutional Convention. Years later, the Thirteenth Amendment,
which abolished slavery, as well as the Fourteenth
and Fifteenth Amendments, only passed after a bloody civil war. Ratifying amendments
has also become harder as the country has grown larger
and more diverse. The first ever proposed amendment, a formula to assign
congressional representatives, was on the verge of ratification
in the 1790s. However, as more and more states
joined the union, the number needed to reach
the three-quarter mark increased as well, leaving it unratified to this day. Today, there are many
suggested amendments, including outlawing
the burning of the flag, limiting congressional terms, or even repealing the Second Amendment. While many enjoy strong support,
their likelihood of passing is slim. Americans today are the most politically
polarized since the Civil War, making it nearly impossible to reach
a broad consensus. In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia once calculated that due to America’s
representative system of government, it could take as little as 2% of the total
population to block an amendment. Of course, the simplest solution would be
to make the Constitution easier to amend by lowering the thresholds required
for proposal and ratification. That, however, would require
its own amendment. Instead, historical progress has mainly
come from the U.S. Supreme Court, which has expanded its interpretation
of existing constitutional laws to keep up with the times. Considering that Supreme Court justices
are unelected and serve for life once appointed, this is far from
the most democratic option. Interestingly, the founders themselves
may have foreseen this problem early on. In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote
that laws should expire every 19 years rather than having to be changed
or repealed since every political process
is full of obstacles that distort the will of the people. Although he believed that the basic principles
of the Constitution would endure, he stressed that the Earth belongs
to the living, and not to the dead.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. There is another dynamic to this scenario which is
    the federalist system and the state gov'ts/constitutions. While the US constitution's wording is harder to change, state laws and constitutions change quite a bit. State constitutions have, on average, 26000 words to the US constitution's 8700. States change with everything from marijuana to Nevada recently had a vote to end the cap on taxing the mining industry. The most extreme example is Alabama which requires all laws to be addressed in their constitution. The US constitution was made to be vague and a steady legal framework because it is the basis of the political and legal systems in the US and to counter balance the organized chaos at the state and local level. This system is shared by very few countries around the world, including most Democratic Republics like France.

  2. That how a constitution must work. Not like here in Brazil, where the constitution helps the creation of a huge bureaucrat State, that requires more taxes than the kings of old. I love the constitution of the USA, it really supports democracy, and protection against tyranny. The Brazilians are suffering because of that, we have and had in the past 13 years the most corrupt State, disorganized, insecure, dishonest and the worse constitution ( because it almost don't work, just in some cases, especially on taxes and fees). Americans be grateful for your constitution, things can be a lot worse.

  3. Loving kindness for the United States of America federal government for using the frog drawing from Japanogo's "Visiting shinto shrine" video (lower right side) on its trains in the Dc/Maryland area. Turtle is a symbol of harmonious government, longevity, & steadiness. The spirit of America promises to keep up its virtues & not sell out (which is easy because USA controls most wealths in the world& pay people to be virtuous, honor all heritages, hug trees and study/perfect US CONSTITUTION) Loving kindness for US seifu @ Safeway, a US grocery store design wit japanese spiritual government principles. Loving

  4. My god….who supports burning the flag… Wouldn't that amendment get 100% support? Whoever doesn't is clearly a terrorist and deserves to be in jail

  5. And yet one of the main arguments for not changing anything is invoking the will of people who have been dead for over 200 years, go figure….

  6. Nah, we should just keep the amendments and use laws to get along with them.
    Just take a look of the mess that are countries where new amendments are a common thing, most people don+t even know how many they are.

    Also if in the actual system people are try to cheat it imagine if it was easier….

  7. I'm researching for a book I'm writing (4-30-17) Does anyone know how
    the state legislative votes, after an Article V Const, Amendment Convention,
    are forwarded to finalize the Const, Amendment results? I mean, does
    the majority leader in each state legislature phone federal congress to
    say YAY of NEY? How does that work?

  8. The Constitution is not a list of things the government CAN do, it's a list of things the government CAN'T do, effectively. That's why it's difficult to amend it.

  9. No, they weren't trying create a unified country from thirteen "colonies". They were trying to promote the welfare of FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

  10. "historical progress has come from the US Supreme Court" hmmm hmmm, I beg to differ on that one Mr. Ted-Ed

  11. I had never heard of that letter from Thomas Jefferson at the end. But, what he said is a good point. "The earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead".

  12. I am in favour of a new amendmend. First of all the nation should have 6 top positions. Not 1. Each branch shpyld have its top man. The President in the Executive Branch. The Supreme Judge in Judicial Branch and The Spokesman of the House of Representative ( weather it be a senate or congressman )

    Each should have a boss. A National Executive Officer. A Judicial officer and and an Officer of the congress. In this counsil The 3 together with secretaries would act as protectors of the Nation with the odd task of majibg sure that the 3 branches are well balanced. In essence they have little executive power little judicial power and little legislative power. Still they will have the power to abolish politics which msyvlead to that directon ( when obe or 2 branches get too strong )

  13. Hey everyone, unfortunatley I am going to wave at your attention span and direct you to my Twitch channel…I put so much passion into discussion about my country and countries documents..name below.


  14. For more information on corrupt judges in NY state, go to bullyjudges.com, and visit my YouTube Chanel James H. Brady:


  15. I think that’s a little unfair how they mention other democracies pass amendments every couple of years. The individual states pass constitutional amendments every couple of years as well just last year I voted on 7 constitutional amendments the Texas legislature had put on the ballot for ratification. All 7 were successful. Essentially the US constitution is more like a treaty between democracies and changing that treaty requires virtually unanimous support. If you look to our founding that is essentially exactly how the constitution was formed.

  16. There will soon be little to no progress as the United States becomes increasingly divided with political beliefs…

  17. And these American assholes imposed an even worse constitution on Japan. Zero amendment or revision has been done since 1947.

  18. The constitution is for the national level, meaning it affects EVERY one’s rights and liberties. It should be difficult to change it since it’s at the national level. Laws change more frequently at the state level, and even more at the county/city level. The constitution was designed to allow smaller governments, such as the city, county, and states, to better respond and change to the needs of their people. So if you want to make some changes, start your local/community level.

  19. Lol, if each generation had the opportunity to re-write the entire Constitution then we would've lost freedom of speech and religion something like 10 years ago. Special interest groups controlling the media and educational system would reign supreme. There would've been no democracy left by now.
    Just think about it: we've had one continuous republic for 230 years now. Not a single dictatorship or coup d'etat attempt in all that time, despite the Civil War, two World Wars, the Cold War, the War on Terror, and the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Our snail-paced constitution has worked EXTREMELY well towards shielding us from tyranny. Anybody can come up with elaborate theories on how the constitution is defunct or even immoral, but hard cold experience has proven that it works. It has far outlasted any other constitution in the world, the vast majority of which proved unable to withstand calamitous events. Do you really want to risk the future security of our democracy on the hubristic notion that your generation is so smart and competent that it doesn't need anything made by a prior generation?

  20. Man The Philippine constitution does not need amendments because if you wanna change something better change everything

  21. Because I am a blackamerican you are no kind of American. Your an invader. Be careful Trump people will be coming for you.

  22. No Matter who tells what, US Constitution is way ahead than other rule of law given the fact that it was made 250 years ago

  23. The German system for passing amendments is the same process for Congress PROPOSING amendments in the US: 2/3 of the lower and upper house. I don't think Congress has even proposed anywhere near as many Amendments as Germany, per year

  24. States don’t need to “request” to have their own convention to propose amendments, they can do it all on their own, without congress. It’s intended to be one more check on the federal government from the states.

  25. Here’s a novel idea: why not just rewrite the entire thing and update it for the modern age? European countries do it every time they have a major parliamentary election.

  26. It would be the absolute height of arrogance for people to assume that any constitution we made now would still be a wise and skillful set of rules 240 years from now. And yet that is exactly how we pretend our constitution was made. The constitution is of course not in any way perfect for us. We are simply to incompetent to fix it. A nation that can't make true progress is doomed.

  27. can people really amend the constitution? the real answer is no! Only people elected to represent them in congress and in the state legislatures which is really just a way of saying tyrants by another name, or kings, we have a monarchy without the glamour.

  28. Yet two amendments just dealing with alcohol. Guns!? Oh no, you can't change that! Alcohol!? meh, change it… meh, change it again.

  29. Before going to the states for ratification, an amendment has to go through one of two processes. One is to be approved by both houses of Congress by two-thirds majorities. The other is to be approved by a constitutional convention like in 1787, which requires a mandate from two-thirds of the state legislatures. (This allows the state governments, in theory, to amend the Constitution without federal approval.)

  30. Well, in this case indian constitution hits the sweet spot. Neither as rigid as America nor as non-existent as Britain. It needs 2/3 majority in both the houses for central laws and if it's a federal law then half the states(simple majority in state legislature) as well. Canada has a similar system. And there is a doctrine of basic structure which prevents government enjoying overwhelming majority from passing unreasonable amendments.the doctrine gives the supreme Court the power to strike down such amendments.

    In this way we get an organic live document overarching the 3 basic institutions.

  31. Nevermind the video, this guy that post it is a moron, you should see his comments, thinks the wall is useless, just bitches about it in comments. Thats why I'm here, to let you know this is a cnn shill.

  32. Meanwhile, in the UK:

    To amend the Constitution, you need…

    A simple majority in the House of Commons and that's pretty much it.

  33. This video definitely has a Left-leaning bias. "Historical progress has mainly come from the U.S. supreme court." 3:15

    Progress for one is digression for another.

  34. I remember Nancy Polusey ,saying ( the constitution ,that old thing we don't use it anymore ) why was she not arrested for this and charged with violation of oath and treason ?

  35. Amendments 13 through 20 were fast, flexible adaptations, some right and some wrong, to shifts in public opinion. The federal government overreached under FDR- morally justified in a national emergency- but once the feds got a taste of absolute power, they decided to bypass the Constitution even after World War II.

  36. There should be a Constitutional Amendment for decency requiring all women, when in public or on camera, to cover themselves from the collar bone to below the knee, and forbidding men from removing their shirts in public unless there is a medical risk of heat stroke. If that offends you, then you are an immoral person.

  37. The more "diverse" the country becomes, the less respect people have for the constitution and the Bill of rights. If it were left to the leftists, they would immediately repeal the 1st and 2nd amendment in the name of political correctness and safe spaces.

  38. And all the reasons why other countries have passed the U.S. on rational legislation and true justice reflecting modern times and needs. The U.S. is unbelievably backwards…its NOT democratic..its a means for the oligarchy
    to ensure unquestioning control over the Republic…freedoms in this nation are a joke.

    republic (Latin: res publica) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy…..this place is a oligarchy…NOT a true democracy..its a farce.

  39. A federal constitution should be a hard thing to amend. Any amendment brings with drastic changes at the systemic level. That is dangerous. Amending State Constitutions is what changemakers should look to, if its not that big a deal.

  40. “The earth belongs to the living, not the dead”

    stops on mother-in-law’s grave


  41. I don't like this. Isn't that means it's hard for America to remove electoral college. Election in America will never be fair if electoral vote still exists

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