purpose of the Constitution

Malla Pollack mpollack at uidaho.edu
Tue Nov 8 12:32:07 PST 2005


Now I will raise my social activist voice - I like all the items on your
list, but one is missing (which I thought was in many modern constitutional
documents) positive rights for the citizens - such as access to jobs, food
etc.  The absence of such entitlements is one of the major flaws of the US
Constitution (of course, in my opinion).

 

Malla Pollack

Professor, American Justice School of Law

Visiting Univ. of Idaho, College of Law

mpollack at uidaho.edu

208-885-2017

 

-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Beau Breslin
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 11:50 AM
To: Mortimer Sellers
Cc: conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: purpose of the Constitution

 

For what it's worth, it strikes me that, in the modern era, many
constitutions (but certainly not all) perform several functions: (1) they
structure or design the institutions of the polity; (2) they limit the power
of the majority, or, to be more precise, practical reflections of that
majority in the institutions of government; (3) they aspire to have the
polity reach different levels of political perfection (here's where the
Preamble comes in); (4) they empower the institutions of the government to
make decisions in the name of their constituents (this power, incidentally,
is critical to the legitimacy of public policies that emerge from
institutions such as legislatures, executives, etc.); (5) they regulate
conflict between institutions of government; (6) they both destroy an old
citizenry and create a new one; and (7) more recently they have been seen as
providing important avenues for distinct groups to find meaningful
recognition in the political dialogue. The United States Constitution is one
of these texts.

Others have discussed this topic far more eloquently than I. It may be
useful to consider the work of Walter Murphy on this subject, as well as
that of Nathan Brown.

Beau


On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, at 01:57 PM, Mortimer Sellers wrote:

Yes, Americans very quickly perceived that limited suffrage is not a good
way to secure liberty or to serve the other purposes for which Constitutions
properly exist.

Americans evaluated their legislation in light of the Constitution's
declared aims and argued (rightly) that these would be more effectively met
on the basis of broader suffrage.

Tim Sellers
Regents Professor
University System of Maryland

-----Original Message-----
From: Barksdale, Yvette [mailto:7barksda at jmls.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 1:43 PM
To: Mortimer Sellers; Malla Pollack; JMHACLJ at aol.com;
conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: RE: purpose of the Constitution


But that view of extremely limited suffrage was critiqued and begin to
change almost from the beginning - didn't it. For example, state movements
relaxing class and property restrictions (for example in the Jacksonian
era); and obviously race and gender restrictions and popular election of
senators in the 19th and 20th centuries. Also, Baker v Carr one person, one
vote requiremnets - and statutory requirements such as the Voting Rights
Act, and the post Bush v. Gore push for election reform. 

yb 

________________________________

From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu on behalf of Mortimer Sellers
Sent: Tue 11/8/2005 12:34 PM
To: Malla Pollack; JMHACLJ at aol.com; conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: purpose of the Constitution


The task that the Constitution has set for itself is not "government by the
people". The people of the United States established the Constitution in
order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic
tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare
and secure the blessings of liberty. These useful aims are served by popular
sovereignty, but (for the founders) "government by the people" was a means
to these ends, not an end in itself. They did not expect that everyone would
vote.

Tim Sellers
Regents Professor
University System of Maryland

-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu]On Behalf Of Malla Pollack
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 1:14 PM
To: JMHACLJ at aol.com; conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: RE: Working right?



Yes, the constitution has set itself the task of government by the people.
About the only way of voting "against" the entire government apparatus, or
the Constitution, is to ignore it - by not getting involved. Many people
don't vote (based on anecdotal evidence) because they do not think their
vote "counts" for many reasons - including that they no longer have the
power to make "their" representatives act in a representative fashion. 

Whatever peoples' individual reasons for not showing up, to the extent that
citizens do not vote, the government is not by the people.



Malla Pollack

Professor, American Justice School of Law

Visiting Univ. of Idaho, College of Law

mpollack at uidaho.edu

208-885-2017



-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of JMHACLJ at aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 10:03 AM
To: conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: Working right?



In a message dated 11/8/2005 12:51:01 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
mpollack at uidaho.edu writes:

The most
"objective" proof is the relatively low voter turnout on major elections. 

This is a perplexity to me. Is it because you have concluded that low voter
turnout is confirmably the product of voter dissatisfaction, and that voter
dissatisfaction is confirmably proof that the constitution is not working?



What if voter dissatisfactions only prove that apathy is holding sway. How
do we know that the constitution is broken only based on low voter turnout?
Has the constitution set for itself a task of maximized voter participation?



Jim Henderson

Senior Counsel

ACLJ

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Beau Breslin
Associate Professor and Chair 
Department of Government
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
bbreslin at skidmore.edu
(518) 580-5244

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