What Do Constitutions Do? Star Trek Edition
By Bryan Caplan
Political scientist and game designer Chris McGlothlin has a neat Facebook post on Star Trek and the Constitution, building off the classic episode “The Omega Glory.” Here’s Chris, reprinted with his permission:
both a political science professor and a Trekkie, it’s more difficult
for me than most to sit through the Original Show episode “The Omega
Glory”, which you may remember as The One Where the Planet is Exactly
Like Earth, Except for One Thing. You may also recall it as the one
where Gene Roddenberry came to your house, stood behind you while you
watched, and periodically interjected, “Get it? Get it? Yangs and Kohms–like ‘Yankees’ and ‘Communists.’ You’re welcome–it’s just my gift.”
The show ends when Kirk hands the utterly baffled primitive
tribespeople a copy of the U.S. Constitution–one they demonstrably
can’t read or pronounce properly. Then, it’s mic drop from Shatner and a
quick beam-up to the ship in time to lay down more tracks for The
Let’s be nice here and pretend the tribe
figures out the proper words in a reasonable time, since language never
seems to be a problem for anyone else on Star Trek. This society is
still pretty much doomed.
Don’t get me wrong: I revere the U.S.
Constitution which has both protected freedom and provided me a
comfortable living. But I also appreciate it’s not for beginners.
For instance, we never see a copy of the Bill of Rights in the bundle
of aged parchments Kirk leaves them. Sure, the Yangs promise to respect
the words–even for their Kohm enemies–but without the Amendments,
those Kohms are goners. Sure, they’re still safe from bills of attainder
(whew!), but are otherwise on their way to the headsman’s axe.
if the Yangs opt not to be bloodthirsty, they have ahead of them all
the Framers’ misfires like “What? An Electoral College? What is this ****?! Damn you, Kirk!” And since there’s no mention of judicial review
in any of the documents they have, the Kohms had better hope this
planet’s copycat nature includes a Arburymay v. Adisonmay (or whatever
they’d call it) on the docket soon. Otherwise, we’re once again left
with dead Kohms stacked up like cordwood.
I hope that by Picard’s time they realize no away team is complete without a political scientist.