The June 17 commentary "The U.S. Constitution: If we were willing to redraft …" sent a chill down my spine. Our Constitution was written by many highly educated individuals and thinkers, living through much more dangerous times than today. The framers came from all walks of life and viewpoints to frame a document to last through the ages, not just a few applicable years. It was made difficult to change precisely because of the short-term, tunnel-vision focus exhibited by that commentary. I'll take the original version from the original drafters over any version written by an individual with limited experience and vision.
Marc Sullivan, Richfield
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Edgar M. Morsman's proposal for changes to the Constitution form an excellent starting point for discussion. In the same spirit, I would like to offer the following commentary on his preamble on the purpose of government.
In his view, government is responsible for providing citizens with "quality education," "affordable health care" and a protected environment. I think these are commendable goals, except for one key point: Each goal is ultimately the domain of professionals. I would propose that in each case, elected officials may try to promote these goals, but they can succeed only if professionals show the way. Specifically:
1) The goal of providing everyone with "a quality education" will not have the same meaning for all citizens. Persons with remarkable musical talent or inventiveness or athleticism or manual dexterity may have little need for an advanced academic education. Educators, with the prompting of government, should lay out a plan for offering each person the optimum type and duration of education. If government funds are needed in the process, educators should quantify the needs and present them to government.
2) With hindsight, I would suggest that President Obama should perhaps have begun health care reform by assembling the leaders of the various medical associations, research hospitals, medical specialties, medical device companies and manufacturers of pharmaceuticals to spell out the needs. How can we reduce medical costs for everyone? What is the role of education and prevention? What about people who can't afford medical care, or who find the existing system inadequate for whatever reason? I would propose that the president should have said, in effect, "Fix it, because if you don't, government will be forced to do the job for you — and you won't like the results."
3). With similar hindsight, I would propose that government should not have needed to explain the science of climate change to the public. Neither government nor lobbyists are qualified to do that. Instead, the heads of professional associations in the various earth sciences should have been directed to explain the science to the public and answer any dissenting views. If the facts require government action, the professionals should have discussed the various alternatives.
Under such a focus, one effect would be to reduce the scope of government, not by ignoring problems but by directing them to the qualified people.
Like Morsman, I offer these thoughts not as a panacea, but in hopes of stimulating further discussion. I hope that other readers will also piggyback on Morsman's "starting point."
Robert W. Thurston, Plymouth
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The commentary about the idea of rewriting the Constitution is spot-on, conceptually. I have long thought that the only way to get this country out of the grips of special interests and actually solve the many problems we face is to revisit several sections of the Constitution. Unfortunately, Morsman goes too far with the basket of goodies to be dished out with his rewrite.
The Constitution was written 230 years ago when this was a tiny, homogeneous — if you exclude all the slaves — country. No document can accommodate all the changes we've had. I strongly suspect that if James Madison were around today able to see what his original work had wrought, he would probably rewrite a lot himself.
Yet opening the Pandora's box of a constitutional convention would bring out every fringe trying to impose yet more madness on the country. The most important item would be a redo of the First Amendment to assure that only people are considered people — the money in the process must go.
If there's time, we could clarify that well-regulated militia means well-regulated militia in the Second Amendment — but that's probably a battle for another day.
D. Roger Pederson, Minneapolis
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For anyone in doubt, if you agree with Morsman's article, you are a Democrat, and if you don't, you are a Republican. Vote accordingly.
Dave Conklin, Victoria
U.S. POLICY ON SYRIA
51 diplomats want a harder line (0.00001% of the population)
Regarding "Diplomats' dissent on Syria is a signal to Clinton and Russia" (June 18): I will just remind the leaders of this country that despite "expert" disagreement with policy, there are many more than 51 citizens of the United States. The majority of people I know are against any further military intervention in Syria and agree with President Obama and with trying to find a diplomatic solution. These may or may not be the views of the U.S. majority, but it is important for our leaders to know what everyone wants.
Right or wrong, this is a country where all citizens are supposed to count, not just "experts," even if they work for the State Department.
David L. Councilman, St. Louis Park
Let's not turn this into a contest between low-income groups
I read with awe the extensive editorial comments on the artist lofts being built in the Twin Cities ("Tax credits misused on costly artist lofts," June 17). Much was made of who gets these prime locations with the extensive amenities being offered. I take issue with some things that got a reaction from me with the piece. The demeaning tone toward artists, the fact that every time this issue is reported or commented on there is no mention of whether income guidelines for artists in these spaces are being met (my intuition would have that they are), and last, if my intuition is correct and the artists are meeting low-income guidelines, the fact that one low-income group is being pitted against another. This approach will bring no good. I suggest that if we intend to really tackle the income inequity issue with affordable housing and to continue to foster a fantastic art community here, both universes must be funded adequately.
Joe Musich, Minneapolis
TWIN CITIES TRAFFIC
Where's a literal traffic cop when you need one?
I certainly agree with a June 20 letter writer that the last three months of traffic snarls in the metro area have been incredible. It's the worst I can remember in my 35 years in the Twin Cities. On Sunday afternoon, the stoplights of one (key) intersection in Big Lake were flashing red rather than cycling normally as heavy cabin traffic on Hwy. 10 tried to course through. So the backup was nearly 2 miles of vehicles, delayed 30 minutes or more from the light malfunction.
Many areas across the country use law enforcement at times of heavy congestion to manually direct traffic at key intersections. This keeps roads open for emergency vehicles and gets commuters moving to their destinations. It's rare to see police use this technique in Minnesota. This summer especially, it's time for law enforcement to see this as an important public-safety and public-service action and get officers to intersections with particularly bad backups. Even 30 minutes of manual direction could make a big difference in keeping Minnesota moving.
Mike McGee, Maple Grove