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An Opinion on The Interpretation of The Constitution

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Question 1

The Framers of the Constitution chose a Federal system for several reasons. Possibly, the most justified reason would be that the framers knew that there would be threats posed to individuals freedom. As we all know, federalism includes that national and state governments have their own separate powers to enact laws. If government was not separated, it would be to powerful and would more than likely use that power unjustly. Therefore, with separation, this helps grant individuals a fairer legal system, which is why federalism was chosen amongst other systems. Some other systems would include: confederation, anarchy, and unitary state.

In McCulloch v Maryland federal power was at the heart of the debate. The case took place in the year 1819 and was one of the first and most important cases known to the legal system. It was to determine if the United States government had the capability to create a bank in Maryland and if Maryland was able to tax the government for this decision. In the end, the Supreme court ruled that federal government has the ability to pass laws that are not expressed in the Constitution. This was significant to the federal government’s power over the states. This allocation was possible through the Necessary and Proper Clause listed in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.

New federalism is basically a philosophy that focuses on states rights. In its efforts it tries to transfer power that the federal government encompasses back to the states. The Devolution Revolution was started by the Reagan Administration due to past issues where the federal government was not adequate to make decisions. It was the efforts to slow down the power of the federal government and give back numerous powers and responsibilities back to the states. Since 1995, the United States has addressed issues of federalism by utilizing the principles of the Constitution, more specifically the power of the branches of government. What the Constitution claims about such powers should be the primary influence in federalism.

Public policy of a state may differ from one to another. For example, some Florida laws may seem stupid to someone living in Pennsylvania. However, that state most likely imposed those laws for a specific reason. Federalism and Congressional powers are central to state or federal powers. If some form of agreement is not made on the part, there will be issues within that state. Public policy tries to enforce social laws that are generally unwritten, however, understood nonetheless. If these two powers cannot agree upon such social laws, then numerous issues will come of it. That is why, for example, all states must have a drinking age of 21, even if some states feel that this should be changed. It is agreed upon.

I would not consider myself to be a federalist in todays times. That is, because I do not feel that states should unit and form a central authority. I feel this would cause more problems in the long run. The term federalist has changed increasingly since its origin to todays times, back then a federalist was an individual who supported the constitution and were committed to a much looser decentralized form of government. In today’s times, a federalist is simply someone who supports the unification of states as a central force. Liberals and Conservatives views of federalism differ from those of liberals and conservatives during the 18th and 19th century. During these times, the federalist was regarded with high respect and in high regard, however, today these views are not the same. Liberals and conservatives believe that big government ought to live up to their promises as well as have the citizens safety and best interest in mind. However, many discrepancies have arisen between the government and their responsibilities to citizens, and many believe they have personal interest at heart. In the Wickard v. Filburn case, the Supreme court significantly increased the regulating authority of the federal government. Conservatives feel that it is our personal responsibility to provide ourselves with healthcare and believe in a limited form of government. However, liberals believe it is the governments duty to provide us with equality and to alleviate us of social ills. These two differ quite extensively, however, the liberals were more in favor of the rulings of Wickhard v. Filburn because it placed responsibility more so on the federal government rather than self.

Federalism has both pros and cons associated with it. Some of the pros would include: protection against tyranny, diffusing power, more efficiency, and conflict management. Some of the cons associated with it include: advocated inequalities between states, blockage of Nationalist policies by the state, and racing to the bottom.

In Chapter 3 of Faultlines it is debated as to whether states or national government should take lead in immigration reform. In my opinion, this duty should be granted by the national government. I feel that if states were granted such responsibilities, there would be little consistency in the matter. I think that it is the best interest of the national government to demise a plan of immigrant reform. In the end, consistency is key, it would be much simpler to have the national government handle such issues, since they have been the ones responsible for such issues historically.

Question 2

The primary motives and assumptions of the framers of the constitution was to establish an effective government. One that was built for the people and would enable the nation to grow and change as well. It was to fix the issues known previously, and also had emphasis on core values such as liberty, equality, and democracy. They were under the assumption that the constitution would be built on such core beliefs and be a good representation of rights each American deserves. Some of the most important values built into the American political system of today are very similar to the values the founders believed in. In modern times, the political system is concerned with liberty, equality, and property. As we can see, the ideas of liberty and equality have remained the same from earlier times until more modern days. Democracy is the leading difference. The founders were more concerned with democracy within their political arena than individuals are today. I think the reason for this is because many feel their opinions and votes do not matter. Not to mention that when voting, its generally the choice between the lesser of two evils.

A constitutional democracy is a system within the government that ultimately has a very well-defined limitations set on political authorities. Constitutionalism is strict adherence to the principles within the constitution. Madison’s view of human nature affected his theory of government. Madison, as you presumably know, saw the wickedness in human instinct, yet in the meantime observed temperance too. He trusted that the legislature would be the genuine impression of the general population it spoke to and it must not fit in with the disasters of human instinct. Along these lines, consequently, his perspectives of human instinct influenced his hypothesis in government by constraining the energy of the legislature to anticipate defilement. His theory is represented in ideas of democracy because him as well as other framers wanted a republican democracy. Self-interest was also a vastly debated argument of these individuals as well. Economic conditions also impacted democracy significantly as well.

One major area of division at the time of the constitutional convention was between smaller and larger states. The smaller states felt that every state, regardless of size should have the same amount of congress representatives. However, the larger states felt that with having a larger population, they should be granted more representatives. It was resolved by having a singular house of congress, and representatives are based on population. With each state being granted at least one representative and each state was to have at least two senators no matter what its population was. There were three compromises that were necessary prior to ratifying the constitution. These included: Great Compromise (Connecticut compromise), the three-fifths compromise, and the trade compromise. Equality within the Constitution is found within the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. The 13th is designated to abolish slavery. The 14th allowed freed slaves to be citizens of the United States. And lastly, the 15th amendment allowed the right to vote to any man of any race.

Marbury v. Madison created judicial review in the government system. Judicial review is basically the power allocated to federal courts to proclaim legislative and executive acts unconstitutional. It was highly significant, and the constitution claimed it to be the supreme law of the land. This case was highly important when decided because it was actually the first Supreme court case to apply ideas of judicial review. It allowed federal courts to ultimately void any act of Congress that were in opposition to the constitution. It fully placed the constitutions ideas in place. The development of democracy was also influenced by this case. Individuals now had a checks and balances system. It added for a more democratic system. The implications of this within the political system is that congress and even the president can be unconstitutional, however, judicial review is the mediator of this. They will stop things that are unconstitutional.

I feel that the constitution should be fundamentally changed. Some of the issues within that should be considered would be the first amendment and the second in my opinion. In recent times, the freedom of speech has been a very controversial issue. Whether it’s the instance of Roseanne or college students seeking safe space at universities. I feel that freedom of speech isn’t really free, because it oppresses many individuals. Another consideration would be the second amendment as well. Gun reform is certainly another largely controversial topic in today’s times. I think some changes need to be made on those parts as well. Also, it needs be more modernized with adding some of the issues we face today. For example, with science increasing significantly, we must place limitations within. Should we allow stem cell research and the ability to manipulate the characteristics of embryos.

Question 3

In my opinion views of Breyers should be considered when interpreting the Constitution. Unlike Scalia, Breyer believes that there should be a living constitution approach. What that means is basically that there is a dynamic meaning within the pages of the constitution. Its basic claims are not stuck in the ideas of hundreds of years ago, rather concerned with modern times in such approaches. The constitution was written in the year 1787, that is nearly 231 years ago. As we all know, society, beliefs, and individual’s roles are quite different in modern times when compared to the year the constitution was written. Although, the constitution does provide a good outline, it is inadequate in being a valid representation of today’s society and therefore, is nothing but an outdated template of original value systems of society from the year of 1787. Do not get me wrong, this documents idea has held up quite well, however, as we change as a society, we need documentation that is dynamic and relevant to todays day and age. Which is why I feel that Breyers visions and assertions are most logical in such debates. No document can last forever, because no era is exactly the same. Advancements are always underway in order to improve society and life in general.

The constitution is very much a living document and has the capacity to grow and be altered as it already has within the years. Numerous additions and underlying interpretations have already occurred from its earlier days. For instance, the framers discussed nothing specifically on same sex marriages. However, in 2015, the supreme court ruled same sex marriages as one of our civil rights. Civil rights were established in the constitution by the framers, however, it took deeper analyzation to understand that same sex marriages were in fact about equality and is a right that all individuals deserve. This is an example of an idea of a living constitution because it takes basic principles outlined in the constitution and applies more modernized interpretations of them. During the ages of the framers, same sex marriage was not a pressing issue, therefore, it was not directly addressed. Even the framers knew that this document was lacking some ideas and would need changed at one point or another. Although, they did make this document very difficult to alter, there have been some changes already made. I agree with Breyer that a living constitution should be in order, because the underlying ideas conceptualized by the framers are very rational and fair, however, dynamic ideas are a certainty with such a document as this.

Scalia claimed that the living constitution will destroy the constitution. What is meant by this is that politics will evidently enter law. Therefore, this idea would be against same sex marriages since they are not exclusively discussed within the constitution. However, I feel that this approach is severely lacking. There are several things not exclusively discussed in the constitution such as stem cell research and other scientifically fueled ideas, however, if we fail to allow such, our society will surely not advance. We simply are in need of a document that encompasses the founders ideas, but also allows for alternation and analysis.

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