Presentation on theme: "Political Science: An Introduction"— Presentation transcript:
1 Political Science: An Introduction Michael G. RoskinRobert L. CordJames A. MedeirosWalter S. JonesChapter 5Constitutions2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
2 Iraqi Shi’as vote in 2005 for new constitution ConstitutionsIraqi Shi’as vote in 2005 for new constitution2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
3 Constitutions in the Modern World Constitution – rules and customs by which a government conducts its affairsSome constitutions are unwritten, made up of traditions, customs, statutes, and precedents, like Britain’sMany constitutions also specify individual rights and freedomsConstitutions supposed to set forth government forms and limits, and balance minority and majority interestsUS constitution unusual in brevity and lack of detailSome constitutions have many requirements that can’t be achieved, especially in poorer countries, such as universal educationSome look good on paper, but used to provide cover for brutal regimes like Stalin’s, which flouted Soviet constitution2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
4 The General Nature of Constitutional Law Constitutions are fundamental, highest law of the landOften a constitutional court needed to interpret constitutional provisions, an American innovationConstitutional law interpreted for specific incidentsJudicial activism – willingness of a court, conservative or liberal, to strike down precedents; in US characterized by liberal Warren Court and by conservative Justice ScaliaJudicial restraint – reluctance of a court to strike down laws or make law through broad decisions2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
5 Constitutions and Constitutional Government Constitutions can be similar, but countries’ political culture can cause interpretations to differ, as between the operations of Swedish and Italian governmentsConstitutions can essentially be idealistic fictions, as the Soviet Constitution was under StalinConstitutionalism – power of government limited; Magna Carta early effort to limit power of state (king)Magna Carta also seen as tool to create democracy2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
6 The Purpose of a Constitution (1) States national ideals – US constitution proclaimed goal among others of a more perfect union; USSR proclaimed a developed socialist society by its constitutionFormalizes government’s structure – US constitution establishes 3 branches and their functions; specifies checks and balances among the branchesConstitutions outline division of power between central and regional/local governments, especially important for federal systems like the USEstablishes government’s legitimacy – a written constitution allows many nations to recognize a state2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
7 The Purpose of a Constitution (2) Constituent Assembly – a legislature meeting for the first time to write a constitution; often established after overthrow of previous regime to provide legitimacy of rule by new regime--Spanish parliament elected in 1977 became constituent assembly to end Franco system with new constitution; afterwards, it turned itself back into Cortes, Spain’s regular parliament--Afghanistan did same with loya jirga, a traditional body, after Taliban overthrown2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
8 What Is a Right?Jeremy Bentham declared “Right is the child of law;” a right only exists when it’s in statute or in a constitutionUS Founding Fathers took “natural rights” as basis for human rights, which can generally be formulated as “freedom from”Civil rights – come with modern democracy, which needed freedom to speak and vote for citizens; without civil rights, dictatorship loomsEconomic rights – relatively new; a socialist idea of 19th century, also advanced by FDR in Great Depression; often expressed as “freedom to,” as in freedom to have a job2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
9 Civil Liberties and Civil Rights After horrors of Nazi concentration camps and Japanese military in World War II, UN adopted Universal Declaration on Human Rights--Symbolic, with no powers of enforcement--But, vicious regimes risk isolation by world community--Declaration patterned after French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and on American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights--Affirms basic civil and human rights no government may arbitrarily take away--Expands to cover economic and cultural rights: to an education, to marry, to live according to one’s culture2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
10 Freedom of Expression in the United States (1) The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibits any law abridging freedom of speech or of the pressIn US, we may make antigovernment or anti-religion statements or artwork – we have constitutionally protected right to burn American flag, for exampleEurope has prohibitions against such speech, such as denying the HolocaustNot all speech is protected, e.g., can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater nor spread malicious falsehoods (slander or libel)US theoretically prohibits obscenity, but impractical to define and enforce, especially over Internet2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
11 Freedom of Expression in the United States (2) Seditious speech that would violently overthrow our government or impede it from its legitimate operations is illegalBut, “seditious speech” has been used to silence critics, as Lincoln did during Civil WarSedition acts used against pacifists who objected to fighting in World War I, against Communists in 1940s and 1950s due to their revolutionary ideologyMcCarran Act barred Communists from working in federal governmentRights are highly context-dependent; after 9/11 Americans readily accepted Patriot Act in panicSome foreign governments suppress free speech as threat to public order, such as Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
12 The Pentagon PapersDuring Vietnam War, the Defense Department secretly collected information on the war that would contradict the public reports by the governmentIn 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, working at the Pentagon, released this study to the New York TimesThe Nixon administration asked the Supreme Court to block publication by the TimesThe Court rejected the government’s suit, emphasizing the necessity for a free and unrestrained press to effectively expose government deception--The Court noted that to grant the government’s request would be tantamount to “prior restraint,” which would allow the government to censor anything2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.
13 A vigil across from the White House Free SpeechA vigil across from the White House2010, 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.