Progressives and the South African Constitution
Warning: This post contains material that may upset some of you.
Fairly recently, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was quoted as stating that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was far superior to our own, the one she had sworn to uphold and defend.
Why would a US Supreme Court Justice say, and mean, such a thing?
The difference between the US Constitution and South Africa's is pretty simple to see: While our Declaration of Independence guarantees no more than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and our Constitution adds a few nit-picky specifics like the right to keep and bear arms, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa goes way beyond such general language.
It guarantees, among other things, the right to housing, the right to medical care, the right to education, and also the right of all colors, faiths, political parties, and genders to be free from discrimination and harassment.
What Progressives like Ginsburg see in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, that makes them feel that it is superior to ours, is something called "the equality of outcome."
While the founding documents of the US guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens, leaving each of us to find his (or her) own way toward whatever happiness we can achieve, the South African Constitution actually guarantees that each and every one of its citizens will find, or will have delivered to him, a certain level of specifically defined happiness.
That is, the outcome, "happiness," is guaranteed by the South African government to each of its citizens equally.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty good thing. Certainly, South Africans went for it, and the nation easily ratified this Constitution with very little argument.
So what's the fly in this ointment? What could possibly go wrong?
Let's look at one of the South African Constitution's guarantees: the right of all colors, faiths, political parties, and genders to be free from discrimination and harassment.
Folks, it just isn't working! To put the facts to you bluntly, as was recently published this very week in as Progressive a periodical as The New Yorker, both male and female homosexuals, and the transgendered as well, face horrible discriminatory harassment. This includes something called "corrective rape" that is daily being visited upon any discernible lesbian. This "corrective rape" frequently ends in brutal mutilation and murder, since most lesbians resist, and resistance further fires the anger of the male rapists.
The South African police community is doing nothing about these "corrective rapes" and attendant murders, because, according to both public record and recent interviews, the individual people who make up the South African police forces subscribe to and agree with the theory that raping a lesbian will "show her the way," and will convert her to what they believe to be the right kind of sexual activity. It becomes, in their minds as in the minds of most South African men, a function of "male honor."
The point here is not to ask for your sympathy and activism in favor of the misused members of the South African homosexual community. The point I want to make is that the South African Constitution that promises so much, actually delivers very little. To be truthful, it doesn't deliver decent housing and medical care, either.
So here's the entire point of this little essay: It is not enough to guarantee, even in writing, that a country will deliver to its people certain social goods. There must also exist a populace that is well-enough educated, socially wise, and divorced from superstition, that every one of them will agree and conspire to make the constitutional promises and guarantees actually come true.
The more specific the promises, the more likely that one or more of them will be undeliverable. The more specific the promises, the more likely that one or more of them will go against the entrenched beliefs of one or another of the factions that make up the nation.
The real, historically-proven truth is that a Constitution like ours, which promises a very few, very general entitlements that set its citizens upon the road to achieving happiness for themselves, is much more likely to succeed than is one which, like the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, sets forth to deliver a whole set of specific entitlements, and to actually deliver happiness into the hands of its people.