Why the left keeps jabbering about replacing the Constitution

Mr. Seitz-Wald’s is not the most intelligent of the selections, but it satisfactorily adheres to the conventions of the genre, which are: (1) the question-begging assertion that our federal government “isn’t working” because it stubbornly refuses to do such things as Mr. Seitz-Wald wishes it to do; (2) the conceit that we have at long last reached the stage in our social evolution at which we can best the work of the founding generation; (3) populist techno-fetishism, which since the first days of radio has been promising to unleash the forces of democracy against the arrayed lines of big business, malefactors of great wealth, vested interests, and the rest of that bunch.

This is mainly a progressive interest, though not exclusively so. Conservatives such as Mark Levin also are interested in making sweeping changes to our constitutional order, though Mr. Levin would work within that order, specifically through the amendment process, to achieve his version of a more perfect union. Mr. Seitz-Wald, on the other hand, writes admiringly of Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth and its fictitious political system, which “asks the public to choose leaders from a preselected pool of candidates who have been algorithmically chosen for leadership potential.” One suspects that the main attraction of that idea is the opportunity to write the word “algorithmically,” and Mr. Seitz-Wald all but squeals with delight as he considers the new possibilities offered by technological development: “These tools are still in their infancy, but scaled up they could change what democracy looks like in ways we’re only just beginning to imagine. At the extreme, we could theoretically have smartphone-enabled direct democracy, where the public could vote directly on legislation and where Congress would almost be irrelevant. At the same time, Lorelei Kelly of the New America Foundation and the Smart Congress project warns against ‘mob sourcing.’ One glance at what’s trending on the White House’s ‘We the People’ petition platform — e.g., ‘Investigate Jimmy Kimmel Kid’s Table Government Shutdown Show on ABC Network’ — confirms this. Instead, she says, we need something more like Rotten Tomatoes democracy. Unlike typical crowd sourcing, the movie-reviewing site privileges expertise and aggregates reviews for smarter results.” Note the loving use of California business-speak — “scaled up” for “improved,” etc. — and the general undertone of Silicon Valley envy…

Mr. Srinivasan — that’s Balaji S. Srinivasan; he uses the middle initial because there are at least a dozen Balaji Srinivasans in the Bay Area, a fact that is itself an interesting indicator — is not entirely immune to the clichés and facile conclusions that mark Mr. Seitz-Wald’s essay. Joking that the United States is the Microsoft of nations, he points to the Constitution and complains that “the code base is 230 years old and written in obfuscated language.” But his ideas are very much in the American tradition, unlike those of Mr. Seitz-Wald, whose “Rotten Tomatoes democracy” is essentially a crude form of might-makes-right majoritarianism with a light complement of technology mostly intended to allow men such as Mr. Seitz-Wald to act as referees. Which is to say, Mr. Seitz-Wald’s political vision is neither new nor fresh, but the oldest vision of all: transferring more power to himself and to men such as himself.

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