Reasoning Backward From Utopia

by Conor Friedersdorf

This seems right to me:

Too often, people think about politics by starting from the assumption that there will be post-political utopia in which everything is frozen into place, then reasoning backwards from how that utopia looks.

I'm less sure about this:

...constitutional thinking constitutes a form of pernicious dreaming about the post-political utopia. Like what if the constitution really did entrench conservative policy preferences? What would happen then? We’re imagining that the structure of mass and public opinion are the same, and so is the structure of interest group politics. But suddenly most of the stuff progressives want to do is unconstitutional. What happens next? Do progressives all go home and just give up? That doesn’t seem realistic. Do progressives stage a violent revolution, arguing that it makes no sense to let the dead hand of the 18th century block social justice in the 21st? That doesn’t seem desirable.

There is always a constitutional amendment. And besides, constitutional problems often constrain means more often than ends, and apply only to public policy. There are other methods of changing society and addressing problems, and in a free country, those levers are more likely substitutes for free-wheeling wonkyness than violent revolution.