[Solution]Freedom in American Society

Declaration of Independence Not a document that describes a future society. Rather, looks to restore basic rights and liberties that were suspended, taken away, abolished,…

Declaration of Independence

Not a document that describes a
future society. Rather, looks to restore basic rights and liberties that were
suspended, taken away, abolished, etc.List of grievances: specific
violation of rights and liberties that colonist had enjoyed in the pastMen are endowed by the Creator
with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Governments are instituted to secure these rights.Reasons why it was necessary to revolt against a despotic government.
Revolution carried out not out of momentary passion or anger. A difficult step
that was much reflected upon, and that colonists tried to avoid as much as they
could.

Constitution of the United States

Constitutional form of
government: limited government, emphasis
on consensus, rule of law, limited expectationsStructure: 7 articles + 27 amendments. The
first 10 amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights.Article I: The Legislative
(branch of government in charge of creating laws). Bicameral: House of
Representatives and SenateArticle II: The Executive
(branch of government in charge of executing the law). President,
Vice-president, cabinet.Article III: The Judiciary
(branch of government in charge of interpreting the law). Supreme Court and
lower federal courts.Article IV: Relations between
the federal government and state/local governments (Federalism: structure of
government (three branches) also at the state and local levels)Article V: process to amend
(change) the ConstitutionLimited GovernmentSeparation of Powers: three
branches with equal power. Checks and Balances (prevent
any branch from taking power away from the others).President: Veto BillsRecommend legislationCongress: override a presidential veto
with a 2/3 majority.Control appropriations
(budget/”power of the purse”)Confirm or Refuse presidential
appointmentsImpeach and remove President
from officePropose constitutional
amendment to overrule Supreme Court decisionsJudicial Branch: Judicial review (Supreme Court can invalidate laws
passed by Congress or actions taken by the Executive)Enumerated powers:Article I, section 8 – areas in which Congress can legislate. Some
of the enumerated powers of Congress are:Establish an collect taxesTo borrow moneyTo regulate foreign and
interstate commerceTo coin money and regulate its
value; punish counterfeit moneyTo establish post officesTo grant patents and copyrightsTo declare warTo raise and support armiesTo make all laws necessary and proper to the execution
of any of the other expressed powers.Article 2, a rather short list of functions for the President that
include:Take care that the laws be
faithfully executedRecommend legislationCommander-in-chief of the Armed
ForcesGrant reprieves and pardonsMake treatiesNominate and appoint
ambassadors, Federal judges, cabinet membersGive Congress information on
the State of the UnionX Amendment: Powers that are
not enumerated, belong to the states or to the people: The powers not delegated
to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states,
respectively, or to the people.Bill of Rights: most articles written
in negative language – describes what government cannot do. For example,
“Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Limits the means that government can employ to
fulfill its tasks:Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of religion,
speech, press, assembly, and petitionAmendment 2: U.S. citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, or
own gunsAmendment 3: The government may not force U.S. citizens to shelter
soldiers in their homesAmendment 4: U.S. citizens are protected from unreasonable searches
of a person’s propertyAmendment 5: The government may not force U.S. citizens to testify
against themselves in courtAmendment 6: U.S. citizens have the right to a fair and speedy trialAmendment 7: U.S. citizens have the right to a trial by juryAmendment 8: U.S. citizens are protected from cruel and unusual
punishmentAmendment 9: U.S. citizens may have rights that are not listed in
the ConstitutionAmendment 10: Powers not given to the federal government by the U.S.
Constitution belong to the state or to the people.

Emphasis on consensus/agreement (as
opposed to simply following the will of the majority)How a bill becomes law
(complex, slow process that fosters deliberation, consensus)Each state represented by two
senators (regardless of population)Senate rules: filibuster – one Senator
can block a bill. Takes a qualified majority of 3/5 (60%) to stop a filibusterOriginally, Vice-president was
the first runner-up in the elections. Real power was given to the
Vice-president. For instance, Vice-president is first in line. Also, as President
of the Senate, gets to cast the deciding vote if Senate is equally divided.Amendment process. Requires
almost unanimity: 2/3 of Congress + ¾ states legislatures. Huge amount of
agreement is needed to change the Constitution.Elections (avoid passions of
the moment, protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority)House of Representatives (it is the only first degree, direct
election). By districts, every two years. Representatives serve two-year terms.Senate. Originally (before XVII Amendment), second-degree, indirect
elections. Senators were chosen by State Legislatures. Staggering method: 1/3
of the Senate is renewed every 2 years. Senators are elected for six-year
periods (protects Senators from public opinion pressure). Staggering methods
prevents drastic fluctuations in the composition of the Senate as the result of
shifts in public opinion.President. Elected by Electoral College (indirect, second-degree
election). Citizens would vote for delegates to the Electoral College and these
delegates, in turn, would choose the President. The number of Electoral College
delegates for each state = number of representatives in the House + number of
senators (which is always 2). It is possible for a candidate to win the popular
vote but lose the general election. Candidates cannot concentrate all their
efforts in states with large populations. 
Supreme Court. Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed
by the Senate. Hence, justices are not elected. Justices have lifelong-tenures.

Small Government/Rule of LawJudicial Review. Supreme Court
can invalidate a law passed by Congress or an action taken by the ExecutiveLifelong-tenures for federal
judges. Justices of the Supreme Court must be protected (shielded) from public pressure
so that they can decide in accordance to the law and not pressured by what the
people may want at any given moment.Small Government: Enumerated
powers + 10th Amendment

Reasonable ExpectationsVery short document (only 7
articles without counting amendments)There is nothing in the
Constitution about future goals to be accomplished. The Constitution does not
describe what a future society should look like. The Constitution only
describes the structure of government and the limits of governmental power. Constitution does not make
change easy. Rather, it looks to promote stability:Very difficult to change (amend) the ConstitutionVery slow process for a bill to become a law.

The problem about Foundations

For the Founders, Christianity
is the indispensable foundation, basis, ground, cornerstone, etc.Argument against: Given how
diverse and multicultural American society has become, Classical/Christian
foundation is no longer possible. Needs to be replaced by a new foundation that
accommodates this new reality.Proposed new foundation: Replace
truths about human nature that we find in the Classical/Christian tradition with
“attitude” of toleration.Basic idea of this new
foundation: No shared truths are necessary as long as people respect each
other’s views. American would just need to be open, non-judgmental, accepting,
etc.Society, however, still needs
to make decisions. Now, however, in the absence of truth, all issues are
decided according to the wishes of the majority. Every position is just an
opinion. Since there are no shared truths but just individual opinions, there
is no need/possibility for deliberation. The only solution is to vote on every
decision and allow the majority to dictate public policy. The wishes of the
majority must become public policy without delayEvery moral position, even
those that go against human life (dignity) and freedom, are acceptable if they
win the support of the majority. No sense in asking about the intrinsic moral
value of a particular position.The power of numbers
replaces truth as the criterion of politics.
Therefore, the dignity of human beings and freedom as essential condition are no
longer foundational truths. Democracy becomes a matter of sheer power. No protection for minorities,
no respect for dignity or freedom of human beings. Those that do not belong to
the majority must simply accept “the rules of the game” and “are forced to be
free” using Rousseau’s phrase. Freedom is redefined as mere
choice; relativism becomes “valuable”, “necessary”.For the framers, self-evident
truths about human nature (God endowed human beings with certain inalienable
rights) are not the result of majority approval. They are prior to government.
The democratic process, including elections, allows us to resolve our differences
provided that certain core truths remain outside of public debate: E
pluribus unum – out of many, one. We can disagree because we share a
prior agreement to recognize each other’s dignity as human beings and that
freedom is indispensable for human fulfillment. This is what the framers meant
when they spoke about Christianity as being the indispensable foundation of the
American political system.
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