preview

In The Immortal Words Of Thomas Paine, “A Constitution

Good Essays
In the immortal words of Thomas Paine, “a constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates” (Paine 1805). One of the great debates among Constitutional scholars is just what the exact purpose of Constitutions are. Some argue that Constitutions function as expressions of values of the populace at the time. Others theorize that Constitutions serve as tools of social coordination. While both of these theories have merit, at the end of the day, Constitutions primarily function as power maps. Ultimately, they express the power dynamics between citizens and their government, between different branches of government themselves, and between different social groups. Constitutions serve several important roles, but all but…show more content…
Lockean principles dictate that power flows from the people, but a Constitution takes that power and distributes it among several aspects. The first aspect of the power dynamics is between that of the government and individual civilians. In democratic liberal societies, there is a heavy emphasis on individual rights. Governments are limited from interfering in the private lives of individuals, to a certain extent. This usually takes the form of a bill of rights. These bills of rights often include limits on the government’s powers to regulate speech, regulate press, and regulate religion. They ensure a fair judicial process for the accused. As Galligan and Versteeg puts it, “Constitutions normally constrain government by enshrining rights and mandating the judiciary to enforce them” (Galligan and Versteeg 2014). This power relationship lies at the heart of Constitutions for liberal democracies.
Within the context of the American Constitution, this power struggle isn’t just about expressly limiting the powers of the government, but it is also about outlining express powers that the government has. The federal government is expressly granted the powers to tax and defend the country through a military. The founders laid out a specific set of powers the the government is permitted to do, not just hindered from doing. Throughout the course of our
Get Access