The Gun Argument That’s Not Even Wrong
Yonatan Zunger

The problem is the political usefulness of originalism, which can be found in any organization that has founding documents as soon as you get a generation or so away from its founding.

If someone is incompetent but ambitious for a leadership position, one of the best arguments available to them is originalism:

- That everything important was already thought of, if you just interpret the founding documents right

- That they have special access to, or respect for, those founding documents

- That any problems that exist (or that people can be made to believe exist) are a consequence of failing to follow those documents to the letter

This shouldn’t work, but frequently does (witness our current Supreme Court) — if you have a population that is comparatively comfortable, and the consequences of incompetent leadership take a long time to be felt, these arguments, by their simplicity, are going to be more persuasive than those of someone who actually has detailed ideas about what they want to do. Since originalist arguments are usually more persuasive, however wrong, eventually you end up with a system where almost nobody makes any other kind of argument, and politics is a contest of who is better at pretending the Emperor is wearing clothes.

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